The Road Forward: Beyond High School
A distinguishing characteristic of Quest Forward Academy is a relentless discussion of mindset, habits, and skills. Students see posters on their school walls extolling these habits, students and mentors regularly engage in habit checks, and steps are taken throughout the four years of high school to ensure that these habits are deeply ingrained.
To understand the importance of establishing habits and skills, consider what it means to be successful in educating a student. An education must help students emerge from high school as well-educated individuals capable of thriving in the world and realizing their own dreams, which may differ from the dreams of a school or their parents. And while it is our duty as a school to challenge our students to dream big and to have aspirations, the dreams must remain theirs, and the ultimate goal of an education must be to empower the individual receiving the education. Unless everyone is pulling in the same direction, the hard work of success will remain elusive. It is within this framework that we can begin to discuss what life beyond high school looks like for Quest Forward Academy students.
We expect that most of our students will move from Quest Forward Academy to a four-year college. When evaluating college options, our students will be critical consumers, keenly self-aware, and ready to evaluate colleges for rightness of fit. Students should not ask themselves who they need to be to get into a particular college; instead they should ask of each college, “Given who I am, what can you offer me?”
Students will arrive at college well prepared for success and with the confidence that they are not passive, waiting for professors to tell them what to think, but active learners who are ready to engage fully. They will get the most out of what college has to offer. Unlike so many students, who move from high school to college and from one goal to the next, Quest Forward Academy graduates have learned what it means to take responsibility for their own educations. This will make them more likely to attend office hours, ask questions, and ensure that their needs are being met. After all, they have been practicing these skills for years in their courses—selecting pertinent information from multiple resources, determining what kinds of artifacts to produce, coordinating what they want to achieve with mentor expectations, and more.
Habits are critical for long-term success. When one looks at reasons why students who were successful in high school often have difficulty in college, a common one is the lack of externally imposed structures. For students who have only ever been led to their destinations, the demands of having to suddenly chart their own course can be overwhelming. If they begin to sink under such circumstances, students will often give up, deciding that college must not be right for them. Quest Forward Academy students, when encountering such obstacles, can fall back on their now-instinctive habits. They are used to communicating and collaborating with their instructors and to managing themselves if they encounter difficulties. Moreover, they know how to persist beyond setbacks, and have the maturity to understand that failure does not indicate a lack of self-worth so much as the need to work even harder to reach their goals.
For those who choose to go directly into the workforce, there is a similar vision for success. Quest Forward Academy students have learned how to learn, and employers will find them to be eminently trainable and adaptable to whatever comes their way. These graduates do not wait to be told what to do; as with their college-bound classmates, they are used to finding their own paths and doing what is necessary to get the job done.
Looking out ten to twenty years, we expect to see our graduates heavily represented in professions and careers where employee independence is valued, and where individuals are afforded the autonomy to use their judgement. Whether it be entrepreneurship and running their own businesses or being team leaders or individual contributors within a company, Quest Forward Learning graduates will stand out for their unique combination of mindset, habits, and skills.
Raymond Ravaglia is the Chief Learning Officer of Opportunity Education. He leads the development of the Quest Forward Academies and the development of the Quest Forward models of learning, assessment, and efficacy. He formerly served as Associate Dean and Director of Pre-Collegiate Studies at Stanford University.