Kansas education

When a student comes home with a C on their report card, it often isn't clear what that means.

Are they average in geometry? Or did their math proficiency get dragged down by poor class attendance?

Wichita Public Schools is hoping to clarify those grades by isolating academics from everything else that happens in the classroom.

DODGE CITY — Check out Dodge City.

A new $12 million waterpark. A shiny new craft brewery — not far from the new whiskey distillery. And, yes, that trendy new downtown cafe.

A nearly $6 million addition to Boot Hill Museum just kicked off last fall. That’s about when Dodge City wrapped up $86 million in renovations and expansions to its schools.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly wanted a quick solution to the on-going school funding lawsuit, but lawmakers are leaving for a mid-session break without having approved a plan.

They have until April 15 to agree on how much they want to spend on education and submit arguments for their plan to the Kansas Supreme Court.

The top Democrat in the House, Rep. Tom Sawyer, is frustrated with the pace of progress.

“We’ve got a lawsuit sitting there,” he said. “We’ve got to solve funding for our schools and we haven’t even started working on that.”

LIBERAL — Hefty college debt won’t saddle Bryan Medina.

He’s on a fast track to an energy career that he hopes will pave the road to family dreams: Buying his own cattle and going in on the purchase of 300 acres of land with his dad.

“We could grow and eventually own our own feedyard,” said Medina, who finished high school last May in the small southwest Kansas town of Sublette. “If things go great, if we put all the work into it, we’ll definitely get there.”

Student Matthew Fitch wanted a low-cost, quick entry into the workforce. That’s all he wanted.

So he transferred from a community college to WSU Tech — a place that felt quieter and more focused on his dash to the working world.

“There’s no parties all the time,” Fitch said. “Everybody’s kind of focused on learning a lot so that they can get a nice job.”

After recruiting only three teachers in Kansas last year, nonprofit Teach For America is asking lawmakers for a quarter of a million dollars to continue working for the state.

In 2018, legislators appropriated $520,000 for Teach For America to recruit 12 teachers.

Most Kansas students graduate high school nowadays. Yet many still struggle with the skills of reading and writing.

Now a task force of educators, parents and lawmakers hopes to help close that gap.

Over the past half year, the Dyslexia Task Force put together recommendations and this month handed them off to the Kansas State Board of Education.

The group’s work is well worth paying attention to. It could change reading instruction for every public school student in the state.

Kansas education officials are launching a yearlong study to improve early childhood programs and services.

The goal is to get a better understanding of the overall federal, state and local childcare and learning programs available for children under five.

Kansas high school graduates performed slightly better on the ACT than the average student in 2018.

Take a look at the Kansas budget and one item looms large, eating up more state spending than anything else.

Schools swallow about $4.5 billion. That spending rose after an infusion of cash by lawmakers earlier this year in response to a court ruling in a long-running fight over whether state government does enough to support public education.

Angie Schreiber sees it time and again: dyslexic students failing to learn to read through traditional teaching techniques.

But she says she knows how they can flourish.

Schreiber’s private teaching service in Emporia uses an approach known as structured literacy. The method drills students on myriad rules of English sound and spelling that most of us never learned consciously.

Kansas is setting aspirations for much higher math and reading competency among the class of 2030 — today’s kindergartners — in a long-term accountability plan for its public schools.

Kansas officials submitted the accountability blueprint Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Education. It does not include language promoting controversial school choice concepts that Gov. Sam Brownback’s office advocated for, according to staff at the state education department.

Indiana Public Media / Flickr Creative Commons

A proposed Kansas school finance formula drew more fire this week, in the closing day of hearings on the plan.

Like many other professions, rural Kansas is falling short on teachers, but so are some urban areas in the state. A new program at Kansas State University aims to change all that.

As KCUR reports, K-State has developed a one-year, online program for those with undergraduate degrees to take to get a masters’ degree in elementary teaching.

Brian Lowry / The Wichita Eagle

Rural schools in the Sunflower State received some good news this week. Over the next two years, every Kansas public school could be equipped with high-speed internet, reports The Wichita Eagle.

This week Governor Sam Brownback announced that about 300 schools in Kansas, most of them in rural areas, will be equipped with fiber-optic connections to provide high-speed Internet access to students.

KSN

Wednesday will be an important day for Kansas public-school students, reports KSN.

In two days, the Kansas Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the system is inadequately funded. The court will decide whether the Legislature is providing enough money for Kansas public school kids to receive a suitable education. Kansas schools and teacher groups are watching the developments closely.

wichita.edu

For years, Kansas has had a problem: How does the state keep college graduates from moving away and taking jobs elsewhere?

