Regarding Kansas schools, power is not with parents

Information and options allow parents to make the best decisions for their children regarding schools. But in Kansas, parents have little power to make good decisions for their children, relative to the other states.

The Center for Education Reform has produced the Parent Power Index, a guide so that parents can learn about the options available in their states, and how their states rank against others. Those who live in states that don’t empower parents — like Kansas, which ranks 47th — can learn what they can do to gain power.

Elements of parent power include the availability of charter schools, school choice programs, systems that advance teacher quality, transparency, and online learning.

Kansas earns its dismal ranking by excelling (in the wrong way) in several categories. Regarding charter schools, for example: “Kansas has one of the weakest charter laws in the country and the law is often considered ‘one in name only.’ Charters are not separate, independent public schools, but operate more like alternative district schools.”

On school choice, Kansas fares no better: “Kansas does not have a private school choice program. The state has a limited charter school law. Kansas enables public virtual schooling. Limited open enrollment exists, but only for interdistrict public school choice.”

Kansas has online learning opportunities. But on teacher quality, Kansas does not rate well: “Kansas’ data system has the capacity to provide evidence of teacher effectiveness, but objective evidence is not the preponderant criterion in teacher evaluations, which are not required annually for all teachers. Neither tenure decisions nor licensure advancement and renewal are connected to objective evidence of teacher effectiveness. Districts are given full authority for pay schedules in Kansas, although the state does not support performance pay or additional compensation for work experience or for working in high-need subjects or areas. Ineffective classroom performance is not a ground for dismissal and tenured teachers have multiple opportunities to appeal dismissal. Performance is not considered in layoff decisions.”

Kansas recently received a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. One of the things Kansas must do is to develop a teacher evaluation system that includes student achievement as a significant factor in the evaluation.

On transparency: “While school performance reports are easy to find, the data is old and attempts to generate fresh reports came up short. Information on charter school options also is provided in a fairly accessible directory.”

The complete ranking for Kansas is at Parent Power Index: Kansas.

Those who defend Kansas schools as already high-performing and not in need of reform ought to take note of a few things. First, Kansas is different from other states, and that difference makes Kansas scores appear artificially high when compared to other states. See Kansas school test scores should make us think.

Second, Kansas has low standards for its schools. See Despite superintendents’ claim, Kansas schools have low standards.

Then, the Kansas school spending establishment is not willing to face the facts, even on something as simple as measuring the level of spending. See Kansas school spending: the deception. Those who ask inconvenient questions face obstruction and attacks. See At Kansas Board of Education, some questions aren’t allowed, Wichita school board: critics not welcome, Wichita school board video shows why members should not be re-elected, and In Kansas, public school establishment attacks high standards.


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