Kansas ready to measure kindergartner's academic readiness

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state's education department is planning to develop a system to measure the academic readiness of kindergartners, which supporters say will significantly change the state's approach to education.

The Kansas State Board of Education this week voted to instruct the Kansas State Department of Education to develop a system designed to identify children who need extra support in their early education. The board also approved a new five-point framework to improve school accountability to help individual children, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1W7ZBYe ).

Jim McNiece, a Wichita Republican and chairman of the state board said Kansas has recorded educational outcomes but has not paid attention to whether children are ready for school, which he called "a whole new approach to education."

"Parents who have financial resources, those kids come better prepared for success in school," McNiece said, adding that educators need to change their approach to children who start school without those advantages.

Topeka school board president Patrick Woods said the proposed change would be "incredibly meaningful."

Woods said elementary schools in his district already try to check the skills of kindergarten students but if the state board's effort provides more thorough data, "then we could really start tailoring individual learning programs."

The new framework adopted by the board would check whether children are ready for kindergarten; continue tracking high school graduation rates; track the rate of students who pursue and complete post-secondary education, including technical training certificates and two- and four-year degrees; require high schools to develop individualized plans of study for students to help them work toward post-graduation goals and require local school boards to develop their own ways to measure the social and emotional progress of children.

Education commissioner Randy Watson said state would have to change its school accreditation system to fit the new goals.

The framework doesn't mention state math and reading tests, which McNiece said is a signal to the public that test scores will no longer be the main measurement of school performance.

"We're trying to change the paradigm of thinking," said McNiece, a former high school principal who is also president-elect of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Students will still take standardized tests but they will be only one factor in the accreditation process, rather than the most prominent factor, Watson said.

State board member John Bacon, an Olathe Republican, was the only vote against the new framework. He said the goals didn't emphasize academics enough.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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