Get a World Class Education… In Rural Kansas

I have been focusing a great deal on the problems facing students and college graduates a lot lately and the news has mostly been depressing. So I want to write about a more positive story to show that it isn’t all doom and gloom in this country.

A story appeared on Yahoo.com about the remarkable success of a group of rural elementary schools in Kansas. Apparently, schools in the Waconda Lake area of North Central Kansas produce students that score better than 90 percent of student from developed countries. Across the board the students outperform most of their American peers.

The average student at the Waconda school district of 385 kids scores better than 90 percent of students in 20 developed countries on math and reading tests, according to The Global Report Card, published in the journal Education Next. In fact, Waconda is the second highest performing school district in math in the country, after Pelham, Massachusetts, an affluent community that is home to Amherst College.

That remarkable success comes in an area that is agricultural, rural, and fairly impoverished.

What I found interesting is that the success of these districts wasn’t linked to any specific reforms, unique testing methods or high teacher salaries. In fact the teacher’s salaries were amongst the lowest in the state.

The conclusion drawn from the story was that parent involvement, a tradition of success, and lack of a communication barrier were the main reasons that these schools have produced such successful students. It also couldn’t have hurt that the schools had tiny classroom sizes and a high level of direct teacher-student interaction.

I think that conclusion is correct and that those factors contribute the most to success of young students, leading them to greater success later in life. Money means a whole lot less than tradition, culture and ease of communication.

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