Proposed accreditation and accountability changes are appropriate for Kansas public schools.
On Tuesday, the Kansas State Board of Education received new regulations that represent the first overhaul of the state’s accreditation system in 25 years. Formal action to approve the new regulations is expected in September. That will start a process that includes review by the Kansas attorney general’s office, a legislative committee and, finally, the Kansas Rules and Regulations Board.
The new guidelines, known as Kansas Education System Accreditation, or KESA, represents a sharp departure from the existing system, known as Quality Performance Accreditation, or QPA.
QPA was driven by the “outcomes-based education” movement, in which individual school buildings were held accountable for the academic results they produced, as measured by standardized test scores.
KESA will accredit districts as a whole, not just individual buildings.
“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.”
KESA also puts districts on a five-year accreditation cycle instead of renewing accreditation every year.
Perhaps most importantly, the new system 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.
The concepts behind KESA grew out of a statewide listening tour that the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education conducted in 2015. During that tour, officials asked parents, community leaders and local businesses what they expected from their public schools.
“What Kansans clearly told us is, we need to put value back on nonacademic skills,” he said. “Things like grit, teamwork, resilience, those social-emotional character development skills.”
It is clear that there are better ways to measure public education success than the current system’s reliance on standardized test scores. And it is clear that after 25 years, Kansans want a different approach.
KESA represents that approach, and the state should act quickly to adopt the new guidelines.
— The Lawrence Journal-World