Highlights of the January State Board of Education meeting
Four new members joined the Kansas State Board of Education in January following elections last November. New members Steve Roberts, district two; Deena Horst, district six; Kathy Busch, district eight; and Jim McNiece, district 10, were sworn into office just prior to the first day of the Board’s two-day meeting on Jan. 15 and 16 in Topeka. Also sworn in was Carolyn Wims-Campbell, who was re-elected to serve district four on the Board.
Board members elected a new chairman and vice chairman, as well as a new legislative coordinator and assistant legislative coordinator in January. Jana Shaver, board member from Independence in the ninth district, assumed the chairmanship from David Dennis, who chose not to run for re-election in 2012. Sally Cauble, board member from Liberal in the fifth district, was elected to serve as vice chairman, taking over for Wims-Campbell, who had held the position for the past two years.
Ken Willard, board member from Hutchinson in the seventh district, was elected to serve as the legislative liaison for the next two years and Horst was elected to serve as assistant legislative coordinator. Also as part of the Board’s reorganization, Board members voted to elect Board members Wims-Campbell, Janet Waugh, district one; and Busch to the Board Policy Committee.
Also at the meeting, Board members approved their meeting schedule through January 2014. The State Board meeting dates can be found on the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) website.
In other business, Board members voted unanimously to make the 2013 state writing assessment voluntary. Staff members at the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) recommended the move based on a number of factors. Among the considerations was the difficulty some school districts were having implementing the KWIET platform for use with the writing assessment. KWIET is an online environment where students can compose writing pieces in response to teacher-provided prompts and teachers can evaluate, score and provide feedback on the student’s writing. Districts were encouraged, but not required, to use the platform for the 2013 writing assessment. Even though districts experiencing difficulty implementing KWIET could take a paper/pencil version of the assessment, many district officials expressed concerns about the amount of work changes in the education system were creating for teachers and other school personnel. Given that 2013 would be the last time the current writing assessment would be given, and because the writing assessment is not required under federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) regulations, KSDE staff recommended relieving some of the pressure on schools and districts this year by making the assessment voluntary.
Also in January, the Board heard a recommendation from KSDE staff to revise the Quality Performance Accreditation (QPA) regulations so that the performance portion of the process is based on performance toward Annual Measurable Objectives, which are spelled out in the state’s new accountability plan as part of its ESEA Flexibility Waiver. Currently, the performance measurement in the accreditation system is based on the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP ) measure that is part of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. The state’s ESEA waiver gives the state flexibility around a number of NCLB provisions, including AYP. In the state’s new accountability system, which is effective in the current school year, AYP is replaced by the Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs).
A second part of the recommendation is to allow all schools to maintain their 2012-2013 accreditation status for the 2013-2014 school year. This will allow for a smooth transition to the new performance measurement and will give schools time to work toward the new measurement before it is used in determining their accreditation status. Board members are expected to vote on the recommendation in February.
In other business, the Board received the draft standards for History, Government and the Social Studies. A committee has been working for the past 18 months to revise the standards and they are now being made available for public review and comment on the KSDE website. Comments will be accepted through March 1.
Members of the Standards Writing Committee shared with Board members that the order in which courses are taught along the grade levels has not been changed in the new draft standards, however the class and course expectations have changed. A concerted effort was made to connect what was taught in a given course with what students would have learned previously and with what they would be expected to do as they moved forward in their education.
Don Gifford, education program consultant for social studies at KSDE, told Board members that the biggest difference between the draft standards and the current standards, which focus on discreet bits of information, is that the draft standards go beyond content to context and the application of knowledge. The attempt is to help students understand content in the context in which it exists in the environment in which they are learning it.
The item will not come back to the Board for a vote until after the public comment period has concluded on March 1.
Also in January, the Board received a presentation from Dr. Bob Hull, director of the Kansas Center for Safe and Prepared Schools. Hull shared with Board members the work of the center in helping Kansas schools be prepared for emergency situations. The center has been in existence for four years and provides training and guidance for schools in the area of emergency preparedness. Hull said that while Kansas is not highly regulated with regard to what schools must do in the area of safety and preparedness, the Legislature did pass a concurrent resolution in 1999 that urges all schools to create and update school crisis plans and to provide training in the plan for school staff and conduct regular drills. He said many Kansas schools have strong preparedness programs in place.
In other business, the State Board:
• Received an update on the development of the Next Generation Science Standards;
• Received a report from the Special Education Advisory Council;
• Recognized the Kansas Superintendent and Principals of the year;
• Received a report and presentations from the Career and Technical Student Organizations
• Received a presentation from State Librarian Jo Budler
• Approved the recommendations of the Professional Practices Commission.
The next meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education will be Feb. 12 and 13 in Topeka.