Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
Highlights of the October State Board of Education Meeting
TOPEKA – Oct. 22, 2010 – The State Board of Education voted in October to adopt the Common Core Standards for English language arts and mathematics, making Kansas the 38th state to adopt the standards. The action came during the Board’s monthly meeting Oct. 12-13 in Topeka.
The Common Core Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards for proficiency in English language arts and mathematics were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and education experts. They are evidence-based and include both content and application of knowledge through higher-order skills.
A committee composed of Kansas educators provided input in the development of the Common Core Standards. In addition, each state that adopts the standards has the ability to add content to the standards, up to 15 percent of the total standards, that is reflective of state preferences. The Board’s action clears the way for staff at the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) to begin developing a plan to transition to the new standards. More information about the adoption of the Kansas Common Core Standards can be found in the KSDE news release.
Also at the October meeting, Board members received the State Report Card, which includes information on the statewide performance on Kansas assessments in the 2009-2010 testing cycle, AYP performance, highly qualified teacher information and school buildings receiving the State Standard of Excellence. Dr. Tom Foster, director of Career, Standards and Assessment Services for KSDE, shared with Board members that the percentage of Kansas students meeting or exceeding standards on the Kansas reading and mathematics assessments had increased for the tenth consecutive year. Performance among all subgroups in both subject areas was constant or increasing.
Board members learned that statewide the population of English language learners was trending upward, while the number of students with disabilities had flattened out. The number of students receiving free and reduced price lunches increased dramatically, from 42.6 percent in 2009 to 45.7 percent in 2010.
The all-student graduation rate remained stable, although changes were seen among subgroups. The rate was down among students receiving free or reduced price lunches, but increased among English language learners and African American students. Dr. Foster explained to Board members that the AYP requirement related to graduation rate had changed in 2010. Previously, the requirement to meet AYP was a graduation rate of at least 70 percent, or an increase from the previous year. For 2010, the requirement was at least 80 percent, or, if the graduation rate was less than 80 percent but was 50 percent or more, a 3 percent increase from the previous year would meet the requirement. If the graduation rate was below 50 percent, but had increased 5 percent or more from the previous year, that was sufficient to meet the AYP requirement, as well. Dr. Foster explained that there would be another change to the graduation rate in the current school year as the calculation for determining the graduation rate would change. The change is being mandated by the U.S. Department of Education in an effort to create more uniformity in how states calculate graduation rate. The change is likely to result in overall graduation rates going down.
The report also indicated that 98.2 percent of elementary teachers in Kansas are highly qualified for the positions they hold, as are 94.7 percent of the state’s secondary teachers. Those percentages are well above the norms in many other states, according to Dr. Foster. One area of concern is that the numbers of highly qualified ESL/bilingual teachers and special education teachers are going down.
Dr. Foster reported that there were 3,007 Standard of Excellence awards presented in reading and 2,532 awards presented in math. In science, 430 Standard of Excellence awards were achieved. More information about the Standard of Excellence Awards and the State Report Card can be found in the news release on assessment results.
Also in October, State Board members heard from staff members of USD 320 Wamego about the Intel School of Distinction Award received by West Elementary School in Wamego for its innovative mathematics instruction. West was one of only six schools in the nation to receive top honors for its commitment to instituting 21st century teaching and learning environments and implementing innovative programs in the areas of math and science. Amy Flinn, principal at West Elementary, explained that the school uses a Professional Learning Communities framework for school improvement and each grade level team meets two to three times per week for uninterrupted time to discuss curriculum, instruction and student progress. About 12 years ago, the school began to address issues with student performance in reading and mathematics by hiring outside coaches to work with teachers on a long term basis. In addition, a review of curriculum was undertaken on a K-12 basis to ensure continuity of instruction.
Math instruction at West Elementary integrates other content areas, including science and language arts, and a strong emphasis is placed on helping students understand why things work and not just what to do. Instructional time includes a balance of cooperative and independent learning. As recipients of the 2010 Intel School of Distinction in Elementary Mathematics, West Elementary will receive a $10,000 cash grant from the Intel Foundation and an awards package that includes curriculum materials, professional development resources, hardware and software valued at more than $150,000.
Also in October, Board members heard from Commissioner Dr. Diane DeBacker the top 10 issues in Kansas education. Those that made the list were:
1) The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
2) Common Core Standards
3) Assessments – what does the next generation of assessments look like?
4) Competitive vs. formula grants from the federal government
5) Rural education
6) School improvement options
7) Teachers and leaders section – moving from high qualified to highly effective. How do you define a highly effective teacher?
8) The economy
9) Elections – five State Board members are up for re-election, all state House of Representative members are up for re-election and we will have a new governor.
10) The Kansas Education Commission - a group of 50 people brought together by the State Board to look at the reauthorization of ESE and make recommendations to the State Board on how to effectively make the transition.
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Nov. 9-10 in Topeka.