Monday, February 2, 2015

Field Kindley's Own... Randy Watson

Coffeyville and Independence are bitter rivals.  I spent junior high and one year of high school learning that above all other goals came beating the Field Kindley 'Nado.  If I had any eye-hand coordination, height, or skills maybe I would have tried out for basketball and known some members of the 'Nado team. (Instead of wearing a singlet and studying the lights in every gym in the SEK.) Then I might have recognized the kid from Coffeyville who was at all the Church Camps we went to, the C-ville guy who was always trying to date girls from Independence, as future Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson. 

From high school, Watson took his basketball skills to KSU, was rejected in his first practice by Rolando Blackmon, and decided to focus on the books.  I went to school down the road to the east, and focused on, well, college life.  Randy and I didn't cross paths again until later in our education careers, and it wasn't until we became Facebook friends that we realized we were bitter rivals for the same dates to high school dances.

A few years ago, when I was superintendent at Emporia, our community set forth on a strategic planning process for our schools.  Sometimes you get just the right group of people, a great facilitator, and the process really clicks.  That was the case in the Emporia process.  We were only flummoxed once, when we discussed the subject of how to measure success.  There was a strong feeling among the group that test scores were not the answer, but we knew that NCLB was requiring improved test scores.  We discussed simply telling the Feds we didn't care about their assessments, but in the end, we complied and our goals became about test scores.  A more visionary leader would have looked for a better answer.

A few years later, a more visionary leader asked the community of McPherson what they wanted for their kids after graduating from high school.  As you might imagine, no one said high test scores.  They said college, career, and citizenship are what are important.  Educators know the rest of the story.  The only NCLB waiver granted to a school district in the country and a system focused on the outcome of adult success instead of test scores.

Recently, I was at a meeting where we were discussing what we want for our kids, and Senator Steve Abrams said that test scores are not outcomes.  For twenty years I have thought of test scores as the outcome, so I immediately went on the defensive.  Of course test scores are outcomes... but are they? Randy Watson explained it to me- test scores are inputs.  They are just one piece that contribute to the outcome of a student who is college, career, and citizenship ready.  

Who knew that a Coffeyville 'Nado would have the courage, determination, and vision to show this old Bulldog a new trick? It is time to rethink outcomes in Kansas, and focus on what it takes to make a successful adult, not just test scores. Randy is touring the state the next few weeks, asking people to help build a vision for Kansas education by defining what we want in a successful adult.  I look forward to working with all Kansans to build that new system and I encourage you to do your part.  


Attend one of the meetings. Let Dr. Watson know what you think.

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