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Kansas Catches Up With the 1990s… AND VT and NH

September 19, 2015

Peter Hancock of the Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kansas Commissioner of Education Randy Watson is touring the state offering breathless accounts of the findings of a survey he conducted to determine what the public and businesses are seeking in students… and it ISN’T the things that are easy to measure using standardized achievement tests! Instead, Watson found:

…the vast majority of skills people listed as important were nonacademic skills, such as communication, interpersonal skills, citizenship and ethics, and the ability to work in teams with other people. 

And he was astonished to find that those nonacademic skills were especially prized by business leaders. This is not at all surprising to me, since I recall similar findings from surveys of businessmen conducted in the 1990s… and the reason for this should be obvious to anyone who follows the impact of technology. Most jobs today require interpersonal interactions since many factory jobs and “back room” functions have been taken over by robots or other technological advances.

And Weston’s solution to the findings?

Watson said schools will probably be asked to put more emphasis on career planning by identifying students’ passions and interests at an earlier stage, and making individual plans of instruction for each student.

He also said they should work more closely with local businesses to give students more exposure to real-world work environments.

For those who follow education in VT and NH, these “innovations” will song familiar. Both states re emphasizing experiential learning and VT has mandated Personalized Learning Plans for all students entering 7th grade. Will Kansas catch up with New England? Only if they catch up the the state support these state offer, which is arguably insufficient and inequitable but is a king’s ransom as compared to Kansas. Hancock implies that help may be on the way:

The discussion comes at the same time the Kansas Legislature is preparing to craft a new funding formula.

Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego, who was recently named to chair an interim committee that will soon start working on a new funding formula, attended Wednesday’s presentation and said the survey information will be useful in helping design that new formula.

My hunch: the new formula will not address the fundamental needs of the state and will not remedy the inequities already in place in Kansas… but I hope I’m wrong!


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