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Hundreds hearing message of positive movement, but more change needed


Posted Date: 07/28/2021

Hundreds hearing message of positive movement, but more change needed

As the Kansans Can Success Tour swings through town, evidence of the upcoming school year is everywhere.

Classrooms are being cleaned, computers reconnected and water sprinklers are sweeping football fields.

Meanwhile, educators, business owners, community members, parents and students have been discussing the future of Kansas public education.

On Wednesday — the third day of the tour — Kansas Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Brad Neuenswander held meetings in Goodland, Syracuse and Scott City. On Tuesday, they were in Hays, Phillipsburg and Colby. The tour started Monday in Salina, Concordia and Beloit.

Brad Bergsma, a member of the Goodland USD 352 board and KASB President-Elect, participated in the meeting in Goodland.

“It was great for our community to see the progress we have made as a state and how we can improve our education system,” Bergsma said.

Since 2015, Kansas’ high school graduation rate has increased from 85.7 percent to 88.3 percent. That includes a 6.5 percent increase in the graduation rates of English language learners (77.2 percent to 83.7 percent); 3.7 percent among students who receive free or reduced lunch (77.5 percent to 81.2 percent) and 3.1 percent for students with disabilities (77.2 percent to 80.3 percent), which is among the highest in the nation.

In addition, the rate of students with postsecondary work two years after graduating high school has increased from 44 percent to 48 percent. Watson said this increase in postsecondary success shows that high schools are graduating quality students.

A big factor in producing high school graduates is working with students as early as possible.

As Goodland prepares for the new school year, Bergsma said Goodland USD 352 has been increasing efforts to provide early childhood education and kindergarten readiness.

“That has been exciting,” he said.

Lara Bors, a member of the Garden City USD 457 and KASB Region 10 Vice President, was at the meeting in Syracuse. Bars said she was glad Watson’s message on the need to help students develop so-called soft skills, such as being able to communicate, collaborate and overcome adversity.

“I’m really hopeful school board members see that,” Bors said.

In preparing for the upcoming school year, Bors said her board in Garden City has been focusing on the use of federal COVID-19 relief funds to help students make progress in reading, math and social and emotional well-being.

On Thursday, the Kansans Can Success Tour will continue with meetings Garden City, Liberal and Dodge City. Approximately 480 people have attended the meetings thus far.

For a full schedule of meetings, go to this link.