Developing a 21st Century Graduate: ALAP Plan

Abstract

This ALAP plan aims to develop strategies that can transform the school system in York County and prepare the students for their future following the requirements of the 21st century. Obtaining a high school diploma does not necessarily mean that an individual is ready to attend college or excel at a job, which is a severe issue. This indicates insufficiencies in the existing approach to teaching when compared to the requirements of the contemporary world. The disconnect between the York County’s School Division’s vision and the issue described above is reflected in the lack of strategies that would address the need to have information technology literacy and sufficient critical thinking.

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Introduction

Although the high school provides students with the essential knowledge necessary for their further life and education, the overall changes in the educational, professional, and social environments require the implementation of a strategy that would be better tailored for 21st-century graduates. Wagner et al. (2006) argue that the educational system is not designed or tailored to the actual needs of individuals in the modern world. The author cites research that assessed the number of students who graduated in 2001, which was estimated at 70%, indicating that a large number of students were unable to finish their education.

This paper aims to develop four interventions that will help students develop skills necessary in modern society and creating strategies for ensuring a supportive and collaborative environment within the York School District. In order to graduate successfully and continue one’s education, a student must possess the skills that align with the modern concept of literacy, which is part of York School County’s vision. Stewart, Shanmugam, and Seenan (2016) argue that currently, this requires a broader set of skills and a more in-depth approach to reasoning and critical thinking.

The connection between the issue and the vision is in the fact that this ALAP aligns York County’s goals and beliefs with initiatives that can help improve student’s knowledge and skills necessary in the 21 century. The York School County aims to develop students who will become productive citizens. However, it does not specify the particular measures or defining features of this approach, while this plan outlines the necessary characteristics of a 21st-century student (“FY18-22 strategic plan overview,” n.d.). Next, the development plan outlines the authentic learning strategy that should help improve critical thinking, which is a part of this ALAP. Finally, communication and career readiness are cited as crucial for the school district, and the ALAP addresses this by offering information technology literacy development plan.

The Big Picture

In essence, the goal of this initiative is to ensure that York County’s School District high schools adjust its practices in accordance with the requirements of the knowledge economy, which will promote active learning of students and will prepare them for their future professional life upon graduation. Wagner et al. (2006) argue that contemporary employment opportunities currently rely on the intellectual capabilities of individuals. Before the 1970s, most people in the United States earned their living by perfecting a specific skill, which is not the case anymore. Moreover, the technological advancements and changes that will occur within many industries due to it require graduates to have an adequate level of information technology understanding.

Leadership is an integral part of this plan because it aims to encourage and inspire school staff to actively participate in the implementation of the strategy through distributed leadership. According to Green (2016), leaders in the field of education should display a concern for people and be able to inspire others to commit to their work and displayed excellent performance. Distributed leadership is a concept that outlines the connection between a leader and work tasks, meaning that the focus is on how assignments are performed in the context of the organization. Leadership capabilities of staff can be identified by applying the Leadership Evaluating Framework that incorporates seven criteria, offering to participate in extracurricular activities, and allowing teachers to initiate their own activities connected with the change process.

As a leader, my goal is to ensure respect for students, their families, and the community of the York County School District as an integral part of this ALAP. This will be done by collectively developing the image of a 21st-century graduate, assessing feedback from all shareholders, and addressing all concerns and issues that may arise. The assessment of the school’s environment using the 4 C model will help understand the culture, competencies, and conditions that currently prevail in the York County School district. Involving stakeholders in the visioning process will be enabled through developing a collective vision of the graduate’s portrait, assessment of feedback, and collaborative effort in developing extracurricular activities.

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My philosophy of education incorporates all stakeholders as an integral component of the process and requires the assessment of feedback and collaboration. This enables adherence to the ethical, moral, and professional standards since the proposed changes will be designed and implemented only after communicating the ideas to the teachers, students, their families, and community members and ensuring that necessary changes are made.

My philosophy incorporates ideas about the importance of involving all individuals in the process of designing and changing the education system. Thus, the primary focus is on the human element, which is consistent with the servant leadership approach that focuses on serving others through personal work and achievements. According to Noland and Richards (2015), “this approach to leadership puts the goals, needs, and development of “followers” ahead of those of the leader” (p. 16). In general, it is necessary to make changes to the existing curriculum and teaching approaches to foster the skills and knowledge that are tailored to the needs of the 21 century.

Professional literature in the field of education supports the proposed strategy. For instance, Wagner et al. (2006) highlight the insufficiencies of the contemporary education system in the US. While York County School District’s SAT score results indicate that, the students graduate with a high level of knowledge, however, enhancing the readiness for future career development or college education remains a necessity. ISLLC standards require leaders to develop curriculums that are comprehensive, establish a proper culture, and enable collaboration between stakeholders, which are the primary elements of this plan’s execution.

