Liberal schools are revamping how their students learn


LIBERAL, Kan. (KSNW) — Seven school districts in Kansas will each change how they operate two schools next year by revising what they focus on teaching.

It’s part of a pilot program to see how to revamp public schools in Kansas.

Liberal was one of the districts chosen. That means Meadowlark Elementary and Liberal High School won’t be teaching to the test for much longer.

“We want kids to realize that grades don’t define success in school,” said Meadowlark principal Shawna Evans. “We want them to find experiences that they have passion for and are relevant to what they would like to do.”

That means looking at what each individual student needs to grow towards their professional goal, starting in grade school.

“Let’s make it relevant to them starting at a young age,” said Evans.

To take on the program the principals needed an 80 percent buy-in from their staffs.

“I really think if we show the kids how what they’re learning has relevancy in the real world,” said Meadowlark teacher Jess Graham, “they’ll understand it and do better on those tests.”

For Graham, it’s personal. Her daughter will start first grade next year when the program is implemented.

“She’ll be able to see how things relate to each other and why it’s important to learn different things,” said Graham, “rather than just, ‘We’re just going to learn this because it’s on the test.'”

This upcoming school year will be used to plan the 2018 launch. One incoming senior is a bit of a guinea pig. His project involves planning and opening up a school store.

“I want to go do something,” said incoming senior Ethan Hatcher. “Put all the things I’ve learned to an actual task, and I don’t want to wait until I’m out there in the world.”

This kind of project-based learning is meant to cross over into multiple subjects.

“So they’re meeting standards in business,” said Liberal High School’s principal Ashley Kappelmann, “and they’re meeting standards in English because they’re writing proposals, and they’re meeting standards in math, because they’re having to put numbers together to propose something to investors.”

The new learning method will also introduce high schoolers to career mentors in the community.

A total of 29 districts applied for the project.

Liberal was chosen as well as Coffeyville, McPherson, Olathe, Stockton, Twin Valley, and Wellington.

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