Highlights of the August State Board of Education Meeting
TOPEKA – State Board of Education members learned during their monthly meeting Aug. 9-10 in Topeka that more Kansas schools met the federal adequate yearly progress (AYP) requirement in the 2010-11 testing cycle than did the previous year. Eighty-four percent of the state’s 1,367 public schools met AYP in 2010-11, compared to 81 percent in 2009-10. The same number of school districts made AYP in 2010-11 as did the previous year.
The increase comes despite an increase in the percentage of students required to attain proficiency on the Kansas assessments in reading and math in order to achieve AYP. AYP targets were up from five to eight percent from the previous year. More information on school and district AYP achievement can be found in the KSDE news release.
Board members also learned that 31 Title I school districts and 46 Kansas Title I schools are designated as on improvement for the 2011-12 school year. Only Title I schools and districts can be placed on improvement. Title I schools and districts are those that receive federal Title I funds, typically those with high percentages of students receiving free and reduced price lunches. Schools and districts are placed on improvement when they do not make AYP for two consecutive years. Once a school or district is placed on improvement, it cannot come off of improvement until it has made AYP for two consecutive years in the identified area of improvement.
The number of schools and districts on improvement increased from the prior year, even though 12 schools and three school districts came off of improvement from last year. Twenty-one of the schools on improvement for the 2011-12 school year are on improvement for the first time. More information about schools and districts on improvement can be found in the KSDE news release.
Amid the talk of school performance toward federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability goals, Board members learned that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan had announced his intention to grant waivers related to NCLB accountability to states that are willing to implement certain reforms. The specific criteria that will be used to evaluate waiver requests will not be released until September, but Commissioner Diane DeBacker said she expects that Kansas will be in a good position to seek a waiver at that time. Last February, State Board members sought a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education that would allow the state to maintain its 2009-2010 AYP targets while it worked to implement the new Common Core State Standards and transition to new assessments aligned with those standards. That request was denied in May. Had the waiver been granted and the state’s AYP targets had not risen, 52 more schools and 24 more districts would have made AYP.
State Board member David Dennis told the Board he was not inclined to wait on another waiver request and made a motion that schools’ and districts’ AYP status be based on the 2009-10 AYP targets and that determinations of schools and districts on improvement be made based on the 2009-10 targets, as well. DeBacker cautioned that doing so would mean the state was out of compliance with its accountability plan and could potentially mean the loss of approximately $110 million in Title I funds. While a majority of Board members expressed agreement with the sentiment in Dennis’ motion, most said they were not willing to risk the loss of the federal funds, especially as state funds for education are being cut back. The motion failed with seven Board members voting against it.
In a related matter, Board members voted to lend their support to two Kansas school districts that plan to request waivers from the U.S. Department of Education that will allow them to use different assessments to determine their performance toward AYP than what is prescribed in the state’s NCLB accountability plan. USD 224 Clifton-Clyde and USD 500 Kansas City Kansas each presented the Board with their plans. Both districts propose replacing state assessments with the NWEA MAP assessment for reading and math in grades three through seven, and with the ACT Plan, Explore, Work Keys and college entrance exam in eighth grade and high school. Representatives from both districts said they were seeking the waiver because they wanted to ensure their students left high school truly college and career ready and they believed the alternate assessment method they were proposing would do that better than the state assessments. The McPherson School District was the first in the country to be granted a similar waiver for the 2010-11 school year.
Also in August, Board members received recommendations from Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) staff related to strengthening instruction in financial literacy in the state. Staff members shared with the Board that the state is in compliance with state statute regarding identification of financial literacy standards. Standards on financial literacy are embedded in math, history/government, family and consumer sciences, and business, economics and finance. According to a survey of Kansas school districts conducted by KSDE, 60 percent of districts embed personal financial education competencies within their K-12 curriculum; 14 percent of districts require a financial education program for graduation and 176 districts offer consumer and personal finance.
Staff also cited data that indicates a state’s policy on financial education does not have a significant correlation to one’s buying habits or view of their economic or social environment. In light of that information, KSDE staff members offered four recommendations to the Board:
• Expanding research inside and outside the state on best practices in promoting financial literacy in K-12 classrooms.
• Continued strengthening of existing relationships with Housing and Credit Counseling Inc., Kansas Council on Economic Education and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and collaboration with other external agencies to address how districts can better serve students through professional development opportunities and teaching resources for K-12 educators.
• Collection, review and report on financial literacy data.
• Linking accreditation with a district’s financial literacy efforts and forming a task force of financial literacy experts to create a rubric to guide and rate districts on financial literacy performance.
Staff did not recommend increased regulation around financial literacy efforts, or mandating financial literacy for graduation. Board members voted to accept the first two recommendations, with some members expressing a reluctance to pursue any of the recommendations that might have increased costs associated with them.
In other business, State Board members received information reviewing what a state growth model might look like if it were not tied to accountability. Board members learned that a true growth model would need to take more than yearly test scores into consideration. A true growth model would also have to account for developmental milestones, particularly those in early childhood. An effective growth model would require the use of multiple instruments across different age ranges, as well as measurements from multiple sources and of multiple skills, including social-emotional, physical, cognitive, linguistic and academic.
One way Kansas might move forward toward such a model would be to tie growth to the Kansas school accreditation process, known as Quality Performance Accreditation (QPA). Currently, a school’s ability to meet AYP standards in reading and math affect its accreditation status under QPA. A new model, focused on growth, could take a broader approach, focused on the transition to 21st century standards. There was a consensus from the Board that KSDE staff should determine how best to move forward in implementing a growth model and bring that information to the Board at a future meeting.
Also in August, Board members discussed the board’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards. The Board adopted the standards last October, one of 44 states to do so. Board member Ken Willard asked to add the discussion to the agenda in order to express his misgivings about the Board’s involvement with the Common Core Standards. Although the Common Core Standards emanated from a grass roots effort among states, Willard said he was concerned that adoption of the standards was now being tied to several opportunities at the federal level, including the ability to secure an NCLB accountability waiver. He was also concerned by new efforts to develop common standards in the area of social studies.
While some Board members echoed Willard’s concerns, others expressed their confidence in the Common Core Standards, citing the standards’ alignment with ACT and college and career ready benchmarks. Following the discussion, Board Chairman Dennis indicated he considered the matter closed given that the Board had already voted to adopt the standards.
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for September 13 and 14 in Topeka.