• Topeka Capitol Journal
SALINA — Three Kansas school districts have moved one step closer to receiving a special designation that would exempt them from many state education regulations.
The Coalition of Innovative School Districts on Wednesday recommended granting the innovative title to the Kansas City, Hugoton and Blue Valley districts, The Salina Journal reported.
A fourth request, from the Santa Fe Trail District, was rejected after coalition members decided some of what the district wanted to do could be accomplished under current rules. The district can present a revised application.
The Kansas State Board of Education has 90 days to act on the coalition’s recommendations. Interim Kansas Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander, a coalition member, said the board probably would review the recommendations at its September meeting.
A 2013 law allows districts to be exempt from certain state public education regulations if they present plans to improve student achievement.
Blue Valley wanted a waiver from some teacher licensing rules, especially for teachers in a work experience program that places juniors and seniors in companies and organizations, so they can begin learning about their chosen career.
“We really feel like local control is an answer to that,” Superintendent Tom Trigg said. “We’re not going to put somebody in the classroom who is not outstanding.”
The Hugoton, Kansas City and Santa Fe Trail districts also wanted relief from teacher licensing rules. Hugoton has created its own program to train college graduates to become teachers.
The Kansas City district, which encourages students to think beyond high school, also wanted students to be able to count classes taken in eighth grade toward college admission. Starting with sixth-graders, the district is increasing high school graduation requirements to include one year of college credit, a technical certificate or a score of 21 or higher on the ACT.
David Smith, the Kansas City District chief of staff, said that with those goals in mind it makes sense for many students to take high school algebra in eighth grade but it doesn’t make sense for that algebra class not to count toward college admission.
McPherson Superintendent Randy Watson, who is chairman of the coalition, said waiving college admission requirements probably isn’t something the coalition can do alone and that the Kansas Board of Regents would likely need to approve the change.