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Identifying the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that define student success

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What are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that today’s high school graduates need to succeed in college, career, and life? That was the key question posed by members of the Mission: Graduate Employment Network and representatives of Albuquerque Public Schools as they set out to identify opportunities to better prepare students for success beyond high school.  

What are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed?

To discover which skills, knowledge, and attitudes are most important for later success, the Mission: Graduate Employment Network and the University of New Mexico’s Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR), in partnership with Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) and community partners, laid out the plans for a research project to develop the profile of a well-prepared graduate.

“We were intentional about building this profile based on data that we collected, not on our own opinions,” explains Deborah Good, Mission: Graduate’s Data and Research manager. “Achieving that takes a systematic approach.”

The team developed a theory of action and a common understanding of what they wanted to achieve:  Based on community input, what are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that a high school graduate needs to succeed in college, career, and life? They then set out to talk with more than 370 teachers, students, community and family members, higher education professionals, and principals in 45 focus group sessions over a period of several months. Some of these were held in conjunction with APS’s Academic Master Plan forums.

A research team then analyzed the transcripts for common themes and came up with a creative way to display the information. The goal was not to produce a 50-page report but an easy-to-use tool that could help with planning. The result was a two-page document that defines the profile of a successful graduate.

What does the Graduate Profile tell us?

Download a pdf version

The Albuquerque Graduate Profile outlines three primary categories of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that can help make the graduate successful. 

  1. I know and respect myself. This includes initiative and goal-setting, integrity, reliability, work ethic, self-awareness, and the ability to take care of oneself.
  2. I know and respect others. This includes appreciation of one’s culture and history, empathy, civic- and community-mindedness, and the ability to collaborate, communicate, and adapt to new situations.
  3. I am resourceful. This involves resilience and perseverance, critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity, an understanding of personal finances, and hiring skills.

Additionally, graduates need to be able to read, write, apply basic math skills, use computers, and apply the scientific method. These skills are undergirded by a healthy curiosity and willingness to learn and the support of an engaged family and community. Finally, the Graduate Profile also outlines foundational experiences that can help propel the student – these include, for example, having opportunities for civic engagement, being able to apply one’s learning in real-world situations, and having support from caring adults.

“It’s not so prescriptive as to be a cookie cutter. Every student is different,” says Good. “While foundational competencies will be important for all of them, they may need to learn them in different ways; they might specialize in different areas based on strengths and interests.”

What’s next?

The Albuquerque Graduate Profile was recently presented to the APS Board of Education where it received positive feedback. One member expressed the appreciation that this study provides a common language for what is to be achieved.

The Graduate Profile will be part of the APS Academic Master Plan which has supporting the whole child as one of its focus areas. APS representatives on the team are incorporating it into their planning and are looking for outside-the-box opportunities for its use.

Mission: Graduate is in the process of developing the Graduate Profile User Guide which provides details on the specific items listed.

APS Graduate Profile team members included Jacqueline Costales, Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction; Kris Meurer, Executive Director for Student, Family, and Community Supports; and Katarina Sandoval, Associate Superintendent for Equity and Access. Mission: Graduate / CEPR members included Ranjana Damle, Elizabeth Exil, Deborah Good, Angelo Gonzales, Ruth Juarez, and Derek Kuit. Community partners included Tony Monfiletto, Director of the New Mexico Center for School Leadership; Guido Kemp, Commercial Banking Manager at Wells Fargo; and Dan Gerry, Executive Director of the Reading Success Movement.

Those interested in a presentation can contact Deborah Good.

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