Journey of a Superintendent: Testifying Before the House Education Committee

On Tuesday, January 24, I will testify before the Kansas House Education Committee. Here is the message that I plan to share . . .

Testimony to the Kansas House Education Committee

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

The story of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools (KCKPS) is the American story. Eighteen years ago, the district was struggling to provide its students with a quality education. Fewer than 10 percent of students were proficient on the state assessments, and the students we graduated were not prepared to be successful in college, or in the workforce. However, through courage, focus, and hard work, the district has transformed itself into one of the most respected urban districts in the nation, where now more than two-thirds of students currently meet the state standards.

Children in KCKPS come to school with absolutely no advantages. More than 87% qualify for free and/or reduced lunch, almost one-third need to learn English, and hundreds and hundreds are categorized as homeless or migrants. However, their teachers refuse to use any of those statistics as reasons to feel sorry for them, to expect less of them, or to allow them to achieve at lower levels. In fact, we must expect from our students what is expected of every other student in the state: They must graduate ready to be successful in college and careers, and to become valuable and contributing members of society. Indeed, it will be their success that proves that the American experiment is still viable, and that education continues to be the ticket to the American Dream.

For them to reach their dreams, we believe that we must raise the standards we expect them to reach, and to put all of our resources and energy into helping them to reach those higher standards. To do this, KCKPS has requested a waiver from the Kansas Approved Accountability Plan from the United States Department of Education. We have aligned our curriculum with the ACT and the Common Core National Standards, and the waiver will allow us to substitute the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) family of assessments, along with the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), for the Kansas State Assessment. We believe that the EPAS assessments and the MAP are more rigorous and meaningful, and will serve as true indicators of success that demonstrate our students are fully prepared for college and careers upon graduation from high school.

The work of transforming our system, in order to prepare our teachers to teach and our students to achieve these higher standards, has been incredibly rigorous and complex. It has been work that could not have been achieved without the changes that have enabled KCKPS to work as a system, without the additional resources that we receive to serve students with special needs, and without the belief that resides in citizens across this great state, that every student in Kansas deserves a quality education, regardless of the zip code in which they live, or the language spoken in their home.

The students we serve will give back much more to Kansas than they receive. They will invent things, start companies, create jobs, give back in money and service to the communities in which they live, and pass onto their children their belief in the power of education to transform lives, and change communities. Our investment in them is an investment in the future of this great state, and it is the most important thing we can do to preserve our future.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Journey of a Superintendent: Testifying Before the House Education Committee

  1. ibelieveinkids says:

    I appreciate how diligently you are working to try to keep the State from making some incredibly foolish decisions financially. However, I would like to point out a couple of issues I have with the way in which you used “absolutes” in your speech. I graduated from USD 500 seventeen years ago and I WAS “prepared to be successful in college” AND “in the workforce” as were MANY of my classmates…but in your words the students “we graduated were not prepared”. (I would have also said “the students who graduated” because you didn’t just graduate me, I earned my diploma!)

    When reading your speech through the lens of being an educator in USD 500, I feel your statement of “Children in KCKPS come to school with absolutely no advantages” extreme as well. I know there are kids in our district that would fall in that category, however, my 10+ years in the district has shown me that our students have more advantages than one might assume. I would not, for an instant, want our state officials to think that they have as many advantages as the students in Johnson County, but to say that ALL children in our district have zero advantages is not accurate.

    I understand your desire to come across as powerful as possible when presenting your ideas on such an important topic, but if you’re posting your words for all the world to read–knowing that many of the readers may be former students, current students, employees, and parents–I’d advise a little more sensitivity.

  2. Dr. Lane says:

    You are right to caution against speaking in general terms, especially when talking about a district that represents such a broad spectrum of different circumstances, as ours does. I believe passionately in our staff, and in our kids, and I fight every day to make sure that you and your colleagues have the resources you need to help our students achieve a world-class education. I will work hard to make sure that my language encompasses that diversity of both background and experiences.

  3. April Dyar says:

    I am taken aback by Dr. Lane’s response to ibelieveinkids’ comments — in a most refreshing way. First, I am amazed at Dr. Lane’s passion and candor in the way she presents her views. It appears that she truly does work remarkably hard every day so Kansas students can receive world class education. Her ideas are ground-breaking. I only wish more superintendents would at least use the kind of verbiage she does.
    Secondly, the honest transparency in the way she dealt with some rather strident critique shocked me; again, in a wonderful way. This kind of humility is rare, and I believe it testifies of her sincerity and her solemn confidence in her message.
    I wanted to take a moment to recognize such noble integrity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *