Today, getting students across that graduation stage remains a top priority for most schools. At the same time, as district leaders, we need to keep asking ourselves: Are students really ready for the challenges of life after graduation?
At Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District (SCUC ISD), preparing students for college, career, and/or military readiness (CCMR) is one of four core priorities on our district scorecard. We serve 15,497 students across 15 schools in the San Antonio area in Texas. With a diverse student body and a 40 percent military-connected population, we've made a district-wide commitment to all students regardless of their postsecondary plans.
Yet, we know that there's much more to being ready than achieving a score on a test or enlisting in the armed forces. We wanted to expand on Texas state accountability indicators for CCMR by embracing the life skills and attributes that we believe are critical to postsecondary success.
This has been one of the biggest challenges and opportunities of our work at SCUC ISD. As the Director of Counseling and College, Career, and Military Services, I oversee our efforts to define, measure, and support students' college, career, military, and life readiness.
We partnered with Panorama to advance this work. With Panorama, we can now measure how students are progressing towards our district's definition of CCMR, and then collaborate and act on that information to deliver targeted supports and keep every student on the path to developing the skills they need for life success.
Here's how we've aligned our district around a redefined vision for CCMR and taken action to address the holistic needs of each student.
"At SCUC ISD, we want to make sure students are graduating with something that takes them further than across the stage. We want them to have the skills to go on to whichever areas they choose."
Expanding the Definition of College, Career, and Military Readiness
Our first step in the process was to create a local definition for CCMR that builds on state accountability criteria and accounts for students' life readiness.
To do so, we needed to find out what "readiness" really means to our community. We formed a committee of counselors, teachers, administrators, parents, and students to investigate and unpack the following questions:
- What do we want our students to have beyond test scores when they graduate?
- What do students need to be successful, regardless of the area they choose to pursue?
Many ideas came up in the committee. But when it came down to it, the students were the "closers." They wanted more than just a list of traits that you might see on a bumper sticker; they helped us develop a rich "Traits of a Graduate" framework that encompasses the social, emotional, and academic skills necessary for postsecondary readiness.
- Dynamic Leader - Helps and supports others with good moral character.
- Self-Motivated - Practices grit and perseverance and applies real-world skills.
- Skilled Communicator - Communicates with transparency, confidence, and flexibility.
- Service Oriented - Demonstrates citizenship and a sense of community.
- Future Ready - Open to learning, possesses perseverance, and has critical thinking skills.
If we can prepare students to exemplify these five traits and meet state-level CCMR indicators, we can with confidence say that they are ready.
During the first year of implementation, we focused on aligning everyone in the district—students, staff, and the community—around our Traits of a Graduate. We wanted this to be a K-12 initiative—not just something that came to fore during a student's senior year. Through posters, our website, counselor guidance sessions, student recognition programs, and more, we raised awareness and highlighted the value of the traits. We're proud to say that these traits are now deeply integrated into our culture, academics, and social-emotional learning efforts.
We've also created alignment around CCMR by hosting a "Decision Day" through Generation Texas. During this pep rally, high school seniors announce their college, career, and/or military intentions. The event gets streamed on YouTube to lower grades, and is an exciting way for the entire district community to recognize and celebrate the different paths that our graduates choose to take.
How We Measure Our Traits of a Graduate
The next big question became: How are we going to measure these traits for our district's CCMR scorecard? That's where Panorama comes in. Panorama has helped us break down silos so that we are no longer looking at academics and social-emotional learning as separate entities. Now, we have all of the data together, and we're looking at the whole child.
Using the Panorama Social-Emotional Learning Survey, we gather self-reported data from students to understand their progress developing our Traits of a Graduate. We've customized the survey to align with our specific traits—measuring competencies like Social Awareness and Grit and mapping those topics back to our framework.
A student-level report in Panorama (not real student data)
The student voice data we get from Panorama is crucial. If a student doesn't think they can communicate well, it doesn't matter what we think. The reality is, a student walking into a college interview will be more likely to have a strong interview if they actually believe they have good communication skills.
Our teachers and counselors use this student perception data to identify who needs additional social and emotional support and what exactly they need help with. I meet with associate principals and counselors quarterly to review the data and plan ahead for the needs of students. With this data in hand, we've become more strategic instead of reactive when it comes to supporting each student holistically.
Readiness and Intervention Data in One Place
At SCUC ISD, student readiness is not just on counselors' plates. CCMR is everyone's responsibility. That's one of the biggest benefits of Panorama Student Success—administrators, school leaders, counselors, staff, and teachers can see the same data in one place, collaborate on the information, and work towards shared goals.
District-level reporting in Panorama Student Success (not real student data)
The platform makes it possible for us to set parameters and monitor students for declines in grades, attendance, social-emotional learning, and behavior. We can look at students from all angles and intervene proactively based on the data. Here are a few examples:
- Military-connected coaches and sponsors use Panorama in transition meetings—logging notes in the MTSS platform so that teachers know what's going on with students transitioning into their classroom ("I spoke with Joe and he's doing well with the transition"; or, "Joe's mom is still deployed; come see me for more information").
- Department leads use Panorama to review state testing results, create "groups" of students who didn't pass, and share information with teachers. That way, teachers know what interventions have already been put in place and can effectively support these students moving forward.
- School leaders and teachers use Panorama to track attendance. Is attendance declining for particular groups of students or individual students? If students continue to fall in attendance after a certain number of days, teachers call home to see how they can help get the student back to school.
Panorama has been a game changer in helping us systematize our work around college, career, and military readiness. As a district, we're more aligned than ever before in the pursuit of preparing every graduate for post high school success—socially, emotionally, and academically.
Cassandra Gracia is the Director of Counseling and College, Career, and Military Services at Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD in San Antonio, Texas.