Design Process

As you welcome many voices and elicit ongoing input, people will see themselves as part of a movement toward a shared vision of your Portrait of a Graduate.

While the process of developing a Portrait of a Graduate will look different in each school system, the most important move for any school leader is to engage their community in that process from day one. 

Bringing together a broad array of stakeholders to co-create a Portrait of a Graduate can help build understanding and lasting support from the community that leads to enduring impact for students.  


Exploring the Phases

The Portrait of a Graduate design process involves a sustained community conversation leading to shared agreement about a unique community-owned picture of what graduates need for success. Every community and its school system is different, so every approach will be tailored to the local context.

These are the phases to help you get started. Click on any phase to access more information, resources, and tools to support your Portrait.


Key Steps in Each Phase

Phase 1 - Plan:

  • Build understanding and ownership among your district's leadership and school board
  • Create a Portrait of a Graduate Design Team that will be involved across all phases to build a sense of urgency and create excitement across the community
  • Define your overall timeline
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Phase 2 - Activate:

  • Convene the Portrait Design Team
  • Study the implications for your educational system in light of the changing economy, work place, and society
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Phase 3 - Create:

  • Draft a prioritized set of competencies including 21st century skills, mindsets, and literacies
  • Draft visuals that convey a compelling story
  • Reach consensus about a selected visual to share with the broader community
  • Continue to discuss this work in the broader community and elicit their ideas for the Portrait
  • Collect feedback from the community about the societal conditions and share with the overall design team as they draft the Portrait
  • Decide what revisions are necessary
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BFK Portrait Student

Phase 4 - Adopt:

  • Submit recommendation to the school board for adoption
  • Publish and leverage the adopted Portrait as the North Star for subsequent strategic planning, and the design of educational experiences for students
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BFK Portrait Gallery


The completed Portrait of a Graduate reflects each community’s goals for its students. If you want to see examples, look at how school systems are implementing their Portraits and read their stories of success.

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