Editorial: Education plan is promising

The Kansas State Department of Education is embarking on a long overdue effort to remake the state’s public schools.

The Kansans Can School Redesign Program, announced Tuesday, holds tremendous promise for reinvigorating public education. Seven school districts — Coffeyville, Liberal, McPherson, Olathe, Stockton, Twin Valley and Wellington — were selected to participate in the program. Each school district will work to redesign the way education is delivered in one of their elementary schools and in one of their secondary schools. The schools will develop new education models based on the following priorities: social and emotional growth, kindergarten readiness, individual plans of study based on career interests, graduation rates and postsecondary education.

The priorities were developed by the Kansas State Board of Education during 20 community visits around the state in 2015. During the visits, education officials met with parents, educators, business leaders and other community members to gather as much information as possible on what Kansans expect from their public schools. The feedback was compiled into data which was shared with communities across the state to gather more responses. Together, the Department of Education and the State Board of Education used the data to identify the five priorities to use in achieving the right outcomes for new education programs.

Public education continues to be delivered in a fashion remarkably similar to the way it was a century ago. Everything from the school calendar to the courses taught, and from grading systems to standardized tests have seen only modest changes even though there is ample evidence that such processes work for many, but not all, students.

Kansas has a high school graduation rate of 85 percent. It should be higher. By 2020, 71 percent of all jobs in Kansas will require completion of a postsecondary degree or certification. Kansans fall short of that number. There clearly is work to be done on kindergarten readiness and social and emotional growth.

The Kansans Can School Redesign Program is ambitious and it won’t be easy to move educators, students, parents and community members toward new education models, especially given decades worth of ingrained notions of what public education is. But the redesign program is the right initiative and hopefully, for the sake of current and future generations of Kansas students, the schools in the program will succeed.