HeadsMessagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

As the school year draws to a close, we begin to celebrate the progress and growth of students, including art shows, concerts, competitions, special events, and ceremonies. The pinnacle of our academic year is commencement on Saturday, June 8. This event is a significant milestone for our school and for the 61 members of the MPA Class of 2024 as we come together to celebrate their achievements and honor their journey.

Other accomplishments are also worth celebrating, such as our progress toward realizing our strategic plan. In particular, I want to call attention to the work of a committee comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators that has been working throughout the year to create a competency framework grounded in our mission and actualizing the MPA Portrait of a Graduate. I’ve written many times before about competency-based (or mastery-based) learning and developing our unique MPA competency framework (these articles date back to 2015, but see “A Roadmap for Continuous Improvement” and “2024ward: An Update” for the two most recent). Before I share the latest update, I’d like to provide some context.

The first priority of 2024ward challenges us to “Empower students to live, learn, and thrive in our increasingly complex and globalized society.” We do this by creating customized pathways of learning for students through curricular innovation and leveraging advances in educational technology. In addition to maximizing the use and integration of technology, MPA has been on a multi-year journey to continually enhance our school’s strengths in hands-on, experiential, project-based learning.

A crucial first step in realizing the first strategic plan priority was the development of a Portrait of a Graduate last school year. The MPA Portrait of a Graduate is our school’s vision for the knowledge, 21st-century skills, character traits, and/or social-emotional competencies our students need to live, learn, and thrive in our increasingly complex and globalized society. It represents a collective vision and articulates our community’s aspirations for all students.

MPA Portrait of a Graduate

We Are Doers
MPA learners are critical thinkers who are skillful and well-prepared academically.
We are: Knowledgeable, Adaptive, Creative, Resourceful

We Are Dreamers
MPA learners are leaders who move with curiosity, imagination, and persistence.
We are: Curious, Justice Oriented, Innovative, Growth Focused

We Are Right Makers
MPA learners are community shapers who have a sense of purpose and take responsibility.
We are: Ethical, Inclusive, Community Focused, Engaged

Click here to see a visual representation of this Portrait of a Graduate.

I am so proud of the work done by faculty, staff, and administrators to create the Portrait of a Graduate. It clearly rearticulates the full range of outcomes we want for our graduates and serves as a foundation upon which to build a school model in which each element maps directly to the identified outcomes.

Our overarching goal for this year was to build upon the work of last year that further defined student outcomes, Portrait of a Graduate, social-emotional learning standards, equity and inclusion standards, and technology standards in order to create a competency framework. The competency framework aligns priorities, is supported by research, and brings to fruition the Portrait of a Graduate. This competency framework articulates and makes actionable the transferable skills that MPA values most, and those that we are committed to teaching—many of which have been commitments since the school’s founding in 1982.

The framework includes research-based future-ready competencies that will enable MPA students to navigate the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Let me be clear—competency-based learning is not discipline-specific, nor does it replace grades. It is not a substitute for teaching content and discipline-based skills or a reduction of rigor. It embraces the varied learning needs of all students by creating unique and personalized learning pathways.

Here is the most recent draft MPA’s competency framework:

  1. Build Community: I can nurture my relationships and connections with others to build and sustain my community.
  2. Express Ideas: I can develop and communicate my ideas with purpose and clarity.
  3. Read the World: I can engage with diverse ideas and a full range of media to understand and critically examine the world around me.
  4. Design Solutions: I can identify meaningful challenges in the world around me and design ways to address them.
  5. Lead My Learning: I can lead my own learning while collaborating with others and contributing to the learning of others.
  6. Reason Quantitatively: I can reason through, represent, and communicate mathematical problems and approaches to solving them.
  7. Engage In Inquiry: I can pursue answers to authentic questions through primary and secondary research.
  8. Learn With Others: I can collaborate with and contribute to the learning of others, and contribute to effective teams.
  9. Sustain Wellness: I can develop practices to support my own well-being, embrace difference, and build my cultural competence.

These nine competencies are specific, transferable, and empowering learning outcomes that prepare learners for college, career, and civic life; taken together and within the context of the MPA curricular experience, they represent the attainment of the full MPA vision for a student’s education. Each competency has three or four specific and measurable processes, skills, and strategies that collectively culminate in the competency when successfully applied consistently and in varied circumstances. Each skill has a rubric composed of levels and indicators. Levels indicate particular performance bands on the pathway to competency mastery, while indicators are the specific, observable behaviors that correlate to particular levels and become more sophisticated along the continuum toward mastery/modeling.

The purpose of the competencies is to create a framework of mission-/value-aligned skills that are true across disciplines and divisions, transparent, measurable, and important for students now and in the future. A competency framework is designed to help a Portrait of a Graduate be actualized.

At this time, faculty and staff are providing feedback to fine-tune the framework. In the days following the last day of school, teachers will begin receiving professional development and coaching in order to further embed the competencies into courses, units, and lessons across grade levels and divisions. This fall, I will offer several parent education sessions to learn more about this exciting initiative.

I firmly believe competency-based learning is a modern representation of our school’s tradition of “whole-child, hands-on, experiential education.” It knits together our academic program with our commitment to social-emotional learning, diversity, equity and belonging, and technology in order to meet the emerging needs of our students and to prepare them for success in a fast-changing, uncertain future.

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