Message from our Executive Director – January 2020

During his keynote at last fall’s EdLeader21 Conference, educational thought leader, Tony Wagner, did not mince words. “A graduate portrait without an assessment,” he said, “is useless.”

The audience members—mainly district leaders from around the country—audibly shifted in their seats. Although it’s hard to disagree, it’s also hard to pull off. How can school districts assess skills that are as complex as the ones we see on a typical graduate profile?

Tony followed up his challenge with two recommendations:

  1. “Every student should have a digital portfolio.”

  2. “Every student should present or defend their learning.”

He’s right. Portfolio assessment and presentations of learning (which come in many forms, including defenses and student-led conferences) are two effective, customizable, scalable, and actionable ways to move from “poster to practice.”

ELP cheers the graduate profile movement because of its potential to change our society’s conception of education’s purpose. But we also worry for the movement. If we don’t see graduate profiles made visible in the actual work of our students—“show don’t tell,” says this old English teacher—then we’re destined to look back on this as another edu-trend that came to nothing. That’s why Tony Wagner’s admonition is so urgent.

The challenge of assessing graduate profiles is one of the major themes of next month’s Assessment for Learning Conference. I know I will see many of you there, and I am excited for the opportunity to work on this together.

Justin Wells, ELP Executive Director

Return to All Blogs

Contact Us