Edina Public Schools (EPS) has a tradition of excellence that is well documented in Minnesota and across the country. But how do you maintain this legacy given the rapid pace of change happening in the world today? It has often been said that many of the careers today’s students will hold in the future have not even been invented yet, which makes planning and preparing students for success after high school a challenging task.
So instead of thinking only about the specific content students need to learn, EPS is also focusing on key skills and literacies that learners need to be successful in a rapidly changing, global society. As part of its strategic efforts over the last two years, the district has refined these core attributes, or Educational Competencies, into a profile of the Next Generation EPS Learner.
“The Educational Competencies will become the lens that we look through for how to create curriculum and develop lessons,” Director of Teaching and Learning Randy Smasal says. “It will change the way students interact with others, and in turn, they will develop a diverse perspective of the world through learning experiences and by meeting academic standards.”
According to Smasal, the competencies embody the life skills that learners need for social, emotional, academic and professional success. They not only include required state or national academic standards, but also go further to represent a holistic view of the learner. They are intended to help guide a student along his/her educational journey, striving to become:
The process for developing the competencies evolved over several years of research and included input from a variety of stakeholders.
“We began by asking parents, students and staff: What does school look like in the year 2017? What skills would learners possess that would tell us we have achieved our strategic goals?” says EPS Strategic Data Analyst, Susan Costello-Tennyson. “After analyzing the responses, we then asked ourselves, ‘What does this look like in terms of a human being?’ From there, we were able to identify the competencies that describe what we are striving for with our Next Generation EPS learners.”
To ensure that the competencies did not end up being just words on a page that had no relevance for students, the district sought input from learners of all ages. Focus groups with elementary, middle and high school students provided critical feedback, which was then incorporated into narratives written in developmentally appropriate language. The goal of the narratives is to help personalize the competencies from the point of view and voice of the learner.
“I agree with these competencies, because they are a blend of school and street smarts…and to be able to achieve, you have to do more than just know information, you have to be able to relate, problem solve and work with others,” said one Edina High School (EHS) sophomore.
“I think all these [competencies] are extremely important for wherever we go after high school,” another EHS student said.
Even the district’s youngest learners appreciate the focus and intent of the competencies, understanding that it is not just about high school graduation, but about being prepared for the next level.
“Knowing how to be successful in different learning environments is important,” said a Creek Valley Elementary fifth grader, “especially as we prepare to move on to middle school.”
Costello-Tennyson notes that the competencies go beyond a traditional educational approach focused just on learning content to identifying the importance of a developmental lifelong journey. “It’s not a graded, achievement-based checklist; It’s about life assessment,” she says. “Our responsibility as a school district, in partnership with families, is to provide opportunities for our students to develop these skills so they are prepared for whatever lies ahead of them.”