Ken Kay & Suzie Boss on Redefining Student Success

On this episode of the Getting Smart Podcast, Tom Vander Ark sits down with Ken Kay, founder of Partnership for 21st Century Skills and its successor EdLeader 21, and Suzie Boss, long time education writer and consultant. Ken and Suzie recently co-authored the book Redefining Student Success: Building a New Vision to Transform Leading, Teaching and Learning.

On this episode they discuss who should be present for the create of a portrait of a graduate, whether or not PBL is catching on, how to truly center the student and co-author learning experiences alongside them and more.

For two decades Ken Kay has been talking about the 4 C’s (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity), recently, as documented in the new book, this shifted to student success.

“People started with the 4 c’s but it isn’t the best way to start your learning journey. Suzie and I had to write about the urgency of the work – it isn’t gradual change… it’s a need for local communities to have local conversations.”

Suzie has long been an advocate for PBL and, in particular, high quality PBL “we have a much better understanding of how to create PBL experiences that are well designed. It needs to be rigorous, not just messing about.”

In the book, Ken says that “transformation starts with a backward design process, informed by diverse stakeholders, to develop a portrait of a graduate.” He and Suzie both agree that portraits of graduates are a great moment to reflect on the district’s performance of equity. Ken also advocates for a “green light culture”, one where schools and districts feel empowered to innovate.

Much of what was said in the book reminded of us How to Citizen with Baratunde Thurston. We appreciate how he uses citizen as a verb and got the sense that student success often implies engaged citizens and focused on civics, contribution and action. Suzie highlighted that it is about both “the knowing and the doing.”

The authors also explored questions around problem finding and our new mutuality: “Why aren’t your students a part of the 10 year plan for reducing carbon in your building.”

The book also share great examples of edleaders changing mindsets and changing practice: “When Jason Glass was superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools in Colorado, he brought a singular focus to ‘the task as the unit of change.'”

Overview of Redefining Student Success: Building a New Vision to Transform Leading, Teaching and Learning by Ken Kay and Suzie Boss

Be the leader of a fresh, bold, enduring vision of education for your district or school.

The future of learning has arrived, and it requires bold educational leadership and a dramatic redefinition of what it means to be a successful student today.

Redefining Student Success invites you to lead this transformation with audacity. It engages leaders with the concepts and actions needed to reimagine schools, address inequities, and help today’s students develop the skills they need for personal, economic, and civic success. This vital guide supports transformative leadership with

• Concrete guidance on how to create a Portrait of a Graduate and Portrait of an Educator which will help ensure teachers have a unified vision for professional growth and student success

• Reflection prompts that help you recognize your strengths, spark discussion among stakeholders, and identify next steps for inspired action.

• Compelling examples of students already engaged in creative, self-directed problem-solving around issues that matter to them and their communities, together with stories that illustrate how districts and schools have arrived at their own vision of what education must become.

• Companion guides to 21st century learning for parents and students available online.


Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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