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Aurora Institute

Profile of a Graduate to Redefine Student Success for the Future

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Alexis Chambers, Natalie Truong

Issue(s): State Policy, Redefine Student Success, Create Meaningful Qualifications, Harness Opportunities in ESSA

Welcome to the second installment of the Aurora Institute’s blog series: Future-Focused State Policy Actions to Transform K-12 Education. In this blog, we introduce our first state policy priority for 2020: Profile of a Graduate to redefine student success around the knowledge and skills necessary for success. 

Across the country, states are creating a Profile of a Graduate to set forth a modernized vision for student learning and achievement. These graduate profiles articulate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students should have upon graduating from K-12 education to be prepared for college, careers, and civic life.  Enabled by the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (2015), states and districts are establishing graduate profiles by partnering with communities and engaging with diverse stakeholders to determine what is essential for their students to thrive after K-12. The profiles, therefore, represent an important strategy states are using to set a vision of future-ready graduates and to align K-12 education systems to a more holistic vision of success. 

Additionally with clear, comprehensive definitions of success, states can begin to transform their education systems in a coherent way, allowing invested and engaged stakeholders from the PreK-workforce pipeline to work together to help students succeed at every level. 

State Highlight

Virginia is taking a comprehensive and coherent approach to transforming education, using the Profile of a Virginia Graduate as a powerful driver. In 2016, HB 895 required the state to create the Profile of a Virginia Graduate. The bill requires each graduate to complete an AP, Honors or IB course, or industry certification, effective for the Class of 2022. In 2017, the Virginia State Board of Education approved revised Standards of Accreditation that updated graduation requirements for the Class of 2022. These board regulations (8VAC20-131-51) go beyond the requirements of HB 895 and require all graduates to “acquire and demonstrate foundational skills in critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship in accordance with

the Profile of a Virginia Graduate.” Local divisions are connecting into the Virginia Is for Learners Innovation Network, a statewide initiative building educator capacity for innovation, aligned with the new vision of success.


We offer the following recommendations for states looking to get started with modernizing their education system with a new, coherent definition of success:

  • Engage communities and diverse stakeholders to create a vision to modernize and redefine more holistic graduation requirements based on what students need to know and be able to do for future success.
  • Broaden coalitions and develop a statewide “Profile of a Graduate” for K-12 education based on a long- term vision describing the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students need for college, careers, and civic life.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the blog series. In our next blog, we will examine opportunities to innovate to support student-centered learning approaches through innovation zones.

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