Journey of a Superintendent: Keeping Students On-Track for Future Success

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools

August is one of the most exciting times to be a superintendent. It’s like the break of day, early in the morning. The air is alive with enthusiasm and anticipation. Our community is filled with adults and students, hurriedly preparing for the first day of school.

This year I find myself particularly hopeful as we enter the second year of our “excellence in instruction” reform. Year one included a new curriculum for preschool through grade 12. I refer to the curriculum as “college preparatory” because we aligned to the national college readiness expectations at every level in the content areas of reading, math, science, and social studies. The first year of any new experience is always challenging. But our results exceeded all expectations. Performance of the district rose to the highest levels of achievement in the last 20 years! I commend our dedicated teachers and staff for pushing to new levels of achievement while learning the new curriculum. Clearly the results validate why the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools is recognized as one of the best urban school districts in the nation.

We are building on our success by using more rigorous assessments to reach our goal that “each student exits high school prepared for college and careers in a global society, and at each level student performance will be on-track and on-time for success.” The typical assessments used in Kansas measure how well a school is doing, but in reality have no long-term meaning to our students. Our decision to implement more rigorous assessments tied to college and career readiness will allow us to know clearly if students are on-track for their futures.

Imagine a journey that follows a clear road map, and all along the way there are mile markers that tell you if you are on the right path. The mile markers also indicate how much of the journey lies ahead, where the challenges (hills and curves) are, and provide you with guidance on how to navigate the way forward. That is what I mean when I speak of assessments for college and career readiness. We will utilize assessments at all grade levels that provide teachers, and most importantly students and their families, with information about what it means to be ready for the next grade level, what courses the students must complete, and what is needed for college and career readiness. I imagine our students graduating with credentials that open doors to any college or university, technical college, or that allow them to demonstrate to any employer they are prepared for high paying, desirable jobs.

It is morning in KCKPS. The road behind us has shown us the way. Today, as we begin the new school year, we take a big step for our students, a step on a journey of true preparation for their futures. “It’s up to us!”

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