SBR President’s Perspective: Step back and look at the big picture

Every now and then, we as school advocates feel like we are fighting against a never-ending onslaught of criticism of public school education. We test too much, we don’t test enough, we need to stick to the three `R’s,’ we need more options so our students can compete in the modern world, we spend too much, we need to pay teachers more (actually, we do need to pay teachers more), etc. etc. 
 
Sometimes when schools are in the news, it seems that it is often for something bad or something that is made to look bad.  
 
So, sometimes we need to step back and look at the big picture. 
 
KASB tries to provide a big picture perspective by presenting a balanced, reasonable approach to ranking Kansas schools against other states in an annual study. 
 
Many of you may be familiar with the KASB Report Card. It involves a great amount of research and compares Kansas public schools with all the other states over 15 measurements that include assessments, graduation rates, and post-secondary attainment. We release this Report Card to the public so Kansans will know how we are doing, just like a teacher sends home a report card to show parents how their student is performing.   
 
In the 2016 Report Card, which was released last August, Kansas ranked 10th in the nation across these measurements, while Kansas’ spending per pupil was 29th. Every state that ranked ahead of Kansas spent more per pupil. 
 
So, by this measure, Kansas is not at the head of the class, but is in the top tier. And this is while Kansas spends below the national average. Achieving high and spending low could mean that Kansas has one of, if not, the most efficient public school system in the country. So, while critics can probably always find a school expenditure that could be questioned, on the whole Kansas’ above average achievement for below average bucks is a record any governmental or business operation would love to have.  
 
We should be proud of it too. Nearly half a million children walk into Kansas public schools every day. Are they all getting all their needs met? No, and we need always to make sure we are improving. But for the most part, Kansas schools are doing an excellent job. Teachers are inspiring their students, administrators and school board members are making sure resources are spent wisely and every year the proof is in the pudding. KASB puts out the Report Card to show parents, students, taxpayers how we are doing. That’s a nice, big picture.  

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