The Shawnee Mission School District Launches Real World Learning Task Force

Dr. Fulton
Shawnee Mission School District

Joining 15 local school districts, Shawnee Mission School District has formed the Real World Learning Task Force to reimagine college and career readiness for high school students.

Task Force members include staff, parents, administrators, community members, business leaders, and college and university representatives. Real World Learning is supported by a three-year grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Dr. Fulton, Shawnee Mission School District superintendent opened the session with an overview of the district’s strategic plan and student data.

“Our challenge is to understand the job reality and design our schools for all students,” Fulton said.

He shared that reasonable mastery of Algebra II is a predictor of college and career success. If we aren’t helping every student achieve this level of mastery, then we need to change the system. Fulton challenged team members to identify expectations and figure out how every child can meet that standard.

“Time, structure, and strategies are the variables and learning is the constant,” he noted. “This is critically important to every single student.”

Fulton introduced Donna McDaniel, Kauffman Foundation Educator-in-Residence, who shared Kauffman’s laser focus on entrepreneurship and education. She encouraged the group to make earning “market value assets” in high school an option for all students. These include:

  • Apprenticeships
  • Client Projects
  • Internships
  • Entrepreneur Experience
  • Dual College Credit
  • Industry-recognized Credentials

Tom Vander Ark, CEO and Partner of Getting Smart, the consultant firm leading the initiative across Kansas City, asked the team: What do we do to prepare our kids to be sustainable? We need to instill confidence and teach them how to be leaders and have a desire to solve interesting problems. Through this process you will gain national, regional, and local perspective.

“The first year is a year to dream and invent your future,” Vander Ark said.

Dr. Ryan Flurry, Real World Learning facilitator, shared the history of Career and Technical education in Shawnee Mission. Currently the school district offers career pathways in 16 of the 17 program areas. The only area where we are missing a direct tie is to agriculture.

The design team members divided into four groups to take a deeper dive into the following topics:

  1. College Completion
  2. Credentials
  3. Labor Market
  4. College Credits in High School

“This process will offer support to new jobs so we can prepare our high school students for careers not yet invented,” Connie Springfield, SM Northwest associate principal and task force member said.

The Real World Learning task force will meet four times throughout the school year with sub-groups conducting work separately to bring to the group. This initiative includes six counties; Cass, Clay, Jackson, Johnson, Platte and Wyandotte. In this region there are 100,000 high school students and 42 superintendents in rural, urban and suburban areas.

Currently 60 percent of the region and 15 school districts are participating in Real World Learning. The common thread that connects the districts in this work is each district includes college and career readiness in their strategic plan.