The U.S. Department of Education has thrown its weight behind a Kansas school plan that aims for much higher rates of math and reading proficiency by 2030.
The federal government questioned whether Kansas was complying with the 2015 civil rights law that requires drawing up plans to level the educational playing field and hold schools accountable in exchange for federal funding.
Kansas education officials were confident they could answer the federal government’s questions about how the state would gauge academic progress and improve schools where students struggle year after year. They spent weeks changing and clarifying their submission in collaboration with their federal counterparts.
Federal approval came Friday, clearing the way to receive hundreds of millions of dollars to help Kansas achieve its academic goals. Among them, graduating 95 percent of high schoolers — compared to 86 percent today.
In September, the Kansas News Service reported that state education officials sidestepped a broader public discussion in crafting their plan.
Some civil rights advocates criticized the Kansas plan for not doing enough to hold schools accountable for serving minorities, children with disabilities and other historically underserved groups. Kansas officials say they developed a school accountability plan that strikes a balance between the need for data on school performance and the risk of gathering statistically unsound numbers from smaller schools.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @Celia_LJ. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original story.