High Marks for Small Kansas Towns

Nov 27, 2011

Most people in Kansas, and even all over the country, have heard about The Largest Ball of Sisal Twine that sits in Cawker City, Kansas. Although this is impressive, what you may not know about the area is even more amazing. Did you know that only 6 percent of ALL United States' school districts test better in math than other students in the developed world? And did you know that the Waconda School District is one of these 6 percent? Waconda won four Governor's Achievement Awards for 2010 because of its math and reading scores.

Cawker City, KS
The Waconda School District contains four towns in North Central Kansas; Cawker City, Downs, Glen Elder and Tipton with seven schools and 385 kids located in 411 square miles. Waconda students make up .01 percent of the Kansas public school students, and won 6% of the state's awards.The students at District 272 have begun a proven tradition of excellence when you look at The Global Report Card that was developed by the George W. Bush Institute's Education Reform Initiative. Although the data on the website only shows scores through 2007, superintendent Jeff Travis has said that their scores over the last 4 years are still that good, and have even gotten slightly better. In 2010 Waconda students scored 2nd in math and 18th in reading throughout the nation. And to make it even more impressive, they rank in the top 90 percent for both subjects against 25 other developed countries in the world.
Downs, KS

All of these statistics sound very impressive, but if you ask Travis how they have done it, he would say hard work and a supportive community. "We have really small class sizes in pre-K to third grade - on purpose. The board has made that a priority," stated TravisIt is hard to fathom that a district where two-thirds of its students qualify for free or reduced lunches could have the resources to educate these students in order to produce such phenomenal scores. Travis also said that most students in his district do not realize they are materially deprived because there is a difference between rural and urban poverty. Travis clarifies, "There is a big difference in the needs. If a kid needs it, our community makes sure he or she gets it. The school and community pull together to help cover basic needs. Our kids do not go without because people simply will not let them."

Glen Elder, KS
Something the community is struggling with is the fact that these students are not coming back to the area once they have graduated from college. They tend to gravitate toward Kansas City where there is a more active lifestyle. This is something many rural Kansas towns are struggling with, but Waconda is hoping to encourage these students to come back with a program they implemented about four years ago. They ask kids to design a small business plan for the area that they feel would be successful. Travis stated that the most popular ones involve opening a Bar & Grill, hunting lodge or developing the Waconda Lake in Glen Elder. "My hope is that by the time these kids are thirty and have lived in a more urban area, they will be ready to come back home to raise their family and
Tipton, KS
discover that they have a way to do that with their business plans," said Travis.

Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd, LLC would like to congratulate the entire district at Waconda on their huge success. What they are doing is clearly working and is such a great display of communities in the state of Kansas pulling together to take care of one another.