Education officials say schools need reshaped for the future
Wichita Top Kansas education officials say more emphasis on non-academic skills is needed to transform the state's public schools to meet the demands of the future workplace.
That's in contrast to the focus over the past dozen years on raising test scores, Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson told a group of about 100 educators at a meeting Friday in Wichita.
"We've met every mark that we were asked to meet," he said. "But the data that we're going to share with you today shows we've got to move the mark again. . Kansans are telling us, it's not good enough for where we have to go."
An entire redesign of the public school system might be necessary for that to happen, he said. That could include changing school culture, defining new roles for counselors and social workers, rethinking college algebra, focusing on soft skills and getting students more real-life experience, The Wichita Eagle reported.
"It's extremely hard to change who you are to what you want to be," Watson said. "But Kansans are telling us . we're going to have to shift to some new things."
Watson and deputy education commissioner Brad Neuenswander held community discussions across the state earlier this year to find out what residents want from their education system.
A majority of the roughly 2,000 people who participated in the events said students need non-academic skills like conscientiousness, persistence, teamwork, communication, emotional stability, citizenship and work ethic.
"Kansans told us we're not producing good enough citizens as they exit our schools, especially giving back to others and duties to others," Watson said. "We thought that would come out, just not to the extent that it came out."
Business leaders had the strongest desire for more focus on interpersonal skills, he said, with a majority saying personality traits and soft skills are more important for success than academic knowledge.
"Traditional academic skills and applied skills are important," Neuenswander said. "But we've got to find a balance, so the academic doesn't trump all of the other skills that Kansans said are important."
Business leaders also said they want students to come out of school with more real-life work experience, or at least exposure to workplaces.
"Business said to us, 'Look, we are sick and tired of you putting us on advisory committees that meet a couple times a year and do nothing,'" Watson said. "'We want to help. We want to come in. .We want to partner with you, but you don't ask us.'"