Community Conversations Shape Portrait of a Graduate

Learner Experience, Learning, PreK-12

This blog is the third in our series on Marion City Schools. See The 7C’s to College and Career Competency and Instructional Coaching For Secondary School Transformation

Lori Vandeborne & Stephen Fujii

The learning students need and deserve is personalized, deep, flexible, engaging, relevant, challenging, collaborative and supportive.

Focusing on the current state and federal requirements for education has caused many traditional districts to take their eyes off the ball. The debate on Common Core State Standards and Assessments has shifted educators away from student needs and onto state level reporting. Recently in an EdWeek blog, Mr. Walter Gardner (@WaltXYZ) goes so far as to share that focusing on students getting to a HS diploma is short-sighted.

Inherently this has caused educators and leaders to loose the “personalized, deep, flexible, engaging, relevant, challenging, collaborative and supportive” environment advocated for in Tom Vander Ark’s Smart Cities book.  

Marion City Schools is choosing to focus on these learning practices. When superintendent Gary Barber took over the struggling north-central Ohio district three years ago, he listened to the community. He recognized that relational partnerships are critical to community improvement. Barber realized that managing partnerships processes at the higher relational and transformative levels requires brokering competencies. Sustainable partnerships with community leaders and agencies is where Stephen Fujii, Director of College and Career Success, has had the opportunity to act as a harbormaster. He works to navigate the systematic alignment of regional professional talent, school development, curriculum enhancement and community needs. These partnerships led to an Advanced Career-Technical offering to strengthen the community’s fabric.

Fujii explains, “Marion has strong core values. It is rooted in the middle class and can be described as a railroad town. CSX has a clear presence and runs through the heart of the town. As such logistics has always been important for this community.” With help from an SREB Advanced Career Pathway grant, Marion launched a Global Logistics Pathway. Fujii noted links to systems design and machine learning in this emerging pathway. Marion is a community that has a strong history of logistic learning opportunities as supported by the various partners represented in the image below.

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Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management is intended to connect internal operations of an organization with the suppliers and contractors from other organizations locally and globally. Students in this pathway gain an understanding of the causal relationship inherent within all goods and services in a complex economic world. This rigorous pathway allows students to develop critical thinking skills and solutions which businesses must face on a daily basis. They learn by studying warehouses and locations in the United States to creating viable infrastructure in solving problems of the present and future. Example of students utilizing Mincraft to represent their warehouse design project.

Students, in addition to dual-enrollment credit will have the chance during year one of implementation to become “yellow-belt” certified in LEAN processes through a partnership with META Solutions. Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of Problem Statements, Process Mapping as well as the Define, Control and Measure Phases outlined by Six-Sigma. (Teacher Dustin Ellis, @PrexieLogistics)

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In addition to curricular opportunities the City Schools focus on partnership has lead to the realization of a District Design Team. This collaborative task force is similar to a Career TechnicalAdvisory Committee in the ways that it is to provide an opportunity for discussion among people in education, business and industry. It serves to make the most of the community resources that are available while striving to improve the relationships and providing expertise to the educational experience for students.  

These added expertise and partnerships are the key component that shifts student learning and teacher strategies from the Concert to the Contributive Level based on The 7C’s to College and Career Competency as illustrated in this sample weekly schedule developed in collaboration with META Solutions instructional coach, Lori Vandeborne (@MrsVandeborne).

Fujii and Vandeborne are currently working with teachers to strategically use The 7C’s for current instructional practices and in the curriculum design of each new pathway synthesized for a consistent approach to fulfill the District Design Team’s vision.


In Marion the Design Team consists of teachers, parents, members of the Board of Education, economic development partners, the president of The Ohio State University- Marion Campus and the vice-president of the Marion Technical College, the president/C.O.O of META Solutions, members of the Chamber of Commerce, and directors from Ohio Means Jobs as well as several Business partners. This team is working together to create a vibrant and innovative “Marion-Centric” mindset.  The guiding norms of the team are outlined below. The purpose of the team is to help schools and school divisions to improve the quality education programing that prepare students with workplace skills.

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To improve the quality of the education offerings by Marion City Schools the team endeavored to create a new picture of what a Marion City Schools graduate should know and be able to do. This Portrait of a Graduate is intended to cater to the needs of the community with a vision on what the world may look like in five to ten year. To understand this vision the team turned to KnowledgeWorks Forecast 3.0 (see review of Forecast 4.0). Also in conjunction with community partners is the first step towards providing schools the opportunity to cater their services to the needs of their region; empower businesses to identify what skills workers need for success and help workers acquire them (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, July 2014).

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The design team talked to innovative school networks including Asia Society and Envision. They crafted a portrait of a Marion graduate:

A Marion City Graduate is prepared for success in postsecondary education, service and/or work, proficient at required curriculum and assessments in Ohio, articulate in financial literacy, competent in one or more career strands and able to provide evidence, civically aware and informed.

A Marion City Graduate will be responsibly engaged in the community, take initiative and show empathy, be experienced in the community and in leadership roles. … persist in overcoming adversity, understand the value of wellness.

A Marion Graduate can demonstrate literacy and communicate and collaborate effectively, think critically about individual needs, the needs of others, able to problem-solve, manage time and work towards goals, media in order to be creative and innovative, reflect on experience and focus on growth and continuous-improvement.

The design team conducted a gap analysis between high school offerings and the portrait of a graduate. They identified multiple graduate pathways including dual enrollment, AA degrees, and stackable credentials. They outlined Diploma Plus: the expectation that all students would graduate with a diploma plus entrance to a postsecondary course of study (high-demand work opportunities, military, 2-4 year colleges/universities, or adult education).  Marion City Schools is embarking on a journey to authenticate learning experiences. Experiences which provide students with successful work ethic, experience, and knowledge and the local/global community with highly qualified leaders willing and capable of innovative problem solving in cutting edge fields of interest.

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The sky’s the limit with the foundation being put into place as exemplified by the Portrait of a Graduate. This allows the district to “put first things first” and focus on the end in mind.  By doing this Marion is prioritizing students and the role of education. Marion students need and deserve personalized, deep, flexible, engaging, relevant, challenging, collaborative and supportive educational experiences. As Marion intentionally focuses on what graduates will know, believe and can do we will hope to provide our community with a promise.  A promise intended to provide hope to our community and to our students that they can thrive in today’s complex, ever changing and demanding world. By focusing on these opportunities our future citizens will gain in prosperity and see a way forward!  

Learn more:

Lori Vandeborne is Professional Development Specialist with META Solutions. Follow Lori on Twitter, @MrsVandeborne.

Stephen Fujii is Director of School Operations Marion City Schools. Follow Stephen on Twitter, @_StephenFujii.

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