The Action Items

Current statistics display the diverse environment of the York County School District, with over 4,000 students being in high school. The average SAT score of 1138 is higher than the overall national score of 1049, indicating that the school’s approach to teaching traditional subjects is excellent (“About us,” n.d.). Continual and substantial school improvement will be facilitated by encouraging staff members to participate in continuous learning initiative and learning how to learn workshops for students and teachers. Additionally, in accordance with the distributed leadership approach, teachers will be encouraged to voice their ideas regarding the current school environment and possible changes that can improve it.

Portrait of a Graduate

The portrait of a graduate does not solely focus on the knowledge and skills that a student develops while being in a high school; instead, it incorporates all essential features of a community member. Spenser and Kay (2018) state that many of the state’s school systems already adopted this approach, which is a collaborative vision of a student graduating from high school. The York School District can develop a unique portrait which will emphasize specific skills necessary for graduation as a reflection of a community’s shared vision. This approach will allow aligning the vision of York County’s school district with that of teachers and other members of the community.

From the perspective of servant leadership, this action plan helps school staff express their views regarding the process of education and make changes to it.

The change theory and change process require adequate preparation before the implementation of severe alterations to current practices, and this strategy will help achieve that (“Change management process,” n.d.). Distributed leadership will be leveraged because teachers will be asked to perform research and express their opinion regarding the skills and knowledge necessary for students.

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Additionally, ISSLC’s standard number 1 requires leaders to “Collaboratively develop and implement a shared vision and mission,” which is essentially the primary strategy in this plan. The administration of the York’s School District in collaboration with teachers and families of students will develop a Portrait of a Graduate. This is an essential component that will help design other activities describes in this project, in accordance with the shared vision of the community to “not only provide for the acquisition of rigorous academic content, but it must also be more intentional about fostering critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and other 21st century skills” (“Do you have a portrait of a graduate?,” n.d.). Although Virginia has a portrait of a graduate, arguably, it lacks the skills and competencies crucial for a 21-century student, for instance, computer skills or continuous learning.

Extracurricular Activities for Enhancement of Computer Literacy

Classes that support the development and strengthening of computer literacy skills are vital for contemporary graduates. Repening et al. (2015) that an effective graduate of the 21 century has to possess a broad set of skills associated with computer science. The Scalable Game Design curriculum developed by the authors is one approach that can be used to address the problem by engaging students in the development of games, which should ensure better engagement. According to Repening et al. (2015), “Computer Science (CS), education is notably absent from any of the US curriculum standards for math or science” (p. 1).

The York School District administration will work in collaboration with science teachers to implement this approach using the scholarly evidence described above in accordance with the servant leadership approach.

The change process, in this case, is connected to the development of a clear plan, in collaboration with stakeholders that will outline the primary information technology literacy skills and outcomes of this extracurricular course. The servant leadership theory requires leaders to share power with the followers, which in this case will be enabled by providing teachers with the freedom to design the information technology classes. The distributed leadership requires the collective participation of all staff members.

Reasoning and Understanding

Apart from being able to write, students have to be able to provide sufficient reasoning for their ideas and arguments. Wagner et al. (2006) argue that although many employers expect that their employees possess literacy skills such as writing, the implications are different from the standard understanding of these skills. Students will be engaged in mandatory lessons that target critical thinking and reasoning, preparing them for both college life and future work. This will ensure that the graduates are capable of communicating effectively, both orally and in a written form.

Similarly to the previous idea, the servant leadership theory requires leaders to dedicate attention to the needs of their followers, meaning that the teachers at this school will work in collaboration to develop a curriculum for this class. The distributed leadership will be leveraged by providing the ability to initiate other activities and events connected to critical thinking and rezoning that will help students. Green (2016) states that synergic leadership, which is a combination of efforts between stakeholders, is crucial. In this case, the school administration has to ensure that the staff understands the vision and agrees with the vision for improving rezoning strategies that is a part of the change process.

Workshops Teaching Students how to Learn

The continuous learning process is crucial for both the students and staff members of the school. This step of the action plan aims to incorporate the existing knowledge on strategies of acquiring knowledge and applying them for personal growth. From the perspective of the students, this will help them navigate their college life and future career. Teachers will be able to improve their skills and knowledge, which will affect their ability to address the educational needs of the 21 century. Similarly, students will be able to learn about the process of acquiring knowledge and effective studying strategies, which will make them efficient citizens in accordance with York’s school county vision. In addition, this will address the problem of a rapidly changing environment since they will be able to adapt their skills and knowledge to the new requirements.

The servant leadership theory requires leaders to focus on the needs of the staff members, and this plan allows the school administration to help enhance the knowledge and skills of their staff. The distributed leadership assesses the capabilities of all staff members, and according to Green (2016), a 21-century leader has to be a learning leader, which is consistent with the proposed action plan. Change process requires a leader to develop a clear structure that will address the fears and challenges associated with the implementation of new ideas.

