It is unclear if Newton Schools will pursue a partnership and if they do if they will be selected, with the Kansas Department of Education to “redesign schools.”
But it is clear that teachers want to try. In fact, a survey of teachers at Slate Creek came back with 100 percent support for moving forward with an application for the Kansas Can project.
'”This is an emphasis on moving away from testing to building the kind of student and citizen that we want to have in our communities ,” said Deb Hamm, superintendent of schools. “It's more civic engagement, lots of things we have not focused as much attention on over the past 15 years as a state.”
Hamm will speak with the Newton USD 373 Board of Education about the project Monday. If approved by the board, she will apply for the program.
Hamm first asked school principals for their interest, and three school principals stepped forward. From there, teachers were surveyed for their interest in the project. Slate Creek showed the strongest support. At Santa Fe, 89 percent of teachers showed support while 82 percent showed support at Chisholm Middle School.
For the project, schools will completely redesign one elementary and one secondary school around the vision, outcomes and definition of a successful high school graduate.
According to the Kansas Department of Education, a successful high school graduate is defined as a student who has the academic preparation, cognitive preparation, technical skills, employability skills and civic engagement to be successful in postsecondary education in the attainment of an industry recognized certification or in the workforce, without the need for remediation.
Dr. Randy Watson, Commissioner of Education, contacted superintendents at the end of May regarding the new project for piloting a redesign of schools. The project, Kansas Can, will require selected districts to designate one elementary school and one secondary school to be “redesigned” around the five outcomes established by the Kansas State Board of Education, the five elements identified as defining a successful Kansas high school graduate, and what Kansans said they want their schools to look like in the future.
Seven school districts will be selected, serving as demonstration sites for the remaining 279 districts statewide.
“This is about how we (teach) and how it is delivered,” Hamm said. “It is about other things, like (physical education), art, music, career development and those kinds of things that maybe have not been a real focus in the past. It is more hands on, less lecture and less worksheets.”
Hamm said she believes Newton will be doing much of this kind of work over the course of the next few years, whether they are selected for the Kansas Can project or not.
“There will not be money to do this, but there will be support,” Hamm said. “The state will be hiring staff to work with the school districts chosen for this. … This would add support for our principals and teachers to move forward.”
Hamm said the competition will be fierce.
“I hope we can move forward and we can be successful,” Hamm said.