GUEST BLOG: Identifying Which Goals are Critical for the Success of Your Students — Stephen Fujii, Marion City Schools
By: Guest Blogger
I currently serve as a school administrator. Before entering education, I served as a military officer in the Armor Branch of the United States Army. I am extremely proud of my service to my country. And now I am extremely proud of my service to my community.
Thankfully, the roles of a military officer and a school administrator have many, many differences. But surprisingly, there are some similarities. For example, in both environments, being successful in meeting your goals is critical. My internal ongoing dialog in both worlds has been "How do I know that I am meeting my goal?"
As an educator, I often wonder how we know we are meeting our objectives in terms of teaching and learning. The classroom teacher has learning targets. These are informed by curriculum maps and formative and summative assessments. The building principal has evaluations of staff members and numerous tools for measuring student and teacher growth. District administrators have Ohio’s School Report Cards, the data used to create the report cards, parent input and state guidance to help them determine if they are making progress.
Even with these resources, how do the classroom teachers and building and district administrators know they are consistently setting the right goals each day? In education, there are so many efforts aimed at improving outcomes for students. You hear leaders talk about the importance of improving attendance rates, graduation rates, literacy rates, ACT scores, college placement rates, college readiness scores, increasing dual enrollment credits, improving Advanced Placement scores and improving state assessment scores — just to name a few. Meeting any one of these goals is challenging and rewarding work. But how do we decide exactly which one we should focus on? We cannot afford to miss our goals. How do we know precisely which adjustments to make to better serve our students and communities?
One indicator that educators are setting appropriate goals is that students are fulfilling their potential. In Marion City Schools, we have learned that simply asking students to graduate high school is a vague goal and a disservice to our students. To clarify that goal and do what is best for our students means that we must focus on students beyond the time they are in our classrooms and schools. There is a lot of evidence that shows students are not persisting in higher education. Our graduates are changing their majors two or three times before settling on where they finally want to focus. Not enough students are graduating with credentials and relevant ways to apply their knowledge.
To set the right goals for Marion, we created our Portrait of a Graduate. This process was collaborative and intentional. We invited 20 community leaders and 20 influential school leaders to develop our vision. The Marion City Schools’ Portrait of a Graduate identifies the key skills, beliefs and knowledge students must have to be successful and gain acceptance to 1) a two- or four-year college or university; 2) the United States Military; 3) a high-paying, in-demand job in our city or region; or 4) an adult apprenticeship program. We call this High School Diploma PLUS Acceptance, and it is the goal we ask our students to aim for. Diploma Plus Acceptance helps students be better prepared for life after high school and prevents some of the pitfalls that many high school graduates face.
Posters hang in the hallways of each elementary, middle and high school in Marion City Schools to remind students of the traits we outlined in our Portrait of a Graduate. The posters remind students to strive to be "responsibly engaged in the community," "taking initiative," having "civic awareness," "focusing on growth" and "persisting to overcome adversity." And yes, we remind students to be “proficient on required curriculum and assessments in the state of Ohio."
I am proud that our program has been featured as a SuccessBound program. You can watch the SuccessBound video about our accomplishments here. I am even prouder that identifying these traits and focusing on our students in these ways is one way our district ensures college success...if that is what our students desire. Emphasizing these traits and focusing on our students in these ways helps ensure career success! This is our most essential goal, and this is our greatest point of pride. This is #FutureReady. This is success in today’s world of education.
Stephen Fujii has a diverse background. He served in the military, taught in the classroom and currently is the superintendent of Marion City Schools. To contact him, click here.