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Tying it All Together

The characteristic feature of all four interventions offered in this paper is the necessity to collaborate and focus on the student’s best interest when developing and implementing these practices. The initial development of the Graduate’s Portrait will inform teachers and graduates of the expectations and outcomes that are expected as a result of participating in three other activates. Unarguably, this requires, the creation of the portrait and the success of the initiative depends upon successful communication of this plan and collaboration between the school district’s administration, teachers, and counselors.

The portrait will include critical skills such as reasoning and computer literacy, which will be integrated into the school’s curriculum. The continual and sustainable school improvement can be achieved by reviewing this portrait each year and making necessary changes to it. Wagner et al. (2006) emphasize the need to view any change initiative from the perspective of a system where all elements are affected by the proposed efforts. It is necessary to identify whether the teachers agree with the proposed extracurricular activities since it is possible that they would want to incorporate some of the learning objectives into their lessons. In addition, it is vital to involve

ALAP and the district improvement plan are connected because the plan enhances the strategy of the School Board to improve the literacy and competencies of students in many areas. This includes career readiness, communication, and content knowledge that are emphasized in this plan (“FY18-22 strategic plan overview,” n.d.). As can be seen from the description of the action items, the meaning of the distributed leadership to this change initiative is vital. Additionally, the supervision and supporting instruction capacity of the staff will be guided by continuous engagement of teachers in the process of discussing and executing the project.

Formative Use of Measurable Outcomes

Firstly, it is vital to engage students in the process of preparing them to face the challenges of the 21 centauries and ensure that they do not feel disconnected from the efforts of the York’s School District’s administration. As was mentioned before, there are over 4,000 high school students in this district, which requires a computer-based solution for assessing feedback form all participants (“About us,” n.d.). An online survey can be used to determine whether the students are satisfied with the image of the graduate.

Next, to determine the success of critical reasoning and computer literacy initiatives, a standardized test should be distributed, which will help assess these core competencies before the beginning and upon completion of these courses. Feedback from workshops can be used to determine the viewpoint of both students and teachers. Finally, upon graduation, the school district’s administration can collect data regarding the number of workshops and lessons as well as participants and compare it to the overall number of graduates.

Conclusion

Overall, this paper describes the contemporary issues of York’s School District and offered four resolutions. The current educational environment fails to address the requirements of the 21st century, which would prepare a student for future life and career development. Thus, this action plan offers the school administration to develop a portrait of a graduate, establish extracurricular activities for enhancing computer literacy and critical thinking skills, and creating workshops for both students and teachers that will provide them with an understanding of best practices in regards to continuous learning. This ALAP plan aligns with the overall plan of York’s School County because it emphasizes the need for enhancing career readiness and communication skills, as well as developing future citizens of the state.

The initial ideas and action plan described in this ALAP is consistent with the servant leadership theory, distributed leadership approach, and ethical, moral, and professional standards. Firstly, the ALAP aims to develop a portrait of the graduate in collaboration with all stakeholders. Next, the teachers will be encouraged to develop extracurricular classes for critical thinking and leadership. Finally, to enable continuous improvement, additional workshops for both students and teachers that focus on strategies for lifelong learning will be offered. The assessment of feedback through surveys and questionnaires is another essential part of this plan that allows an adequate execution of the change process.

Staff can be involved in the decision-making process when designing the graduate’s portrait or in the development of either critical thinking or computer literacy classes. Collaboration in all four action items is crucial and will help design, plan, and implement the shared vision for a new curriculum and additional activities, in accordance with a servant and distributed leadership and change process.

References

About us. (n.d.). Web.

Change management process. (n.d.). Web.

Do you have a portrait of a graduate? (n.d). Web.

FY18-22 strategic plan overview. (n.d.). Web.

Green, R. L. (2016). Practicing the art of leadership: A problem-based approach to implementing the professional standards for educational leaders. London, United Kingdom: Pearson Education.

Noland, A., & Richards, K. (2015). Servant teaching: An exploration of teacher servant leadership on student outcomes. Journal of The Scholarship Of Teaching And Learning, 15(6), 16-38. Web.

Repenning, A., Grover, R., Gutierrez, K., Repenning, N., Webb, D. C., Koh, K. H., … Gluck, F. (2015). Scalable game design. ACM Transactions on Computing Education, 15(2), 1–31. Web.

Spense, A., & Kay, K. (2018). 5 suggestions for leaders: Developing a portrait of a 21st century graduate. Web.

Stewart, J., Shanmugam, S., & Seenan, C. (2016) Developing 21st century graduate attributes: Incorporating novel teaching strategies in a physiotherapy curriculum. European Journal of Physiotherapy, 18(3), 194-199. Web.

Wagner, T., Howell, A., Helsing, D., Rasmussen, H. T., Garnier, J., Laskow Lahey, L.,… Kegan, R. (2006). Change leadership: A practical guide to transforming our schools. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

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