After reading the New York Times article about USD 418, Mr. Mohn’s response, and the response from former McPherson High School teacher Rick Reed, I thought another voice in this conversation should be heard.
To be clear, I am in no way engaging in the Summit Learning debate. I am not familiar with the program, have never used the program and am unfamiliar with what is happening in USD 418 aside from the aforementioned reading I have done. Instead, I wish to focus on some of the inaccuracies Mr. Reed has mentioned about MHS and USD 418.
I was present at McPherson High School when the C3 initiative began. Mr. Reed’s characterization is misleading to say the least. Let’s begin with ACT scores. One key component of C3 was to have ALL seniors take the ACT. As a result, MHS’s overall scores did go down. But to compare the ACT scores of MHS to the college-bound student scores of Salina, Haysville and the state is like comparing apples and oranges. If Haysville, Salina and the rest of the state have 100 percent participation, then Mr. Reed’s analysis is correct. Unfortunately, that is not the case. And the number of students represented on the school’s “30” boards show the quality of students MHS produces.
Mr. Reed’s assessment of our use of the ACT WorkKeys also proves to be misleading. A student who scores at the Silver Level demonstrates he or she possesses the necessary skills for 67 percent of the jobs in the WorkKeys Job Pro database. We simply wanted to give our students an opportunity to demonstrate to future employers they possessed the skills to do the job. In fact, a number of employers in the McPherson area use the WorkKeys assessment as a screener to gain employment. Mr. Reed claims the WorkKeys exam is not secure. How so? He provides no evidence whatsoever, and the number of students who missed class time to work on Key Train was minimal at best during my time at MHS.
As far as the Citizenship component of C3, I have to give Mr. Reed some credit, it is a difficult standard to measure. I am disappointed Mr. Reed chose to tie citizenship to one area, graduation rate. Granted, 88 percent is not the standard MHS should shoot for, but Mr. Reed fails to address any of the potential causes or solutions to the 88 percent number. Nor does he address any of the other ways to potentially measure citizenship, i.e. involvement in school activities, community service, discipline etc.
The College and Career Advocates, a key component of C3 were not “taken” from the classroom. Instead they were educational professionals who chose to help students in a different way. In fact, within the first three years of the C3 Initiative, the number of MHS students attending some form of post-secondary education jumped by over 10 percent! That data comes from the National Student Clearinghouse, which tracks student attendance at over 97 percent of colleges, trade schools and universities in the United States, including the military. In addition, the work of these advocates has exposed countless MHS and MMS students to college campuses many would never have had the opportunity to see.
Finally, I would like to address two of Mr. Reed’s points, explicit and implied. My two children are products of the McPherson School system. One attended a highly selective private college, graduated in four years and is now working for the Kansas Health Institute. The other will graduate this month from Kansas State University with a degree in education and has already secured employment for next school year. USD 418 provided them with the tools to become successful adults. Mr. Reed’s granddaughter is in good hands. And while making decisions about leadership, please consider all sources. A well-founded democracy is based on the knowledge of its citizens. Before responding to calls for house cleaning please do your own research and reach your own conclusions about the direction of USD 418.
- Bret McClendon