A new school year is just around the corner, with a new formula to fund Kansas schools and a plan to redesign Kansas education. In fact, “It’s a new day for Kansas education,” a Kansas Association of School Boards representative said Thursday.
Rob Gilligan, governmental relations specialist for KASB, visited the District Education Center in Great Bend to talk about the new directions being taken.
“It’s not as much about making sure that our students can pass a test on reading, writing and math, but we’ve got to develop some additional skills – those ‘soft skills.’ We’ve got to enhance and broaden the scope of education.”
The new school finance formula passed by the Kansas Legislature “moved us out of a period of uncertainty and (onto) a pathway forward,” he said. “For the first time in about 10 years, many of our districts across the state can start having conversations about what to invest in, instead of where to save money.”
Kansas has an 86 percent graduation rate, but about 25 percent of its students are still not reaching where they need to be, he said. Last month the Kansas Department of Education rolled out a new system for holding schools accountable.
“It can’t just be about testing. To determine if we’re successful in education, we also have to look at the greater picture. We’re going to look at what students do (leading up) to graduation — and two years after graduation. If we know that 70 percent of our future workforce has to have some sort of technical training, an associate degree, bachelor’s degree or something, that means when they’re out of school two years, 70 percent of them need to be on that pathway.”
Finally, Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson wants to “redesign our schools,” Gilligan said. Inspired by the Mercury 7 astronauts, Watson wants seven school districts to participate in “Mercury 7,” a major redesign based on the state board of education’s “Kansas Can” vision. Twenty-nine districts have applied and seven will be chosen. (Great Bend did not apply for this program, USD 428 Public Relations Director Jennifer Schartz said.) The seven will be announced on Tuesday.