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Hundreds give input about education during first week of Kansans Can Success Tour

Hundreds of Kansans during the first week of the Kansans Can Success Tour gave input on what schools need to help accomplish a change in the state's education system.

Suggestions ranged from equity training and more resources to less emphasis on testing and more collaboration between districts and local businesses.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Brad Neuenswander kicked off the 2021 Kansans Can Success Tour on Monday, July 26, in Salina. Other stops on Monday included Concordia and Beloit. Stops on Tuesday, July 27, included Hays, Phillipsburg and Colby. On Wednesday, July 28, the dynamic duo visited Goodland, Syracuse and Scott City. Thursday, July 29, stops were Garden City, Liberal and Dodge City. The week wrapped up on Friday, July 30, with stops in Goddard and Great Bend.

Watson and Neuenswander had traveled nearly 1,300 miles by the end of the week and had presented to more than 700 people.

"This is the start of conversations all across Kansas," Watson told a group of about 70 people in Salina.

Watson and Neuenswander took part in a community conversation tour in 2015 so parents, educators, school board members, higher education representatives, legislators and members of the business community could discuss the future they wanted for Kansas children and the role they wanted Kansas education to play in supporting that envisioned future. The 2021 tour is a follow-up tour to the 2015 one.

The vision for education in Kansas – Kansas leads the world in the success of each student – was created from what Kansans said during the 2015 tour.

Neuenswander and Watson asked follow-up questions to find out if what Kansans said in 2015 still held true in 2021.

"What you tell us drives our daily work," Neuenswander said in Salina. "Our school system was designed 100 years ago to be efficient. They were telling us (in 2015) we had to redesign the system."

For the most part, participants in Salina and Concordia agreed with those who attended the community conversations in 2015 - that while academic skills are important, nonacademic skills, such as arriving to work on time and learning to communicate, are just as important.

Braxton Moral, who graduated in 2019 from Ulysses High School at the same time he graduated from Harvard University, attended some of the tour stops during the first week. The 19-year-old is now attending Washburn University School of Law in Topeka.

"The key, especially in more rural areas, is targeting students with information about potential career opportunities that are relevant to them," Moral said. "For example, we have fields and fields of wind turbines that are becoming more relevant every day. I think instruction areas such as that are useful. It can be a realistic goal for students and a good paying job for them when they get out of high school."

Kansas is doing a good job educating its students, he said, but there is still work to be done.

"I think a lot of problems we have with effectiveness in students once they get out of high school is that they don't know where they're going," he said. "That really does cause problems because you can spin your wheels for quite some time. I think we're in a great spot, especially since we're moving in a positive direction. I think we'll only become more and more competitive with other states."

The Kansans Can Success tour starts up again Monday, Aug. 16, with stops in Pittsburg, Galena and Coffeyville. It will end Thursday, Sept. 9, with stops in Eureka, Marion and Tecumseh.

For more information, visit https://www.ksde.org/Agency/Fiscal-and-Administrative-Services/Communications-and-Recognition-Programs/Vision-Kansans-Can/Success-Tour

Posted: Jul 30, 2021,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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