Opinion: Skills of the modern high school graduate | PostIndependent.com

Opinion: Skills of the modern high school graduate

School District 51’s singular purpose is helping the community’s children learn about our world so they can pursue their dreams with confidence and optimism. The sharing of the world’s knowledge with developing minds, shaped by an infinite combination of cultural and socio-emotional circumstances, is nothing short of miracle work. Yet, it’s exactly what our teachers do every day. To complicate matters, we’re not preparing kids for the present or our past — we’re getting them ready for the jobs of the future.

We welcomed a new group of kindergartners to school last week — the class of 2028. The jobs available to them upon graduation haven’t even been invented yet. Of course, there are standard professions and career paths, but the evolution of technology will change even them between now and thirteen years hence. Though we can’t know the exact jobs our future graduates will compete for, we do know we can prepare them to be adaptive and capable in their thinking. They will be ready for what the world throws at them, just like we were.

The Invisible Revolution

In the last ten years, we’ve all been part of an Information Revolution. With the rise of the smartphone, knowledge has become a commodity. Facts, figures, and formulas are still important. But Google and the internet put knowledge in everyone’s hands. This new reality adds an additional layer of learning onto today’s students. They have to learn what we did, but also put that knowledge to use. Today’s students might be citing facts and figures to present an argument, draw a conclusion, or make a presentation, for example. The 24/7 access to information essentially closed the door on the Industrial Age and moved society squarely into the Information Age. The hallmark of our new Age is that technology significantly informs almost all manufacturing and services offered today. And, the market is global — world wide web.

Skills for the Modern Graduate

A significant amount of research is continuously being completed to determine the kinds of skills employers are looking for in a graduate. With “knowledge” becoming a commodity available to all, different skills are in demand. Here’s what skills our children need in the 21st Century:

Flexible enough to adapt to changing expectations

Able to make sense of complex problems

Capable of finding and synthesizing reliable information

Knows that mistakes make the best opportunity for learning

Works collaboratively with teammates, sharing ideas and best practices

Takes ownership of their ongoing learning and pride in their work

Competes with peers across the country and world

These skills have always been desired, but schools taught information and these skills tended to develop according to the individual. The few who developed these skills advanced fastest. Now, the job market wants all members to have these types of skills.

Life Beyond High School is Different

Most jobs now and in the future require training or education beyond high school. Doesn’t have to be college — the training may be vocational, technical, apprenticeships, or college. The key is high school is no longer the end of learning. Instead, the completion of high school is the starting point for more specialized training. Consider these projections for the Colorado Department of Education:

By 2020, 75 percent of jobs in Colorado will require training beyond high school

Jobs requiring training beyond high school are growing at three times the rate of those requiring only a high school diploma

Colorado ranks in the bottom three of states for jobs open to high school dropouts or graduates with no additional training.

Fortunately, we have been preparing for these changes for several years. We’ve been changing our curriculum, our assessments, and even our high school graduation requirements. It’s been a slow, methodical change, but the pace is picking up. The work happening behind the scenes is now starting to be experienced in the classroom. Between now and mid-October, School District 51 will be reaching out to parents to discuss the evolving skills of the modern graduate and the changing graduation guidelines. The changes are NOT for this year. We’re working several years ahead of schedule, and this year we’re informing parents of the coming changes and the choices we have as a community. We’ll send home information multiple times and host several community meetings to hear from everyone and answer all questions. This part of our transformation is another great example of how we’re working together to help our children achieve monumental success.

Free Press columnist Dan Dougherty is director of communications for School District 51: Mesa County Valley Schools. Comments and feedback are welcome at dan.dougherty@d51schools.org.

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