Kansas schools prepare for major changes in state oversight

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education is set to take the first official step toward enacting sweeping changes in the way the state’s public schools are accredited and held accountable.

The 10-member board is expected to receive a set of new regulations Tuesday that represent the first overhaul of an accreditation system that has been in place since 1992, the Lawrence Journal-World reports .

The system, known as Quality Performance and Accreditation, grew out of a movement in the 1970s and 1980s known as outcomes-based education, in which individual schools were held accountable for the results they produced. The new Kansas Education System Accreditation represents a massive change, in part by accrediting whole districts instead of individual schools.

“Since 1992 we’ve always accredited buildings,” said Brad Neuenswander, the state’s deputy education commissioner for learning services. “But you can have in a school district buildings that are governor’s achievement award winners and others that are ‘on improvement.’ We just didn’t believe in the past that accrediting isolated buildings helped move things forward.”

The new system also put districts on a five-year accreditation cycle instead of renewing accreditation every year. And it bases accreditation on a much wider set of criteria than academic test scores by taking into account such things as each student’s social and emotional growth and the level of engagement the districts have with the communities they serve.

Neuenswander said the concepts behind the new system grew out of a statewide listening tour that the state Department of Education and the State Board of Education conducted in 2015. During the tour, officials asked parents, community leaders and local businesses what they expected from their public schools.

“What Kansans clearly told us, we need to put value back on nonacademic skills,” he said. “Things like grit, teamwork, resilience, those social-emotional character development skills.”

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