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Lawrence School District Graduation Rates Soar, Accreditation Report Shows – The Lawrence Times

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High school graduation rates in the Lawrence School District increased last year, adding to its gradual improvement over the years, says a new accreditation report.

The external accreditation report, which the Lawrence School Board voted unanimously to approve on Monday, assesses various aspects of the district, including socio-emotional factors, kindergarten readiness, individual study plans, high school and postsecondary success.


The district hosted the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) Outside Visitation Team (OVT) on February 1 as part of the required annual accreditation process. The OVT then provides a written report to the Kansas State Department of Education and the Accreditation Review Board.

Chief academic officer Patrick Kelly predicted at Monday’s school board meeting that the final result would be given to the district in a couple of months, and said he was confident the district would be re-accredited.

According to the OVT report, the Lawrence School District is performing well overall. High school graduation rates flat or up since 2016, improving 5.4 percentage points from 2021 to 2022.

Although graduation rates among every racial subgroup of students increased from 2021 to 2022, disparities between racial groups persist, said council vice president Paula Vann.

“My concern is that when we push students out the door, they’re not necessarily where they need to be,” Vann said. “I just want to be aware of this — that when we highlight it, just to talk a little bit about those student achievements and where students, just as a reminder, so it’s constantly on the mind of the board. For me, I’d like to hear how that correlates with graduation rates and how it looks to students walking out the door.

This graph from the report shows graduation rates over the past five years, including racial breakdowns:

The report also said community partnerships, student programs and initiatives, equity and inclusion work, and other aspects are strengths for the district. Kelly said the district is doing “outstanding” equity work and is outperforming other Kansas districts. The district adopted an equity policy in 2021.

“Our OVT team is very impressed with our work on equity,” Kelly said during the meeting. “Here at Lawrence, we think that’s what everyone should be doing. Outside of the district, it’s not happening statewide, and I think we’re a role model for many other districts in our equity work.

OVT recommended areas for improvement for the district include pre-kindergarten readiness, individualized study plans, and the need to select a program for social-emotional learning. The district is currently in the process of purchasing Panorama Education and Educator Perceptions and Insights, which could help with that social-emotional learning piece as the district will be able to interview students through the platform, Kelly said.

View the full report at this link and the report summary at this link.

In other business:

• Asset improvement plan: The board also approved the CIP by a vote of 4-3, with board members Shannon Kimball, Paula Vann, Erica Hill and GR Gordon Ross vote in favor and Kelly Jones, Kay Emerson and Carol Cadue-Blackwood oppose.

Interim Chief Operations Officer Larry Englebrick and his colleagues presented an annual report on capital expenditures this year, as well as the allocated budget for the next three years. The district’s capital expenditure fund is primarily funded from tax revenue from the mill levy, or property taxes, which then fund the maintenance of the school facilities.

Jones shared his reasoning for voting against the plan as the only board member who voted against a recent budget decision to switch from Macbooks to iPads for high schoolers. The purchase of iPad is a project listed in the capital improvement plan.

“I find the iPad less functional, and I’m concerned about its application within the classroom and the continuation of the digital divide,” Jones said during the meeting. “I will not vote for the capital outlay.”

View the capital disbursement presentation included on Monday’s agenda at this link.

The board also approved a 2023-24 calendar with five-day student weeks and signed a resolution encouraging the Kansas Legislature to support adequate public school funding and not divert tuition dollars to private schools. Read more about these agenda items at this link.

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Maya Hodison (she), equity journalist, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more about her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Maya Hodison/Lawrence Times

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