Highlights of the April State Board of Education Meeting
TOPEKA—April 15, 2010—The Kansas State Board of Education met April 13-14, 2010, in the boardroom at the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). All Board members were present with the exception of John Bacon.
Dr. Diane DeBacker, Interim Commissioner of Education, began the meeting with her April report. DeBacker briefly discussed the Blueprint for Reform document which outlines the proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The key priorities in the document point out areas needing improvement in the current education system that will allow students to better compete in a global society. Approval of ESEA reauthorization is not expected until the end of the year.
During the Citizen’s Open Forum, Chris Cezar of the Marion County Special Education Cooperative spoke against Peabody-Burns USD 398’s request to withdraw from Marion County Special Education Cooperative. Shari Wilson of Kansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE) notified the Board of the Kansas Green Schools Conference in July. Craig Schulz of the Traig Gaming and Learning Center announced a learning center will be opening in Topeka for after-school activities. Julie Doyen, representative of the QPA Advisory Council, encouraged the Board to not increase graduation requirements. Finally, John Richard Schrock ended Open Forum by discussing issues related to online/virtual learning.
Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis presented the 2009 Blue Ribbon Schools recipients. Winners are selected based on one of two criteria: schools having at least 40% of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that have dramatically improved, or schools whose students achieve in the top 10% of their state on state tests. Principals from Oakley Elementary School (USD 274), Phillipsburg Elementary School (USD 325), Robinson Elementary School (USD 402) and Rock Creek Junior-Senior High School (USD 323) were present to share with the Board what they have found to be the most significant elements in raising student achievement. Broken Arrow Elementary School (USD 497) was also named a 2009 Blue Ribbon School, though a representative was unable to attend the Board meeting.
The afternoon session began with Dr. Tom Foster, Director of Careers, Standards & Assessments, updating the Board on the draft of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics and provided information on additions the agency feels may be necessary. Board members offered several suggestions regarding areas in the document that need modified or further emphasized. A final draft of the Common Core Standards is expected to be released by the end of May, to which the Department of Education will have the opportunity to add up to an additional 15%. Once finalized, these standards will define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education in order to graduate college- and career-ready.
Next, Dr. DeBacker discussed the reviews received from Kansas’ Race To The Top Phase I Grant application. Comments from reviewers highlighted positive areas as well as areas with room for improvement. The comments received from reviewers provided the agency with valuable information to be considered. Members of the Board expressed their thoughts on whether or not to reapply in Phase II and, if so, what modifications would need to be made to Kansas’ application in order to be successful. It was the opinion of the Board to not apply for Phase II of the Race To The Top Grant.
Former State Board of Education member, Senator Steve Abrams, shared information regarding the school funding proposal as contained in Senate Bill 539. One such aspect would allow students to acquire part or all of the necessary graduation credits for math, science and language arts from within Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes. The bill is still in the early stages of development.
During Wednesday’s session, Dr. Julie Ford and members of the Virtual Advisory Board presented a thorough report on virtual schools and programs. Currently, Kansas recognizes 11 virtual schools and 33 virtual programs. The Board discussed the many dynamics of virtual education, including funding, enrollment, and teacher training.
In legal matters, the Act on Petition of USD 398 (Peabody-Burns) to withdraw from the Marion County Special Education Cooperative was removed from the agenda after the Board received a letter rescinding the request during Tuesday’s meeting. The Consolidation Agreement between USD 441 (Sabetha), Nemaha County, Kansas and USD 488 (Axtell), Marshall County, Kansas was approved by the Board which will allow an election to be held on the proposed consolidation.
Dale Dennis later reported on the status of education legislation as well as a status report on the funding of K-12 education for the next fiscal year.
The next Board meeting is scheduled for May 11-12, 2010 in Topeka.