The Kansas Department of Education announced Tuesday that the Olathe school district is one of seven districts chosen to pilot a state redesign program for public schools.
The seven districts selected by the department this month will revamp two of its schools, an elementary school and a secondary school, around new priorities championed by the state as it looks to modernize methodology for how best to develop — and define — successful high school graduates.
Twenty-nine districts applied for the opportunity to be part of the Kansans Can School Redesign project — a pilot program that state officials say the rest of the state will eventually join as Kansas continues an effort to overhaul the public school system.
Olathe is the only metro-area district of the seven finalists. The redesign project will be implemented at Westview Elementary and Santa Fe Trail Middle School.
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The initiative tasks school districts with finding innovate ways to promote “five outcomes” established by the Education Department at a time when state officials are calling for new ways to personalize eduction to incorporate student interests and arm schoolchildren with skills they will need to be successful in future workforces.
Redesign team members will focus on developing individualized study plans for students, finding ways to measure social and emotional growth, improving high school graduation rates and post-secondary completion and revisiting how they address kindergarten readiness.
“I am excited to have a chance to collaborate with others from around the state to create a new model that helps prepare our students for success,” Westview Principal Jon Bell said in a statement.
But what redesigns throughout the state will look like remains undetermined, said state officials who expect models to differ between the 14 selected schools. Redesign teams will spend the next school year developing ideas to present to Department of Education next summer.
Changes will be implemented during the 2018-19 school year.
“We are going to be working very closely with the seven redesign districts, as you might imagine, and their building leadership teams to be prepared to launch a whole transformed school system by this time next year,” said Jay Scott, a secondary school redesign specialist with the Kansas Department of Education, as selected schools were announced at the Landon State Office Building on Tuesday.
“The schools we are about to announce have already started breaking some of the outdated education models that have been entrenched in schools for decades.”
All school districts that applied for the Kansans Can School Redesign project were required to secure the support of their school board, a local professional group such as the Kansas National Education Association, and 80 percent of the school faculty.
“The idea of bringing together district level and then again at the building level to show commitment for this process, to show commitment that we are going to make a change was critical,” new Olathe Superintendent John Allison said during the announcement event.
Allison, who is the former superintendent of Wichita schools and started in Olathe on July 1, said the opportunity was not only an honor for Olathe but a crucial head start on updates all school districts should be making to develop successful students.
He recalled those who approach him and in conversation say, “Back when I was in school...”
“I want to cut them off at that point in time and remind them that if we are going to be successful moving forward, our schools can’t look tomorrow like they did when I was in school,” Allison said. “Because if they do, we are destined to fail our students as we move forward.”