Wellington Superintendent responds to New York Times article which he finds inaccurate

Editor’s note On Sunday, the New York Times published an article about school redesign in several Kansas districts, including Wellington Public Schools USD 353. The article, according to Dr. Mark Whitener, Superintendent of Schools, misrepresented the implementation of Summit Learning at Kennedy Elementary School and Wellington High School, which launched their redesign initiatives at the beginning of the school year. Here is a statement he e-mailed to Sumner Newscow. 

Submitted to Sumner Newscow by Dr. Mark Whitener, Wellington Superintendent of Schools: 

Mark Whitener

A recent article in the New York Times presented a one-sided portrayal of our school redesign initiatives at Kennedy Elementary School and Wellington High School, which are participating in the Summit Learning Program. By interviewing only a handful of families out of more than500, and not visiting a classroom or speaking to our educators who are leading this work–the article devalues the amazing work of our teachers and paints an inaccurate picture of our school community.

In addition, the article contained several inaccuracies:

• We have never received complaints about students with adverse side effects due to Summit Learning. Furthermore, the article describes negative health impacts on a 12-year-old in our district, yet there isn’t a single 12-year- old in our district in the Summit Learning Program. Wellington Middle School is not participating in the redesign project.

• The sentiment that parents do not support this change is untrue. In a survey of our stakeholders, 80 percent had positive comments about Summit Learning – a fact that was shared with the reporter by the High School Principal but she neglected to include in her story.

• Contrary to the claim made in the article, a dozen families have not left district schools because of the redesign project.

Unfortunately, I was not interviewed by the reporter. If I had been, I would have shared what I see when I visit Summit Learning classrooms and what I’ve heard directly from teachers and parents. I see teachers who are excited about a new curriculum that helps students develop critical thinking skills through a project-based learning. I see students who can explain not just what they are learning, but why they are learning it. And I have talked with dozens of parents who see positive changes in their children’s performance in school.

Our district applied to the Kansas Can School Redesign Project after a community-wide conversation about the future of our schools. We know our educational approach has to evolve to meet the needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s economy. While our high school graduation rate is close to 90 percent, fewer than half of graduates complete college or accept a position in their intended career.

While we know there are always questions about any change in school, the Summit Learning Program gives our teachers the resources and support to help prepare students with the skills they need in college and career. We are committed to continuing to work with our teachers and families to ensure that the redesign initiative is successful.

Follow us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.


Powered by WordPress