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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Patel: Characteristics that most help our youth achieve their aspirations

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Youth are commonly clear about the future they want for themselves — graduating high school to move on to postsecondary opportunities, pursuing a career they are passionate about and ultimately leading an empowered life of their choosing. This is especially true for Shiloh Rowland, a junior at Shortridge High School. Shiloh dreams of being a chef, an ambition that has only grown with age. In a recent conversation, Shiloh spoke about the skills they need on the journey to that dream. 

“Since I’ve conquered one of the hardest questions for a young adult — what do you want after high school — I now have to think about the steps I’ll have to take to realize my goal,” Shiloh said. “I would also need to work on gaining a skill set that includes having a lot of discipline, persistence and comfort with change.”

Shiloh, like many students in our community, is focused on the future and clear about their dreams. Beyond a dream, though, students need a plan. They deserve to feel confident and equipped with the knowledge, skills, agency and sense of self to propel into a future filled with possibility. Further, to match ambitious goals that youth have for themselves, we need bold action as a community. And bold, results-oriented action tomorrow is derived from knowing where we are today.
This is why I am thrilled that our state, with leadership of the Indiana Department of Education, has developed a new tool that will be used to measure students’ developmental progress and success.

The Indiana Graduates Prepared to Succeed (Indiana GPS) dashboard will use transparency to show how schools and students are performing over five key characteristics, those known to be predictive of adult success — academic mastery; career and postsecondary readiness: credentials and experiences; communication and collaboration; work ethic; and civic, financial and digital literacy. By measuring success over a variety of predictive measures the dashboard provides a holistic view of not only school performance, which is of course important, but also what matters most in education — youth learning and development on the pathway to a prosperous individual and collective future.

The dashboard is a powerful instrument to be sure, but it’s just that — a tool, not an outcome. Should we successfully implement using this powerful instrument, that is learn and continuously improve to better serve students in achieving a bright future, students like Shiloh can walk boldly ahead equipped with what they need to realize their dreams and ambitions. What’s more, guardians and parents are more deeply empowered with this resource. The new tool can aid in making intentional, fact-based choices as to which learning environments to enroll their children because they will have added data on educational quality commensurate with their interests. True fidelity of use — successful implementation — of this instrument supports outcomes we should all care about.

Together, as a community, we can hold ourselves accountable to ensure progress for our children. Utilizing this dashboard in earnest and forging collective effort and action based on what we learn can help us all meet Shiloh where they are and help them realize their dreams. We will all be better off as a result. 

Amar Patel serves as executive director at Teach For America Indianapolis, an education nonprofit organization that recruits, supports and develops diverse, equity-minded leaders that drive change in our education system, starting in the classroom. Teach For America is working toward increasing student achievement in Indianapolis while advocating for policies and practices that support family and student success.

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