Highlights of the August State Board of Education Meeting
Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
TOPEKA –State Board members had an opportunity during their meeting Aug. 14-15 to consider any legislative recommendations they might want to pursue in the next session. A number of items were discussed, including plans the Governor may have to pursue is objectives related to literacy.
Part of the Governor’s roadmap for Kansas includes ensuring students who pass the fourth grade are reading at grade level. Some Board members expressed a desire to be part of any conversation about policy related to ensuring fourth grade students are reading at grade level. Board members voted to have the Board Chairman send a letter to the Governor expressing the Board’s desire to be part of the discussion as he works toward fulfilling that part of his roadmap.
Another item the Board considered was a change that was made in the last legislative session. The change was around the circumstances under which one school district could send buses into another school district to pick up students. At one time, a school district could not send a bus into another district’s territory to pick up students without the home district’s approval. Several years ago, that was changed so that if a student lived more than 10 miles from the school in his or her home district, another school district could send a bus into the student’s home district to transport that student to a school outside of his or her home district. In the last legislative session, the law was revised again so that the student only had to live more than 2.5 miles from the school in his or her home district in order for an outside district to be able to transport the student to school outside of the home district.
The law exempts school districts in Shawnee, Sedgwick, Johnson and Wyandotte counties, but some of the school districts that are impacted by the law have expressed concerns about how the change in the law may affect them. The lower mileage requirement has a number of implications that could affect decisions about school closings and provision of transportation, among others. Board members were encouraged to talk with the schools in their Board districts regarding concerns and suggestions.
Other items discussed included consideration of additional reporting requirements for home schools, and a review of the entrance age for kindergarten students. No determinations on these issues were made, but it’s possible they may be discussed at future Board meetings.
Career and Technical Education Initiative
Also in August, Board members received an overview of the legislation that was passed during the last session related to career and technical education. Senate Bill 155 provides a number of incentives for high school students to participate in college-level career and technical education courses and to earn industry-recognized certifications in high-demand areas while still in high school.
Jay Scott, assistant director of Career, Standards and Assessment Services at KSDE, explained to Board members that one of the provisions of the legislation is state funding to cover the cost of tuition for high school juniors and seniors who take college-level technical education courses while in high school. Funding is also provided to reimburse high schools for the costs of transporting students to the community or technical college in which they are enrolled in a career and technical education course. In addition, when a high school student earns a credential in a high demand area while in high school, the student’s school district can receive a $1,000 incentive upon the student’s graduation. The incentive can be used to cover up to half the cost of an industry-recognized credential assessment for high school students.
ESEA Flexibility Waiver
Board members also received an updated on efforts to implement the provisions of the state’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility waiver. Judi Miller, assistant director for Title Programs and Services at KSDE, told Board members that since the state’s waiver request was approved July 19, the emphasis has been on helping school personnel and the public understand the waiver and its impact on school accountability. A number of webinars have been conducted with school personnel to explain the waiver and KSDE staff is working to develop and post to the website resources that help explain the waiver, such as fact sheets, talking points and frequently asked questions.
Miller said KSDE staff is continuing to work with the U.S. Department of Education on the waiver principle related to teacher and leader evaluation. The state’s waiver approval is conditioned on the state’s ability to complete a three-year plan to develop guidelines for including student growth as a significant factor in teacher and leader evaluations.
Identification of Students with Sensory Disabilities
Also in August, Commissioner Diane DeBacker provided a report on research that had been undertaken to determine whether children with sensory impairments were being appropriately identified and served in the state. The conclusion from the research was that while children with sensory impairments were being identified through a variety of agencies and avenues, there was a shortage of qualified providers to assist students with sensory impairments and a lack of ongoing training for the providers that do exist. Madeline Burkindine, superintendent for the Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB) and the Kansas State School for the Deaf (KSSD), said the schools will explore options to provide additional support through technology to school districts to help meet the needs of their students with sensory impairments. DeBacker said continued collaboration among the agencies and organizations providing screenings and services for these children would be a high priority. She said she would encourage the Governor to re-establish a P-20 Council, which could bring issues like this to light and begin to address them.
Sunflower Literacy Project
Information regarding the Sunflower Literacy Project was shared during the Board meeting. The project, which began as the Sunflower Literacy Project, is now known as Kansas Guide to Learning: Literacy (KGLL). KGLL is a resource for caregivers and educators that provides comprehensive, integrated and research-based recommendations about the critical elements of curricula and instruction for children birth through grade 12.
As part of the project, three documents were created. One document provides literacy recommendations for birth through age 5 in language, listening, speaking, foundations of reading and foundations of writing. The second covers kindergarten through grade 5 and includes reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. The final document is for grades 6-12 and include reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. The guides enhance and support content in the Early Learning Standards, and are aligned with the Kansas Common Core Standards so they can assist teachers in making the transition to the new standards.
Licensed Personnel Report
Board members also received the Licensed Personnel Report, which summarizes personnel information that was collected from all state accredited schools in the state for the 2011-2012 school year. The report includes information such as age and total years of experience of Kansas teachers, as well as average salary and information on teacher qualifications by assignment area.
In other business, the State Board received an update on the development of the Next Generation Science Standards, as well as work on a new school accreditation model. The Board reviewed its goals and objectives and progress toward those goals to date, and voted to ratify the negotiated agreement for Fiscal Year 2013 for certified personnel at the Kansas State School for the Deaf.
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Sept. 18 and 19 in Topeka.