Four Andover schools are embarking on a journey to reimagine education for the 21st century.
Staff and administrators at the schools – Andover Central Middle and Cottonwood, Meadowlark and Robert Martin elementaries – will spend this school year researching, planning and conducting pilot projects as part of the Kansans Can School Redesign Project
through the Kansas State Department of Education.
The statewide program, which launched last school year, aims to focus advancements in four key areas: student success skills; personalized learning; real-world application; and family, business and community partnerships.
“Our teachers are already doing exciting work in each of these areas,” says Shari Rooks, principal at Cottonwood Elementary. “This redesign project is a way to tie all of that work together, to enhance it and to look for improved methods to teach our students. We want to find ways to personalize learning so each of our students can be successful, both in school and later in life.”
The state process
The Kansans Can project stemmed from a statewide listening tour conducted by Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education, and the Kansas State Board of Education in 2015. They asked Kansans what they wanted from K-12 education and how the education system could achieve those goals.
Five main themes developed from those conversations: social-emotional growth, kindergarten readiness, individual plans of study based on career interest, high school graduation rates and post-secondary success.
“Our goal is to redesign our schools to match what Kansans and our local community said they want and need from our education system,” says Jill Lachenmayr, assistant superintendent for academic affairs. “The process is an opportunity to help students reach their full potential while strengthening community partnerships for a robust future workforce.”
Teams of educators at each school will lead the redesign process. During times when these staff members are attending meetings and professional development opportunities, substitute teachers will lead classroom learning. Andover Public Schools will work to provide the most consistent schedule of substitutes possible to provide continuity in student learning.
Preparing for the future
For Andover, this is the beginning of a process that will eventually include redesign processes in all schools.
While state education standards will remain the same, each school has flexibility in how it chooses to redesign. Examples presented by other school districts that completed the redesign process in June included flexibility in schedules, project-based learning, students in different grade levels working together, increasing parent engagement, job shadowing and a focus on students’ emotional health.
“This is an exciting opportunity to take a big-picture look at the way we teach our students,” says Superintendent Brett White. “Every student is different, so creating a school environment that allows for a student-by-student approach to education will help them achieve their goals. This is the first step toward making that happen.”