Highlights of the November State Board of Education Meeting
Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
TOPEKA – Nov. 16, 2010 – State Board of Education members had an opportunity during their Board meeting Nov. 9 and 10 to discuss statewide efforts for bullying prevention. The discussion was prompted by Board member request, in part due to recent incidents nationally that have drawn attention to the issue of bullying.
Current state statute requires school districts to have a policy on bullying and to implement a plan to address bullying, however it does not specify any requirements of the policy or plan. The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) checks during annual audits to ensure school districts have a plan in place, but does not collect copies or review the plans. In addition, districts are not required to report information related to bullying incidents to the state, although they do currently provide information related to incidents of violence to the state.
While Board members did not want to micro manage local board decisions regarding curriculum to address bullying, they did express an interest in requiring district policies to outline a process by which bullying can be reported to a review panel independent of the school district. In addition, they were interested in having information related to bullying incidents added to the annual report on school violence incidents reported to the state. Board members asked that KSDE staff come back to them in December with recommendations on how those things might be accomplished and that it include information on the cost of implementing those recommendations.
Also in November, Board members reviewed a draft plan to transition from current reading and math standards to the new math and English language arts Common Core Standards. The draft plan includes four phases, starting in the current school year and ending with full implementation in the 2014-15 school year. Board members were told there are two potential scenarios for the transition – a “soft landing” or a “hard landing.” The more preferable option is the soft landing, which provides for a gradual transition in all areas of standards adoption, including professional development and assessment development. In that scenario, assessment items aligned to current standards but not aligned with the Kansas Common Core Standards are gradually removed from the assessments while new items generated from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) are piloted. SBAC is a group of 31 states, including Kansas, working to develop the next generation of assessments based on the Common Core Standards. The SBAC assessments are expected to be complete by the 2014-15 school year.
In the hard landing scenario, full adoption of the standards is delayed until 2015. Which scenario is pursued will depend on the state’s ability to receive modifications from the U.S. Department of Education for its No Child Left Behind accountability plan. The soft landing scenario requires modified accountability in the form of a waiver in 2012 and 2013 because there will be changes in assessment indicators in those years. An accountability waiver would also be needed in 2014 because that would be the year the state would pilot the full version of the new assessments, with full implementation of the new assessments in 2015.
Board members were also made aware of some of the financial challenges facing Kansas schools in the coming year. Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis explained to the Board that Kansas schools would lose approximately $2.2 million in federal aid for special education in the current school year because the state failed to meet maintenance of effort requirements, and there is the potential that the state could lose $16 million or more in federal aid for special education in the next school year.
In addition, it appears that the $92 million in federal jobs money intended to help preserve teacher jobs and that has yet to be distributed could be eaten up by additional costs not funded in the current budget. For instance, a drop in state property tax collections has resulted in loss of revenue of $29.8 million. The estimated state aid for at-risk students has gone up $13.6 million due to more students qualifying for free lunches, and an increase of 1,430 students in public school enrollments is resulting in an estimated increase in state aid for schools of $5.7 million. That means that nearly $50 million of the $92 million in stimulus funds will be needed just to meet existing budget requirements. That leaves $42 million; if legislators or the governor cut the current appropriation to schools by more than $42 million, the base state aid per pupil will decrease from its current $4,012.
The other budget worry Dennis shared with Board members was the loss of nearly $400 million in federal stimulus funds that will no longer be available to the state after 2010.
Also in November, Board members received an update on the recent work in a number of Career and Technical Education projects, and recognized the 35th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by hearing from three students with disabilities who have been positively impacted by special education programs in Kansas schools. In
addition, Board members heard from Cindy Couchman, a high school math teacher at Buhler High School in the Buhler School District USD 313, and Bruce Wellman, a high school science teacher at Lawrence High School in the Lawrence School District USD 497. Couchman and Wellman were named National Finalists for the 2009 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching last June. In January 2011, they will travel to Washington, D.C. for recognition at a national awards ceremony.
In other business, the Board members approved the disorganization of USD 228 Hanston in Hodgeman County and the attachment of that territory to USD 227 Jetmore, also in Hodgeman County. The disorganization and attachment will be effective July 1, 2011.
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14-15 in Topeka.