By Denise Kahler, Director of Communications

The Kansas State Board of Education (KSBE) is reviewing the tabulated results from the Community Conversation events held throughout the state three years ago where education officials asked Kansas residents and members of the business community what they want from their state education system. The board is using these results to support the development of its vision for K-12 education in Kansas.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson and members of the board conducted 20 events across the state with nearly 1,700 Kansas residents, teachers, parents, students, and higher education representatives and seven events with more than 120 members of the business community to hear what they believe to be the characteristics, qualities, abilities and skills of a successful 24-year old Kansan.

The general community cited non-academic skills (soft skills – social-emotional, personality skills) 70 percent of the time and academic skills 23 percent of the time as characteristics of the ideally-educated Kansas youth, while the business community cited non-academic skills 81 percent of the time and academic skills 15 percent of the time.

“We don’t interpret this focus on soft skills to mean that Kansans’ don’t think academics are important,” said Commissioner Randy Watson. “We believe they are telling us that the importance of soft skills needs to be elevated. If a student excels academically, but can’t show up to work on time, that kid isn’t likely to be too successful. Similarly, if a straight A student in high school is suddenly a C student in college, will he or she have the emotional skills needed to persevere?”

Among non-academic skills, conscientiousness was the most frequently cited by both the community focus groups and the business focus groups, including its components, dependability, achievement striving (pursuing goals), and self-discipline (persistence, a strong work ethic).

Among academic skills, respondents emphasized instrumental skills and critical thinking over traditional academic skills. Instrumental skills are defined as applied knowledge and skills gained through study and training and applied in a profession or job.