For example, of the 2008 class from Wichita State University, 70% were employed in Kansas a year later, in 2009. Since then those numbers have dropped every year, landing at only 57% of grads from that class still emplued in the state as of last year.

“The fact that they stay here and then after five years they migrate away, means that we’re probably not addressing what they’re looking for,” said Tony Vizzini of Wichita State.

Mike Hutmacher / The Wichita Eagle

Kansas schools are among the best in the country, reports The Wichita Eagle. But The Sunflower State ought to have a look over its shoulder, as other states are gaining ground and Kansas may be slipping.

According to a new education report card by the Kansas Association of School Boards, there are signs the state’s ranking could soon fall.

Wichita Eagle

After a year of frustrations, Kansas educators have cause to celebrate. On the ACT college entrance exam, Kansas high school students continue to score better than their peers in most other states.

youtube.com

A recent complaint filed with the NAACP alleges that Kansas community colleges discriminate against minority students, reports The Lawrence Journal-World.

Colleges in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference still use a recruitment rule that was adopted during the segregation era. The rule limits community colleges to 20 out-of-state players on their football teams and eight on their basketball rosters.

Topeka Capital-Journal

This week Kansas’s education commissioner lamented the state’s graduation rate. Commissioner Randy Watson said Kansas must work with students and families to improve high school graduation rates, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Chris Neal / Topeka Capital-Journal

The Kansas school funding saga continues. In February, the state Supreme Court ruled that funding to poor school districts be increased by June 30th. If legislators failed to fix the funding, said the court, the state public school system would be shut down. On Friday, the court reviewed lawmakers’ latest funding plan and still determined it to be unconstitutional. The court gave lawmakers one more chance, reaffirming the June 30 deadline for the state to fix the problem.

Jaime Green / The Wichita Eagle

This week Kansas experienced something we don’t see a lot of in the modern political realm: compromise. Over the past few months the state has been mired in a fraught battle over funding among public school districts.

Topeka Capital-Journal/AP

Sam Brownback is making some powerful enemies in his own state, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal. Four former Kansas governors have formed a political group to raise opposition to the policies of the current governor and his allies in the Kansas House and Senate. The effort is known as the Save Kansas Coalition. Former governors Bill Graves, Mike Hayden, Kathleen Sebelius and John Carlin have all sent out letters to potential donors to fund the effort.

Aviper2k7 / Wikimedia Commons

The Kansas Legislature is considering removing the state Supreme Court’s ability to review and approve the state’s school finance laws. And one professor with the University of Kansas School of Law isn’t happy. This week Mike Hoeflich wrote a strongly worded editorial in the Garden City Telegram, calling the Legislature’s proposal the first steps toward tyranny.

kansas.com

A Kansas school has found a new approach to education that teachers say is resulting in more concentration among the kids, reports The Wichita Eagle. In fact, student behavior has improved and the overall atmosphere at the school has changed. What’s the secret? A program called Morning Mindfulness. It’s a half-hour of play therapy, yoga, coloring, crafts and other activities designed to calm children and help them focus before study begins.

John Hanna / AP photo

Kansas lawmakers have begun debate on a proposed solution to the state’s school funding crisis. The Kansas Supreme Court has determined that funding for schools in the Sunflower State is not equitable, noting that poor districts often get a raw deal. The court has ordered lawmakers to fix the problem, reports The Wichita Eagle. Debate started last week on a bill that would reshuffle K-12 money in a way supporters hope will meet the court’s order for more equitable funding.

Kansas City Star

Parents and teachers descended on the Kansas capitol in Topeka this week in support of Kansas public schools, reports The Kansas City Star. “Make no mistake about it, public education is under attack in Kansas,” Rep. Don Hineman, a moderate Republican, told the crowd. Sen. Laura Kelly, a Democrat of Topeka, encouraged participants to talk to their legislators and to vote in the 2016 elections.

Wichita Eagle

There’s a new statewide push in Kansas to help students explore potential career paths earlier, reports The Wichita Eagle.

A newly developed program includes internships, job shadowing and other real-world experiences as part of students’ coursework. These extracurricular activities emphasize individual plans of study that can help prepare students for the real world. The program is part of a nationwide trend by schools to look for ways to get students first-hand looks inside potential careers.

Kansas K-12 Committee Grapples with Conflicting Data

Dec 1, 2015
Jared Tarbell / Creative Commons

A Kansas legislative committee studying options for K-12 funding has run into a problem, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal. As the committee decides how to fund schools, they have competing research trying to influence them. Rival interest groups are flaunting a clash of studies to promote their positions. First there’s the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank in Wichita.