HUMBOLDT, Kan. — A Southeast Kansas school district superintendent is speaking out against an online publication that names the worst school districts in all fifty states. The website’s pick for the state of Kansas is Humboldt Unified School District 258. Now, Superintendent, Dr. Amber Wheeler wants to set the record straight, and make right, what she claims the publication got wrong.
Government and state data gathered from Niche, an online source providing in-depth profiles on schools and colleges across America, gave the Humboldt Unified School District 258 in Southeast Kansas an overall grade of C+. Another website, which publishes government and state data on a wide variety of financial news topics, took the grade given to the school district by Niche, and added four measures, such as child poverty rate, teacher-to-student ratio, and per-pupil spending to come up with “the worst school district in every state.” To develop this list, data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics was used. The statistics range anywhere from 2019 to 2021.
As for The Sunflower State, Humboldt Unified School District 258 was named as “The Worst School District In Kansas.” The website, 247wallst provided the following data as their reason for choosing this school district as “the worst in Kansas.”
|State||District||Enrollment||Annual Per-Pupil Spending ($)||Student-Teacher Ratio||Adults With A 4-Year Degree or Higher (%)|
|Kansas||Humboldt Unified School District 258||955||$9,187||22:1||15.4%|
Dr. Amber Wheeler, Superintendent of Humboldt Unified School District 258, spoke out Wednesday about the numbers that were listed in this ranking of school districts with 500 students or more. Dr. Wheeler said the measure of success for any school district, especially Humboldt’s, isn’t measured simply by numbers.
“Federal government and state statistics can often be confusing and the story behind those numbers are very difficult to come by, especially online. To get the full picture of how a particular school district is doing, you really have to talk to students and staff, or even better, visit the district and see for yourself what programs and tools are in place. That’s how you find the true measure of success, and that’s the case here at Humboldt,” said Superintendent Wheeler.
According to Dr. Wheeler, the data listed above is both incomplete and out outdated. For example, Humboldt Unified School District 258 recently saw an enrollment increase of 80 students. While that may not sound like a big number, for a district like Humboldt which is a small town located in Allen County, Kansas with a total population of 2,162 (according to data from the 2020 U.S. Census), an increase of 80 students is big. Dr. Wheeler said the Humboldt School District has a unique opportunity for their students: The district has both a “brick-and-mortar” building, where the majority of students attend. But, they also offer an online learning program based on a coaching model that’s proven to be successful. Students of any age can go through the district’s online program to achieve their high school diploma.
“We have one of the largest, most successful virtual programs in the state. We have around 650 students that attend class here on campus, and then there’s 326 students who are enrolled through our virtual program. Combined, our graduation rate this past spring was 99.75%,” stated Dr. Wheeler. Humboldt’s graduation rate is much higher than the average graduation rate in Kansas, which is 88.16%.
When it comes to the district’s student-to-teacher ratio, Humboldt is now at 14.6-to-1, thanks to an increase in teachers and support staff. “What you won’t find when looking at state and national data is the ‘why’ behind our student-to-teacher ratio. The reason it was higher in 2020 and 2021 is mostly due to COVID related issues, which affected nearly every school district in the country, and in more ways than one,” said Dr. Wheeler.
Despite the number listed in the chart above regarding annual per-pupil spending, the actual dollar amount is higher since the chart’s data doesn’t account for local funding. According to the Humboldt School District’s Financial Accountability Report, 2020-2021 per-pupil spending from combined federal, state and local funding sources is actually $9,912 — a difference of more than $700.
“The bottom line here is that the numbers just don’t tell the whole story. They never do. There’s more to student success than what statistical data can show. Being able to watch our kids succeed here at Humboldt because of our school programs, unique learning activities, and incredible teachers and staff who strive to make learning fun and interesting. We see kids become successful when success is something that some of our students have never known. That’s what we do on a daily basis. That’s what all schools do is help kids be successful. There’s a whole lot more to the story than numbers can show,” said Dr. Wheeler.
You can find more information on Humboldt Unified School District 258, including their programs and activities, HERE.