Archive for Thursday, May 2, 2013

Editorial: School excellence

May 2, 2013


Lawrence school officials probably will offer some extenuating circumstances, but it’s disappointing that neither Lawrence High School nor Free State High School were listed among the top 10 Kansas high schools in the recent U.S. News & World Report rankings of more than 18,000 high schools throughout the country.

Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kansas City, Kan., was ranked No. 1, followed by Blue Valley North High School and Blue Valley High School, Olathe Northwest High School, Northeast Magnet High School in Wichita, Gardner Edgerton High School, Liberal Senior High School, Fort Scott Senior High School, Maize Senior High School and Louisburg High School.

Factors considered in the ranking included student-teacher ratios, “college readiness” as measured by advanced placement tests, math proficiency and reading proficiency. The rankings also looked at whether low-income, black and Hispanic students in the schools were performing better than average compared to similar students across the state.

Of the more than 18,000 schools that were included in the survey, about 25 percent were awarded gold, silver or bronze designations, but only those schools that offered externally graded advanced placement tests and had the highest percentage of students taking and passing these exams could receive a gold or silver award. Sumner and Blue Valley North received gold awards and the other schools in the state’s top 10 received silver awards.

Over the years, Lawrence residents have had reason to be extremely proud of the excellence of their public school system. In past years, school principals and superintendents worked tirelessly to extol the excellence of their teachers and students and made sure the general public was well-informed and enthused about their school system.

City taxpayers have been generous in their support of the school system, but among many older Lawrence residents, there is a nagging question or concern over whether the overall excellence of the Lawrence system is as good as it used to be or as good as some say it is today.

Times change, and Lawrence has changed over the years. What hasn’t changed is the desire of local residents to have Lawrence schools looked upon — and deserve — the recognition of being one of the best, if not THE best, in the state. Education is a huge business in Lawrence and the surrounding area, with Kansas University, Haskell Indian Nations University and Baker University. With this focus on education, it would seem local schools would be superior.

As noted above, school officials are sure to offer reasons why Lawrence and Free State high schools were not listed among the state’s top 10. Maybe these extenuating circumstances are legitimate. But even so, shouldn’t the local system always rank among the state’s best, no matter how some may try to fault or belittle the magazine’s ranking system?


buffalo63 4 years, 9 months ago

But we do have the best athletic fields in the state as attested by the KC area schools coming to Lawrence to play their "home" games. That should count for something!

William Ed 4 years, 9 months ago

When you rank 178 out of 179 in the national economic rating and you have a less than marginal school system, and your taxes are set to pay for this, which makes your property value poised for lack of appreciation, what do factors can you use to make our town attractive to retirees?

nuts 4 years, 9 months ago

If this city really valued education they would put their money where their mouth is. Lawrence is among the lowest paying districts in the Topeka and KC metro areas. You get what you pay for and USD 497's paltry investment in its teachers is unlikely to result in a return of appearing on a national list of top school districts. The exodus of good Lawrence teachers to better paying districts continues.

GMom05 4 years, 9 months ago

Yes, at some point they could have floated a bond issue for general funds and raised teacher's pay. But with 92.5 million hanging over our heads now, the teachers can kiss that possibility goodbye.

GMom05 4 years, 9 months ago

Yes, according to Doll at a forum, you can.

buffalo63 4 years, 9 months ago

This is not to say that there aren't excellent teachers in the District, however my son had a teacher one year that was an alcoholic and the administration just transfered him/her to a new school each year. Also had a high school teacher that sat and read the textbook out loud (each paragraph twice) rather than having a discussion about the material. Administration needs to take responsibility in seeing we have excellent educators and follow policy to get rid of below-par teachers.

GMom05 4 years, 9 months ago

Depending on what data the magazine was looking at, they'll probably point to last year's addition of the 9th graders to the high schools as the extenuating circumstance. Class ratios are great. My son frequently has 6-10 kids in any of his classes. My other (elementary school) child, on the other hand, usually has 30-31. Hmmm, maybe the problem started earlier than high school, ya think? This district has a history of punishing elementary children with poor building conditions, large class sizes, and closed schools every couple of years. Nope, I can't imagine why our high schoolers aren't turning out as well as they used to. And still even with the bond issue passing, we're not reopening schools we've closed and buildings we already own, we're building new classrooms and bussing kids into larger expanded megamentaries in the center of town. Yeah, that'll help.

chootspa 4 years, 9 months ago

I think there's a different forum you could use if you just want to outline a sketch for a paranoid fantasy novel in the style of Philip K Dick.

chootspa 4 years, 9 months ago

It's the Obama part. If they called it under the original name, "Romneycare," they might feel differently.

oldbaldguy 4 years, 9 months ago

my daughter graduated from Lawrence High in 1997. I thought she recieved an excellent education for high school. What's changed besides two high schools?

elliottaw 4 years, 9 months ago

"Of the more than 18,000 schools that were included in the survey, about 25 percent were awarded gold, silver or bronze designations, but only those schools that offered externally graded advanced placement tests and had the highest percentage of students taking and passing these exams could receive a gold or silver award"

perhaps they just don't have the externally graded test, cheaper and faster to grade them in house. And if you look at the number for class size, reading and math there is very little difference, yes some are higher but there are also some of the top 10 school that are lower, so I would think that since we do not have a ranking at all we must not be meeting one of the requirements in the equation.

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