Education Commissioner Watson unveils school district recognition system

By the end of next month, school districts will find out if they have earned a star under a new recognition program unveiled Tuesday by Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson.

The program is meant to recognize districts — both public school districts and private school groups — for aligning with the Kansans Can goals of improving graduation rates, post-secondary success, kindergarten readiness and social and emotional growth.

Districts will receive Copper, Bronze, Silver and Gold stars. A Diamond star will exist, but only rewarded when a district is a world leader, Watson said.

State Board of Education Chair Kathy Busch said the new plan was “exciting” because it factored in several measures of student success, but board member Steve Roberts said the Kansan Can Star Recognition program seemed complicated.

Watson said the program is designed to factor quantitative measures, such as graduation rates and post-secondary success, and qualitative measures, such as social and emotional growth, kindergarten readiness, individual plans of study and civic engagement.

In total, 218 districts will be recognized in one area and 37 districts will be recognized in every category, Watson said.

For example, districts with a 95 percent or above high school graduation rate would receive Gold; 93 percent to 94.9 percent, Silver; 90 percent to 92.9 percent, Bronze; 89.9 percent, Copper.

Watson said 108 districts will be recognized for graduation rates; 126 districts for postsecondary effective rate of success and 95 districts for academic achievements on the state assessments. Seventy-seven districts will also be recognized with Commissioner Awards for exceeding their postsecondary predictive rate.The process to receive stars based on qualitative outcomes will start this year as districts will have to show evidence of their programs.

The recognition program will allow districts to compare themselves with similar districts and determine if they are doing a good job or if there are areas they need to improve.

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