Highlighting demographic trends that have the Shawnee Mission area seeing growing diversity, Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Mike Fulton on Thursday laid out a vision for updating the district’s approach to teaching to provide every student with a path to meet their potential.
Before a crowd of local elected officials, municipal government staff and business leaders at the Broadmoor Bistro in the district’s Center for Academic Achievement, Fulton’s annual State of the District address, which is put on by the NEJC Chamber, focused on the recently completed strategic planning process and how Shawnee Mission plans to prepare today’s students “for a world that doesn’t exist yet.”
“As you look at this plan, it basically boils down to one sentence: Every child will have a personalized learning plan that helps them to become college and career ready, and to have the interpersonal skills they need to have life success,” Fulton said. “We’re challenging people to build on the past, but also look forward with a clean sheet of paper.”
Fulton noted that this approach will include efforts to close the so-called achievement gap between minority students and the student population at-large. Although the gap in Shawnee Mission is less pronounced than at the state or national level, students of color here still do not score as high on tests like the ACT as their peers on average. Fulton noted that with growing racial diversity at Shawnee Mission schools — students of color now make up approximately 36 percent of total enrollment — the imperative to close the achievement gap will grow.
“Sometimes in the past we’ve educated some kids extraordinarily well, but not necessarily every child well,” Fulton said. “We can’t afford to do that any more.”
He reiterated a point that’s he made frequently in the past: That exposure to a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints is a benefit to the education of Johnson County students.
“It’s important that as a society — not just locally here in Shawnee Mission, but across this country — that we begin to embrace this notion that we have a lot diversity in our community and our country and that diversity absolutely is a strength,” Fulton said.