KASB's First in Education, the Kansas Way

Latest Research on Kansas Public School Achievement (pdf)
(KASB Board Leadership Workshop Aug. 7, 2013)

First in Education, the Kansas Way is a plan to make Kansas the leading state in our nation in preparing students for success in college and high-paying careers. The ‘way’ is through raising education standards, providing suitable school finance and strengthening local leadership combined with parent and public engagement. This gives Kansas students skills needed for good jobs, provides our state with the skilled and productive workforce to support a diverse economy and will sustain and improve the quality of life for all Kansans.

The key is education and First in Education, the Kansas Way is an improvement plan with three core principles: (1) raise education standards; (2) provide suitable funding; and (3) local leadership and decision-making.

Raise Standards for Success 
This means implementing new, higher expectations through the ESEA (No Child Left Behind) flexibility waiver and new accreditation system under development by the Kansas State Board of Education. This includes higher “common core” standards for college and career-ready students; improving instruction by focusing teacher and administrator evaluation on student learning; school accountability for higher student achievement levels; and district accreditation based on test results and effective programs.

Finance for Success
Higher achieving states spend more per pupil than Kansas. Kansas schools also have more of the students who require additional resources for success because of their unique challenges. Achieving higher standards requires protecting current funding and providing for rising costs through targeted investments in student support, improved teaching and innovation.

Local Leadership
Locally elected boards of education know best how to raise achievement in their community. First in Education, the Kansas Way returns more authority and responsibility to local school boards and minimizes dictates from the state or federal levels. This also means maintaining the state constitutional principles that have led to current levels of student achievement, and strengthening parent and public engagement at the local level.

For a full summary of KASB's First in Education, the Kansas Way plan, please click here

Why does Kansas need to improve education and seek to be first in the nation?

  • Education is the most important factor in economic and social well-being as measured by income, employment, crime and social services.
  • To improve the economy and quality of life in our state and communities, Kansas students must be able to compete with the best educated employees, innovators and leaders in the world, knowing that other states and nations are also striving to improve.
  • Kansas has a solid foundation for success. Our education outcomes – test scores, high school completion, college readiness and completion – have never been higher. On 11 measures of state achievement, Kansas ranks sixth while spending per pupil is 26th. However, we can’t afford to let up. Is 6th good enough? When we consider national and global competition, the answer is clearly no. 
  • Kansas must produce more students who have completed their postsecondary education to fill employment requirements and maintain at least a minimum middle-class standard of living. Without high school completion and higher skills, their “American dream” will be over.

KASB has produced a number of publications with recent research about Kansas public education and student achievement. Go to KASB Publications for additional information.

What are KASB’s proposed strategies to achieve the goal of First in Education, the Kansas Way?

Please note: Specific policy statements and additional information can be found in the KASB Legislative Report 2013 Policies and Action Statements

1.  Raise Standards for Success. Continue to improve educational outcomes by raising standards for districts, schools, educators and students.
    • District Accreditation. Adopt a new accreditation system to encourage and recognize districts for both student outcomes and programs and practices that support student success, including school board and district leadership.
    • School Performance. Establish a school accountability system for core academic subjects based on achievement, growth and narrowing differences in student performance.
    • Effective Educators. Improve educator training, licensure, and retention policies using performance-based evaluation and continuing professional development while providing appropriate protections and benefits.
    • Students Ready for Success. Set expectations for all students to graduate with the skills required for college and careers, and provide individualized support from early childhood through high school.
2.  Finance for Success. Provide constitutionally suitable funding for continuing educational improvement in all districts.
    • State Responsibility. The state should pay for what it requires schools to do, including costs that rise each year, as part of “base” funding for all districts.
    • Funding Equity. Balance increased local funding options with increased state equalization aid.
    • Targeted Aid. Maintain the successful at-risk funding system based on economic disadvantage and other factors; improve instruction through professional development and mentoring; and promote innovation.
    • Tax Policy. State tax cuts should not reduce school funding when improving education is vital to the economic health and quality of life for the state, communities and individuals.
3.  Local Leadership for Success. Strengthen responsiveness to parents and community needs under locally elected boards and school leadership.
    • Local decision-making. Support local policy and funding choices unless the school persistently fails to demonstrate improvement; oppose new requirements without clear evidence of effectiveness and funding for additional costs.
    • Innovation. Promote flexibility in educational programs, accountable to local boards and state accreditation.
    • Efficiency. Encourage cooperation, services sharing, consolidation and efficiencies, balanced with local needs and priorities.
    • Constitutional System. Maintain the elected State Board of Education for general supervision of public education, the authority of local elected boards over public schools, the prohibition of public education funding for religious organizations; and the current judicial system.
    • Parent and public engagement. Increase public understanding of educational issues and support for improvement; strengthen involvement of parents, higher education, employers and communities; and maintain separate, non-partisan elections for school boards.