School Redesign Approval Fast-tracked

By Anne Hassler Heidel

McPherson News

Though it’s been nine months in the making, USD 418 administrators are hoping for a quick approval process for the district’s redesign plan. The board of education, which had originally requested to hear two different plans for implementing redesign – one with phased in implementation and one with full implementation – will now hear one option, for full implementation in the 2018-2019 school year at a special meeting on May 7. If accepted it will then receive full approval the following week at the May 14 meeting.

Board President Jeff Johnson said he was satisfied with the full implementation plan laid out earlier by the McPherson Middle School Redesign team but he would still like to hear implementation plans from Eisenhower Elementary’s Redesign team.

Superintendent Gordon Mohn said he would ideally like to see a unanimous vote of approval from the board to show its support for the district’s redesign plan. The board instructed Mohn to add a time for public comment following the Redesign Team’s presentation at the May 7 meeting.

Previous timelines had called for final acceptance of the Redesign plan at the May 28 board meeting but staff indicated having a plan in place prior to the end of school would give them time to inform teachers about any necessary training over the summer.

The McPherson Middle School Redesign Team gave examples of what a typical day would look like for a sixth grade student and several types of teachers at the school following Redesign. The plan presented includes use of the Summit Learning System for individualized project learning. While training on the Summit platform is free of charge to the district, Mohn estimated the additional staff time to attend training to be about $60,000.

McPherson Middle School Principal Brandon Simmelink said of the 21 returning teachers at the middle school, 19 indicated a preference to proceed with the Summit Learning platform in the next school year. He later updated the board that two more teachers had emailed him later in the meeting also expressing their willingness to proceed with Summit.

Board Member Dr. Brian Kynaston indicated the unanimous agreement by the middle school teachers was a good sign to proceed with the Redesign.

“I think we have to let the teachers lead us on this,” Kynaston said.

Superintendent Mohn, speaking to the board during his report, said in looking back at the last 10 years, the district had followed the C3 Initiative laid out by then Superintendent Dr. Randy Watson. Watson, who is now Secretary of Education for the state of Kansas, created the Kansans Can Redesign project in 2017 and USD 418 is one seven districts in the state approved for the first phase of the project.

Mohn presented statistics on the graduation and post-secondary success rates of recent McPherson High School graduates. On average, 88% of students graduate with a diploma after four years at MHS. This leaves about 24 students every year that leave without a diploma. Another indicator of success used by the district is average ACT scores for each class. Since 2011, the average ACT score  has fluxuated from 21.6 in 2012 to 20 in 2017. Mohn pointed out that 95% of students in the district take the ACT compared to other districts that have 60-70% of students take the ACT. This tends to skew the USD 418 average down and district-to-district comparisons may not be equivalent.

The flat ACT average over the last eight years raises questions about whether C3 has been effective in improving student success, according to Moehn.

Redesign focuses on the following five areas:

  • Social emotional factors
  • Kindergarten readiness
  • Individual plans of study
  • High school graduation
  • Postsecondary success

Mohn said while C3 hits many of areas to be addressed during Redesign, the district could still improve on social/emotional learning and individual plans of study to improve student success.

The board criteria for Redesign approval includes:

  • Does it meet the C3 mission?
  • Does it meet the Kansas vision for education outlined by the Kansas Dept. of Education?
  • Does it meet the structures laid out in the Kansans Can Redesign plan?
  • Is the plan fiscally responsible? Is it cost-neutral or can increased costs be justified?

Board members will be asked to decided in short measure on May 7 and the public will have one week to offer feedback before final board approval on May 14.

Board member contact info here.

Video of the April 23 BOE meeting can be found on the News’ Facebook page.

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