Educational Excellence

A Blueprint for Continuous Improvement

Dr. Tiffany Anderson, Superintendent of Topeka Public Schools, led the development of a 5-year strategic plan that focuses on improving achievement for all students and eliminating opportunity gaps ensuring all students excel and prepare for college and careers. In part as the result of Undercover High, the district has expanded courageous conversations and enhanced initiatives to help students achieve success and prepare for their future. Courageous conversations and the equity initiatives the district is implementing provide examples of ways to engage students and staff in discussions that promote systematic change and school improvement in districts across the U.S. Topeka Public Schools has implemented a district-wide systematic trauma informed training for staff.

The Topeka School District mission includes these goals:

  • ENGAGE students in the highest quality learning
  • PREPARE students for responsible, productive citizenship
  • INSPIRE excellence for a lifetime

Exterior of Highland Park High School

"Our success in ensuring all students succeed is not only an educational issue, but also a social justice issue as we close opportunity gaps. We must first understand the perspective of others within the system as we incorporate systemic change that promotes continuous improvement and provides an equitable education for all students in every community."

- Dr. Tiffany Anderson, Superintendent, Topeka Public Schools

The strategic plan has 5 key pillars:

  • College and Career Placement: Implement career pathways and prepare students for career and college placement opportunities
  • Highly Effective Staff: Recruit, attract, develop and retain highly effective staff to carry out the district's mission
  • School Climate and Equity: Create a safe and caring learning environment that includes a positive inclusive school culture and positive collaboration and communication throughout the school and community
  • Student Learning: All students will demonstrate academic growth and will have equitable access to academic opportunities
  • District Finance: Ensure efficient operations and accountability for responsible use of district resources

An inspirational sign in a hallway of Highland Park High School

"Educational excellence can be achieved when we are committed to creating equitable opportunities for all students."

- Dr. Beryl New,  Director of Equity and Certified Personnel, Topeka Public Schools

New programs and initiatives being implemented at Highland Park:

  • Cyber-Bullying Training: Workshops on online safety measures, bullying and harassmentto reinforce policies are provided. An anonymous reporting line is available for students.
  • Mobile Food Pantry: A mobile food pantry was implemented and a clothing pantry was expanded to provide expanded services to families.
  • School Leaders: School leaders leading the elementary, middle and high schools within the Highland Park High's attendance area are planning for community systemic improvements impacting their schools and youth.
  • Home Visits: District wide home visits completed by every school leader were implemented in 2017.
  • New Health Class: The national health standards were previously adopted by the district in 2016. In 2017, a new student well-being and health course is being implemented that helps students analyze various health topics. It places alcohol use, drug use, physical fitness, healthy relationships, disease prevention, relationships and mental health in the context of the importance of creating a healthy lifestyle. Students also conduct in-depth studies in order to create mentally and emotionally healthy relationships with peers and family, as well as nutrition, sleeping, and physical fitness plans. This course also covers issues of sex and various sensitive topics.
  • Equity Summit (Courageous Conversations): The district has an active Equity Council in place, which during the rollout and airing of the series, plans to host a "courageous conversation" dialogue that will focus on addressing various issues in public education. Resources will be shared, and speakers will present their ideas to encourage a broader dialogue on issues in schools.
  • Student Ambassadors' Program: This new program at Highland Park High helps new students acclimate and adjust better to life at Highland Park High School.
  • The Parent Engagement Center: Resources for parents will focus on informing students and parents of resources to support and empower students and parents.
  • Baby College: The Baby College was piloted in 2017 to provide expanded resources to families in partnership with Parents as Teachers.
  • Student Equity Councils: These are led by students at some schools in Topeka and it will be implemented at Highland Park High School in 2018 to empower students and involve youth in examining and problem solving issues students face. Equity Walks are planned for the 2018-19 school year: Adults will sign up to shadow a student's schedule to walk in their shoes for a day and reflect on systems that schools have implemented for youth.
  • Equity Walks: Adults will sign up to shadow a student's schedule to walk in their shoes for a day and reflect on systems that schools have to work within and systems that are self-imposed that can be changed.
  • Counselors and College Advocates: More Counselors and College Advocates have been implemented to expand access and opportunities focused on college readiness.
  • School Improvement Specialist: A school improvement specialist has been hired for Highland Park High School to support implementation of instructional improvements.
  • Spanish Courses for Staff: This was piloted in 2017 and will expand in 2018 to decrease the language barriers and to enhance the experience students have in school.
  • Trauma-Informed Care Training: District-wide trauma-informed care training has started to ensure staff have resources and understanding to help address needs of students.

Did You Know?

Highland Park is located in Topeka, KS home of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down racially segregated schools as unconstitutional in its landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Explore 10 illuminating facts about the lead-up to and aftermath of this defining civil rights moment.