Laguna Beach Unified looks to re-think education


Laguna Beach Unified School District

These are the goals of the Portrait of a Graduate program. By personalizing learning, LBUSD hopes to prepare students for their careers.

Abigail Roedersheimer, News Editor

Chad Mabery, LBUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services, is heading up the district’s plan for a more authentic education with a new program called “Portrait of a Graduate.” 

The idea behind the program is to find the most important skills that students will need when they graduate high school and work them into the curriculum. The program aims for every LBHS student to be each of the following upon graduation: an empowered learner, a creative problem solver, an effective communicator, a constructive collaborator and an empathetic citizen. With these five traits in mind, learning would become more personalized and inclusive.

“We want students to show that they’re learning through different ways. So, we want to move beyond just an ordinary, written test. These could be presentations or a video assignment,” said Mabery.

The district has reached out to multiple groups, such as the PTA, school board, parents and high school focus groups in order to gain insight and opinions regarding the “Portrait of a Graduate” development.

Students seem to be optimistic about these updates. 

“I think that having more tests and less projects will be a less stressful way to evaluate our knowledge,” said junior Julianna Franconi-Krychman.

As LBUSD looks to shift towards a more authentic form of learning, there is one class on campus that Mabery feels is already a model of the goals the program has – Authentic Exploratory Research (AER), which has been taught by high school teacher Mr. Jun Shen since 2019.

“AER was conceived as a class to teach students to love learning and to be ready for the future. In many ways, it was like a pilot for the Portrait of a Graduate initiative,” said Shen.

The LBHS website describes AER as “an independent research course in which students propose their own driving questions in order to explore their passions and career pathways in a variety of fields.”

Junior Logan Teeple is in his second year of AER. Throughout the year, he will work on a project about the future of commercial aircraft design while being mentored by an expert in the field.

Through my projects with AER, I have gained many skills and a mindset that is not achieved in most traditional classes. The program teaches skills that are transferable to not only work but to life as well,” said Teeple.

The program boasts 20 students, with projects ranging from how government policies have affected the medical field, to CGI’s impacts on cinematography. 

Despite meeting just once a week, I feel much more engaged with AER than other classes because I am exploring an interest that I have had for many years in an educational setting with excellent guidance by Mr. Shen and my mentor,” said Teeple. 

Teeple’s mentor, Thomas Price, is supportive of the class’s structure.

The program allows students to get a glimpse of what it’s like to work in their field of choice, which can help them decide if they want to pursue a career in that field or maybe they decide they don’t like the work,” said Price.

Price was equally supportive of AER’s career preparedness.  

“It teaches students to problem solve on their own, find resources, and ask a mentor when they are stuck. New employees can be afraid to ask questions, and this class can teach students when to go to their mentor for help,” said Price.

While the program still has more developing to go through before being fully implemented, it is safe to say the change will be welcomed throughout the district.