The K-12 funding bill, which brought funding for Kansas public education up to a constitutional level for the next four years, also requires an extra step for school districts to be in compliance with state law.
The law, Senate Bill 16, requires the Kansas Department of Education to create one-page performance accountability reports for the state, each school district, and each school building. And the law establishes uniform requirements for each school district to publish links to those accountability reports on their websites.
Once the education department publishes the reports, they will be available at datacentral.ksde.org.
The bill went into effect in July. Under the new law, the education department will be publishing the one-page accountability reports for each school district and every school building within each district starting in December.
By Jan. 15, each school district will be required to publish on their district website a “prominently displayed” link that will direct to the education department’s accountability reports and longitudinal reports on student achievement for the respective district and each of its school buildings.
If school buildings have separate website, then the bill also requires links to the school district budget documents and the school district funding report to be posted on the websites of individual schools in the school district.
The performance accountability reports must include information required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act as well as college and career readiness metrics developed and implemented by the state, according to a bill summary provided by the Kansas Legislature.
Additionally, the new law requires the education department to prepare annual longitudinal reports on student achievement on the state assessment for English language arts, mathematics and science.
“When the Legislature added additional dollars to public education, they were looking at ways of ‘well, how do we know that the dollars we’re spending are going to make a difference?’” said Frank Harwood, superintendent of Unified School District 232. “That’s where some of the accountability reporting comes from.”
To access accountability reports for the Shawnee Mission School District, visit SMSD.org, hover over the “About” section and click on “Accountability Reports.” The same link exists at the bottom of the Shawnee Mission School District’s homepage, below the links to the district’s social media links.
To access accountability reports for Unified School District 232, visit USD232.org, hover over the “About us” section and click on “Accountability Reports.” The same link exists in two other places on the district’s homepage, under the “Popular Links” and “Quick Links” sections.
Harwood said the bill also requires a “per pupil, by building” expenditure report, which may show the numbers to be vastly different from building to building. But that’s because each school is different as far as programming, expenses and who even counts as a student.
“When you start looking at those ‘per pupil, by building’ expenditures, they’re accurate but they don’t tell the whole story,” Harwood said.
For example, Belmont Elementary costs about $12,000 per student, whereas Prairie Ridge Elementary is $7,600 per student, Harwood said. But Belmont has an early childhood center, which means more staffing requirements and extra costs, but that kind of nuance is not included in the accountability reports.
Furthermore, USD 232’s accountability reports show expenses for 3- and 4-year-olds to participate in the peer model program provided by Belmont Elementary’s early childhood center. But the children themselves are not counted in the “per pupil” numbers because the district doesn’t get funding from the state.
David Smith, chief communications officer for the Shawnee Mission School District, said the building report cards will show measurable things like graduation rates and state test scores, but over time, they may show details like individual plans of study.
Smith added that, however, the accountability reports will not contain data that the Shawnee Mission community cares most about regarding the education of each student.
“I don’t know about you, but I cannot think of a time in my adult life where everyone has ever asked me about my state test scores, for example,” Smith said, “but that’s what we use with accountability reports and how we judge schools. I think the things that people care about… do kids have soft skills, do they come to school ready to learn, do they come to school kindergarten ready, where they read to as a child, have they learned their letters?
“They care about are they learning the skills that will allow them to be successful in the workplace: Being able to solve problems, being able to work together with others, knowing how to communicate, being able to have a firm handshake and look someone in the eye, being able to write well, things like having initiative. Those are the things that people care about and that really matter for kids’ future success.”
Smith said that “unfortunately,” the school district doesn’t have a great way of measuring these things, but parents can come to each school and talk with teachers and administrators or spend time in a classroom to learn about the success of each school. But over time, the school district may be able to collect and publish data that would better demonstrate performance outcomes for each school.
Once the reports from the education department come in, USD 232 may develop an FAQ section on its website to help parents and guardians navigate the data, Harwood added. But most of the data will be on the education department’s website.