HUGOTON, Kansas– To qualify as an innovative school district Kansas schools have to prove that certain state laws keep them from giving their students the proper education.
“We’re pressed up between federal laws, state laws, and some of those laws aren’t what’s best for kids,” said Superintendent Mark Crawford. “We want to be more creative and more innovative to free kids up.”
For Hugoton schools the hope is to better prepare kids for life after high school, but their two biggest problems are student testing and teacher licensures. 40% of their students are not native English speakers and the district felt many of those kids were spending too much time with unnecessary test taking.
“They’re losing a lot of class time taking tests, for some of them that test is not applicable, it’s not going to benefit them,” said High School Principal John Girodat.
English Second Language student Jacqueline Garcia is a Senior and said she’s had to go through a lot of ESL classes and tests that she felt were unnecessary for her. “[It would be nice] if kids could get some more in class time instead of being taken away for ESL classes as often if they feel like they’ve mastered English.”
In a rural area like Hugoton it can be hard to entice new teachers to move to the area.
“If we can get an industry expert, bring them in for one hour to teach one specific class, even if they only teach it to four or five kids, we give them the opportunity to do that,” Girodat said.
To make sure students aren’t missing out on any important programs the school board actually has to approve any exemptions, and that is just the local level of accountability.
“Anything that we’re asking for freedom from, we’re also going to run through our Innovative Council, which that’s a stakeholder group made up of parents and teachers and also students,” Crawford said.
Innovation classification will be finalized by State Board approval in the next 90 days, and Crawford said he is confident their district will qualify.
The Innovative School Districts will run on an experimental basis for the next five years.