By MARK TALLMAN
Having attended 27 of the first 28 Kansans Can Success Tour events over the past month – with 22 yet to come – I feel a lot of excitement for the vision outlined by Education Commissioner Randy Watson and Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander. I also hear a lot of questions from journalists, educators and others on how to explain what Kansans Can really is. Here is my attempt.
To begin with, these are the main “bullet points” or “elevator speeches:”
First, Kansas needs to help students be better prepared to become successful adults, which requires a broader definition of education than we have had in the past.
To be successful, students need not only academic knowledge, but also the skills to be self-reliant individuals, civically engaged and giving back to their communities, and to be successful in the workplace, which for most students will require education beyond high school.
Second, to achieve this goal, public K-12 education systems and related policies will need to continue to adapt.
Learning needs to become more responsive to the needs and goals of each student and focus on broader skills, personalizing learning for each child and making them work in real situations through life-based learning. projects or on the job. Schools need to expand early childhood programs, responding to a broader set of student needs, social and emotional as well as academic; and must be closely linked to families, businesses and communities.
Third, the State Board of Education is implementing a plan to help local schools implement these changes.
The Council of State has adopted a set of results for student success, a plan to help overhaul schools and an accreditation and recognition system based on these results and this overhaul. Schools are also supported by restoring state funding as well as time-limited federal pandemic assistance. Kansas is already seeing progress, but more needs to be done to meet the ambitious goals, including the ongoing challenges to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak.
In short, the goal is to help all students be better prepared as engaged adults, who help support their communities and succeed in the workplace and in the Kansas economy.
Next, here are some common questions about Kansans Can with a short answer. It is about providing more information about why changes in education are needed and how the state is working to guide and support those changes.
Question 1: Why do we need a broader definition of student success than just academics?
The broader definition of success is based on Kansans contributions through town halls, focus groups, and business meetings, as well as findings from national surveys and multiple regional, state, and national studies. It is consistent with the goals set by the Supreme Court and the Kansas Legislature. It reflects economic, civic and social needs at the state and country level, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Question 2: Why are Kansas schools engaged in the overhaul?
The inherited structure of the school was designed when most students did not need post-secondary education, when other social structures met more “non-academic needs”, and most jobs required different skills. and often less complex. Schools were standardized on the basis of age, grade and time, rather than an “efficiency approach” based on individual student needs.
Question 3: How does the Kansans Can system work to change schools and increase student achievement?
The State Council has defined seven major objectives to focus the overhaul of schools and assess progress. Significant progress has been made. There are three quantitative measures: Academic preparation for post-secondary education, High school diploma and Post-secondary success; and four qualitative measures: socio-emotional growth, kindergarten readiness, individual study plans, and civic engagement.
Question 4: What challenges still exist?
While significant progress has been made in Kansas K-12 public schools over the past several decades, the new bar for post-secondary readiness is significantly higher for all students, not just a few. Not all students complete high school or reach the academic and other levels they need to prepare for post-secondary education. Many students still cannot access the programs to help them achieve these goals due to lack of staff or funding (full restoration of state funding will not be implemented until 2023).
Questions 5: What is the Council of State doing to support improvement?
The State Board is helping schools rethink to better support student success. The goal of addressing unique educational challenges through innovation and continuous improvement, around the core tenets of what Kansans wanted from their K-12 schools: personalized learning, real-world application, student success and family / business / community partnerships. The board of directors is also preparing to accredit schools on the results of Kansans Can; recognizing the schools for the success of each of the results and created a working group on the conditions for obtaining the diploma.
Question 6: What resources are provided to Kansas schools to support improvement?
Kansas schools receive financial support in two ways: a Kansas Supreme Court-approved legislative plan to restore operating funds to 2009 inflation-adjusted levels, and federal assistance to respond and recover from the pandemic of COVID.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You should have a good overview of Kansans Can. However, the answers to these questions may raise other questions. The second part of this report will take place on Thursday and will include more detailed answers to each question.
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Mark Tallman is the Associate Executive Director for Advocacy of the Kansas Association of School Boards.