A new plan for Kansas schools was unveiled earlier in the week by Education Commissioner Randy Watson that offers individual education plans for each student in the state with an equal focus on academic work and nonacademic skills to best prepare graduates for college and future careers.
According to Watson, who accepted his position in July, the decision is the result of a number of community meetings held throughout Kansas over the last year in an effort to determine what people would like to see within K-12 education.
“We are going to lead the world in the success of every one of our students,” he told them. “The journey starts today, but it wouldn’t be done tomorrow.”
In order to fulfill the plan, changes will be made to the graduation requirements that include a decreased emphasis on standardized testing. In addition, school counselors will be expected to create education plans individualized to fit the needs of each student. Watson said that for this to happen, more counselors may need to be hired because current situations have caused schools to release so many counselors that there is an average of only one for every 400 students, writes Roxana Hegeman for The Kansas City Star.
The plan also calls for local businesses to become involved through internships and job shadowing, reports Suzanne Perez Tobias for The Wichita Eagle. Watson said community service will also play a role, adding that although academic skills are important, “what we can’t do is teach to a specific test that doesn’t matter to that student about anything else in their life.”
The state Board of Education is currently working to determine what needs to be done to implement the new plan. It is the goal to leave the details up to local school districts, as they will best know how to put the plan into action in individual schools while keeping within the broader framework.
The Kansas Policy Institute issued a statement praising the state Education Department for its work putting individual students first. The statement went on to say such a move is a positive step forward toward a refocus of the education system in the state, which had previously put institutional priorities ahead of its students. It also said that it was especially encouraging to see the admission that too many students required remedial training after high school graduation.
KPI President Dave Trabert added that according to the results of the 2015 ACTs, only 32% of graduates in Kansas left high school ready for college in English, math, reading and science.
“Kansas must be honest about student achievements, our lack of accountability in the finance formula, the great disparity in at-risk student progress, and travesty of remedial courses for high school graduates,” Trabert said.