School Accountability, DJT, and Kim…

School Accountability, DJT, and Kim…

What do Donald Trump’s tweets, Kim Kardashian’s closet, and
Kansas school finance have in common? All three must be on a list of most scrutinized subjects of the past
five years! I don’t follow our President
on Twitter, and I am not connected to Kim’s Instagram account, but I do pay
some attention to Kansas school finance and the subject du jour seems to be the
juxtaposition of funding and accountability.

When the Kansas Legislature took over a majority of the funding
responsibility from most local districts in 1992, they also gained a larger
interest in the performance of the students in those schools. The Kansas Constitution clearly gives the legislature
an interest in financing an ever-improving system, so the legislature is well
within their rights to ask how the system of public schools are performing.

The courts have consistently recognized that funding and
student performance are inextricably intertwined, and the wisdom of Kansas
citizens prevailed when the Kansas State Board of Education was created and
given “self-executing powers.” The creation of the State Board gave the
legislature an equal partner in accountability for student performance in
Kansas schools. In 1992, legislators
formally recognized they had a larger interest in student achievement, and that
the state board of education is the best elected body to take responsibility
for maintaining high standards and accountability at the state level. The 1992 School District Finance and Quality
Performance Accreditation Act, by its title, demonstrated trust in the Kansas
State Board of Education’s ability to hold schools accountable through the then
system of accreditation called Quality Performance Accreditation (QPA).

In Kansas, accountability is a function of accreditation. Accreditation is a duty of the Kansas State
Board of Education. QPA has morphed over
the years, changing from a system based upon improvement and process in its
early stages, to one modeled after No Child Left Behind with its over-reliance
on standardized testing, to a brand-new system of accreditation/accountability
called Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA). KESA is far more rigorous
and robust than the NCLB/QPA system it replaces. KESA requires school districts to take a hard
look at results but through a broader lens of student success and not just
student achievement.

I recall well the first time I used the term “student
achievement” in a discussion with Commissioner Randy Watson. The Commissioner sternly admonished me,
explaining that achievement implies a test score, and that we are concerned
with “student performance and success” which implies a far more broad and complete
look at what we want for our children.

What has worked well in Kansas is a system designed and
monitored by the Kansas State Board of Education that sets clear standards for
success, allows local boards of education to implement programs to meet those
standards, and monitors the performance of how well districts meet those
standards. This system places
responsibility for accountability for student success in the hands of parents
and patrons, locally elected school boards, the state board of education, and
the legislature.

The results of a 25-year cooperative relationship between
the Kansas Legislature, Kansas State Board of Education, and local boards of education:
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2014 24
% Change
Average Per Yr over Pop. Growth
Percent Number
Population 25 years
and over
1,565,936 1,881,521 20.2%
Less than 9th Grade Education
7.7% 120,577 3.9% 73,379 -39.1%
9th to 12th Grade,
no diploma
11.0% 172,253 5.8% 109,128 -36.6%

High school graduate only (includes equivalency) 32.5% 508,929 26.5% 498,603 -2.0%
Some college,
no degree
21.9% 342,940 24.1% 453,447 32.2% 0.5%
>Associate’s degree 5.4 84,561 8.1% 152,403 80.2% 2.5%
Bachelor’s degree 14.1% 220,797 20.3% 381,949 73.0% 2.2%
Graduate or
professional degree
7.0% 109,616 11.3% 212,612 94.0% 3.1%

The 2017 Kansas Legislature would be wise to reflect on
history and delegate school accountability to the Kansas State Board of
Education as was done 25 years ago. The
partnership between KSDE and the legislature has created a school system that
consistently ranks in the top 10 in the country on a host of measures. This is not to say that the legislature
should not ask questions and demand evidence of continuing improvement, although
it does mean that there should be a partnership of responsibility for
accountability for student success in Kansas.

Now, that we have solved that problem, anyone want to talk
about what Kim wore to the Oscars?