The district now puts emphasis on eight “Keys of Excellence,” which measure character education and service to the community. The “Keys,” which are outlined on the district’s website, include integrity (match behaviors with values, failure leads to success), learn from mistakes, speak with good purpose (speak honestly and kindly), make the most of every moment, commitment (do whatever it takes, ownership), take responsibility for actions, flexibility (be willing to do things differently and balance), keep a healthy mind, body and spirit. Read the details at http://www.mcpherson.com/418/Documents/C3%20-%20Entire%20Document2.pdf
Accomplishments on the eight keys aren’t just measured when a student is ready to graduate from high school. Instead, these benchmarks are evaluated at the end of each school year, beginning as early as middle school. Of course, anyone can have a plan. The real question is whether the plan worked to ensure students really are college- and career-ready. In McPherson, ACT tests rather than state assessments are used as the primary barometer for academic readiness. In 2009, only 23 percent of the district’s graduates met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in English Composition, College Algebra, Social Sciences and Biology, according to ACT, the college readiness standard for technical colleges and universities in the Midwest.
In other words, 77 percent of its students were not adequately prepared academically. Today those numbers have been turned around dramatically, with 74 percent of students being college- and career-ready. No one change in the district made it happen. Instead, the district focused on lots of tweaks to its everyday operating procedures. Those changes included earlier career testing along with implementation and measurement via ACT Explore, ACT WorkKeys and the Kansas WorkReady system.
“We don’t want to improve one thing 100 percent. We want to improve 100 things one percent,” a statement on the McPherson district’s website reads.
As schools in Franklin County and across the state analyze how to improve students’ academic and citizenship readiness factors, McPherson’s results might offer a worthy example to consider. Results matter and McPherson has a key model worthy of emulation.
— Jeanny Sharp,