by: Layla Abdi

It’s no question that in this rapidly growing and changing world, schools will have to adapt to fully equip students with the necessary skills to thrive. This is done not only by making curriculums and classes more rigorous, but also by teaching concepts and skills that will be used in the everyday world once students graduate. Superintendent Karen Garza and FCPS have approved a new portrait of a graduate to get students to fit the mold and “help shape a different kind of student,” according to Garza.

Portrait of a graduate is defined by the FCPS website as “a framework for the skills each student should have by the time he or she graduates in order to be prepared for the future.” The new portrait was developed by a taskforce “comprised of parents, teachers, school administrators, community members, and civic and business leaders who examined new models of a 21st century education,” according to the website.

So what does a 21st century student look like? To define the characteristics that a student should have, FCPS has determined five areas that sets that the student should be a communicator, collaborator, global citizen, creative and critical thinker and a self-directed and responsible individual. These characteristics have a goal to create “an interdisciplinary learner that pursues lifelong academic knowledge.” Junior Khadra Omar agreed,“[Students] need to be able to communicate. Communication is often looked over for skills such as critical thinking and creativeness but it’s importance can’t be stressed enough.”

The question that remains is how FCPS wants the implement the portrait of a graduate now that it has been approved. One way the school is planning on doing this is by having a larger variety of class options such as academy classes and other career classes all throughout the division. Garza pointed out how the county would also like to have more of a focus on the arts as a way to give students more post-secondary options.

A concern that passed the mind of community members was bridging the achievement gap between racial groups and ethnicities. According to, former school board member Tina Hone questions the effectiveness of the portrait of a graduate for minority and lower income students. “What is the portrait of a school system that can get every child in it, regardless of race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, to the promised land?” The school board assures that the portrait will help and benefit every student, including minority groups.

Since this new portrait of a graduate has only recently been finalized, the specifics haven’t fully been put in place. The FCPS website notes that, “Specific objectives and action steps will complete the strategic plan and will assist in aligning FCPS’ work so that we are continuously improving in the years to come.” Still, students will begin seeing aspects of the portrait of a graduate as they progress on through their school year.