Community Focus Groups Ask: “What Do We Expect From Graduates?”

Focus groups of citizens in the Croton-Harmon, New York School District met with trained market-research professionals to answer these questions, each of which was explored further using the prompts that follow:

    1. What would you expect a graduate of our public schools to know and be able to do?
    2. What evidence would you accept that he or she has achieved those goals?


    1. The overall education requirements in terms of years of English, history, mathematics, science, etc. have not changed in any significant way since most of us went to school. Our students will enter a work place that demands technology and where most of them will have approximately seven jobs in their lifetime. Do you think that the current requirements adequately help prepare students for that work place?
    2. For the past five years the Labor Department and business roundtables around the country have listed interpersonal skills and the ability to work in a group as essential to success in the work place. Du you think that the schools should work on these areas of the curriculum?
    3. In times of economic difficulty society tends to focus on basics. What is your feeling about the place of music and the arts in preparing our students to take their place in society?
    4. Are there any particular skills (for example, the ability to write clearly), habits of mind (for example, perseverance over time), or content (for example, the facts about the Civil War) that you believe all graduates of our school should know or be able to demonstrate?

PROMPTS FOR EXPLORING #2 (Acceptable Evidence)

    1. Doctoral students have to not only present their research but defend it orally before a committee. Do you think the high school students should have to publicly present and defend their larger works, and would you accept such a defense as a demonstration of mastery?
    2. If students engage in school-sponsored internships or projects with child care agencies, industry, or environmental organization, would you accept the report of the student’s supervisor as part of his or her academic record?
    3. Many of us have the experience of barely passing a certain course in order to get a required credit for graduation. Some schools now give a grade of A, B, C, or incomplete, requiring the students to take the time necessary to do better than just pass. What do you think of this idea for our schools?