CAE Webinar Explores How to Put Portrait of a Graduate Initiatives Into Practice

Education experts share their experiences going from Portrait vision to reality and measuring student outcomes

NEW YORK, Feb. 28, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Council for Aid to Education, Inc. (CAE), a nonprofit developer of performance-based and custom assessments that authentically measure students’ essential college and career skills, today released an on-demand webinar that discusses how to turn the Portrait of a Graduate vision into reality for students. Featuring Dr. Doris Zahner, chief academic officer, CAE; Jon Alfuth, senior director of state policy, KnowledgeWorks; and Dr. Kipp D. Rogers, chief academic officer, Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS), the webinar originally aired live on Feb. 8.

Almost 300 K-12 educators from across the nation joined the webinar, entitled “Portrait of a Graduate: Making the Vision Reality for Your Students”. The experts led an engaging conversation on overcoming the common challenges districts and schools face in moving from vision to practice, how to use innovative performance-based assessments to measure progress, and real-world lessons learned from VBCPS.

Over 120 schools and districts nationwide, comprising more than 733,000 students, are in the process of developing or implementing Portrait of a Graduate programs. Representing a shared community vision of the skills and characteristics a student should have after going through the K-12 system, a school or district’s Portrait is designed to transform the education experience to ensure success in college, career and life. This is accomplished by bringing together diverse perspectives from the broader community – educators, students, elected officials, community members, and families – to help build a unifying, collective agreement.

Alfuth, an expert in state policy transformation, workforce and postsecondary education policy, and cross-sector education systems thinking, highlighted the state and federal policies behind Portrait of a Graduate, why these skills are important, and some considerations for schools that want to pursue a personalized competency-based education program.

“The reality many of us acknowledge is that the traditional education systems and structures we have just don’t work for too many of our students,” said Alfuth. “This was a system designed for sameness, not for personalization, and it is not meeting the needs of students in today’s world.”

Alfuth added that while graduation rates are at near-record highs, the education system is not preparing students for what comes next. “Students are heading to college taking remedial coursework and employers are unable to find job candidates with the skills like critical thinking, teamwork or problem solving they need to be successful,” he said.

Dr. Zahner, who oversees all research and psychometrics for CAE’s performance-based assessments, shared why educators need to measure whether their students are developing these higher-order skills so they can provide targeted support. She also described how performance assessments, such as CAE’s College and Career Readiness Assessment (CCRA+), can provide an accurate picture of a student's ability to apply and demonstrate their knowledge.

“These Portraits provide a vision for districts, but to help ensure their goals become reality for their students, the desired competencies must be measured,” said Dr. Zahner. “Our research shows that students who develop these critical thinking skills have higher cumulative GPAs in college and positive post-university outcomes, such as employment, salary, graduate school enrollment, and employer ratings.”  

In his discussion, Dr. Rogers shared the goals of the VBCPS program and the eight attributes in its graduate profile, which is a direct outgrowth of stakeholder input. The profile is aligned to a five-year strategic plan and core values, to ensure students are future-ready.

The district discussed what would it mean for its students, schools, and community if all VBCPS graduates had these attributes, noting that it is more than just a pretty poster – it’s used to help guide positive outcomes.

The webinar offered valuable insights educational leaders can apply to ensure the goals of their Portrait become reality for students. Those who attended the live presentation or view the recording for 40 minutes or more can earn a continuing education (CE) certificate.

To learn how to use performance-based assessment data to improve outcomes for students, visit

About CAE
Since 2002, CAE has developed performance-based and custom assessments that authentically measure students’ essential academic and career skills. Our Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) and Success Skills Assessment (SSA+) for higher education and College and Career Readiness Assessment (CCRA+) for secondary education evaluate the skills that are predictive of positive college and career outcomes and in demand by employers: critical thinking, problem solving and effective written communication. Over 825,000 students at more than 1,300 secondary and higher education institutions globally have completed CAE’s essential skills assessments.

As a nonprofit whose mission is to improve student outcomes, CAE also offers critical thinking skills curriculum, professional development, and designs custom, innovative performance assessments across all subject areas and grades. To learn more, please visit and follow us on LinkedInYouTube and Twitter.

About KnowledgeWorks
KnowledgeWorks is a national nonprofit organization advancing a future of learning that ensures each student graduates ready for what’s next. For more than 20 years, we’ve been partnering with states, communities and leaders across the country to imagine, build and sustain vibrant learning communities. Through evidence-based practices and a commitment to equitable outcomes, we’re creating the future of learning, together.

About Virginia Beach City Public Schools
Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) is the largest school division in Hampton Roads with 86 schools. VBCPS is a fully-accredited school division and a diverse community that continues to outperform school divisions across the state and nation on key academic indicators. Read more about the division's accomplishments by reading recent news releases, reading our blog, The Core, or connecting with us through social media by following @vbschools - FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.


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