As summer slowly slips away and another school year approaches, Kansas schools will see several new initiatives begin to take shape. Ellis USD 388 joins the other school districts in the state as we look toward a new school funding formula that recently was passed by the Kansas Legislature while waiting for the Kansas Supreme Court to rule on its constitutionality. Schools also will begin work on a new accreditation system that was approved by the Kansas State Board of Education known as the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation. These two statewide initiatives combine with the many local school improvement efforts to make this a very new and exciting time for the state’s education system.
School finance has been a hot topic for the state for many years. There long has been a philosophical battle between political and school leaders over what is an appropriate amount of funding for schools and is that funding providing for appropriate student achievement. For school leaders, it is a frustrating conversation because the political leaders try to spin a story of many school failures despite growing piles of money being thrown at the education system. Despite the political rhetoric, schools are achieving successes today that never were dreamed of years ago, and those successes come on top of several new barriers that have cropped up through the years to try to block school improvement. Now more than ever in the history of American education, students enter the doors of their respective schools with more physical and emotional excess baggage than most people can understand. These children have far more concern over their personal well-being than whether they get good grades in school. These physical and emotional scars require additional resources today than in previous years.
In the recently completed Kansas legislative session, a study was done to identify school districts that were achieving greater successes for their students on fewer resources. The study could be argued to have been implemented for all the wrong reasons as legislators looked for a way to prove they were spending adequate funds on education. A positive result of that study showed Ellis USD 388 was one of only 41 school districts out of the state’s 286 that were considered high-achieving despite limited resources for their at-risk student population. Despite the rationale for the study, I am proud of the staff of USD 388 as they assist all students achieve above expectations.
The KESA accreditation model is another exciting development to be addressed this school year. Although it appears to many educators as a daunting task, the new model looks beyond the academic success of students and focuses on total College and Career Readiness. For many years, education has been locked into a focus on state assessment scores, but there is so much more to student success. When schools can help those students noted above who have the extra pressures of a less than perfect home life to succeed, it is much more than making A’s and B’s that are important. Student success should be measured by what are they capable of once they leave public education, not by what they scored on a single high-stakes assessment on a given day of the year. The Kansas Education Systems Accreditation is a great first step toward accomplishing that goal.
Kansas traditionally has been ranked high nationally in terms of their school systems. Although there have been bumps in the road in recent years due largely in part to political gamesmanship, Kansas continues to be in the top echelon of education systems in the nation. The beginning of a new school year is always an exciting time as all educators in Kansas attempt to write the next chapter in the success of all students.
Robert L. Young is superintendent of Ellis USD 388.