Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
Highlights of the September State Board of Education Meeting
TOPEKA – State Board of Education members got their first look at a 21st century accreditation model that could replace the current Quality Performance Accreditation (QPA) system at their monthly meeting Sept. 13 in Topeka.
Staff members at the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) provided a high level view of an accreditation system that would focus on transitioning to 21st century skills and award points for the implementation of best practices and innovation. Unlike the current QPA system, the 21st century accreditation model would base accreditation on factors that went beyond achieving adequate yearly progress (AYP) and would award credit based on meeting set targets or demonstrating a certain level of growth toward targets. Another difference in the new accreditation model would be making accreditation decisions at the district level rather than the building level.
While work has begun on the general framework for the new accreditation system, that work is still ongoing and likely will be over the next year. A timeline presented at the Board meeting called for soliciting input from the field through the remainder of the year to help fill in the details of the system once the framework is complete. Additional refinement would occur in 2012 and 2013, with implementation occurring in the 2013-14 school year.
Also at the meeting, Commissioner Diane DeBacker shared that Kansas’ application to serve as a lead state in the development of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) had been submitted and she was confident Kansas would be among the states selected as a Lead State Partner. Confirmation of the states selected was not expected until Sept. 20.
In July of this year, Board members voted to allow Kansas to apply for lead state status. If Kansas is named a Lead State Partner in NGSS, the state will have the opportunity to participate in a number of meetings with other lead states to provide input and guidance in the development of the standards. Lead states agree to form broad-based state-level committees to consider the standards drafts as they are made available and provide state-level comments, and give serious consideration to adopting the NGSS once available.
The NGSS effort builds on previous common standards developed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the National Academy of Sciences. The conceptual framework for the standards, which will define the essential content, science practices and cross-cutting science themes to be embedded in the standards, was being developed by a committee of experts in research and education within the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council with support from the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Achieve, Inc., an education reform non-profit organization, will coordinate the effort to develop standards that integrate the elements of the framework.
DeBacker also shared that the Kansas State Department of Education had been selected by the Governor’s office to serve as the lead agency in drafting an application for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, announced in May by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Kansas is eligible to apply for up to $50 million of the full $500 million grant based on its population. The grant is intended for states that are working to provide better coordination of early learning programs, clearer learning standards and meaningful workforce development. DeBacker said even if Kansas applies for the grant and does not receive the award, the collaborative work between the early childhood agencies in the state – KSDE, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services and the Children’s Cabinet – would result in a solid plan for early learning in the state.
Also in September, Board members approved continuing a contract with the New Teacher Center, a national organization working to improve student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders. The contract will extend for a second year a program that trains school leaders to serve as mentors to new school administrators and provides an effective induction program for new school administrators. State regulations require school districts to provide novice school leaders with induction programs.
The leader mentor program is being piloted with nine Kansas school districts and a total of 35 mentors are receiving training.
Board members also extended for an additional year a contract with the Kansas Career Pipeline to provide online career exploration and assessment tools for Kansas students. The contract, for $100,000 that will be paid through federal Carl Perkins funds, will help cover the cost of the Kuder assessment tools used on the Kansas Career Pipeline website, as well as the site management fee for Kuder. Additional monies will come from the Kansas Board of Regents and the Department of Commerce. Board members learned that a committee with representation from KSDE, the Kansas Department of Commerce and the Kansas Board of Regents is working to find a more cost-effective manner of providing the services available through Kansas Career Pipeline. The committee is working to integrate three existing websites, KANSASWORKS, Kansas Career Pipeline and CareerZoom, to provide services to secondary and post-secondary students related to career interest measurement, work skills and value measurement and educational strategies.
The committee is now working to evaluate a number of free tools and services available from the U.S. Department of Labor and other websites. At the same time, the committee is surveying users to determine what services they most want and need. The committee’s timeline calls for launching a new, self-sustaining website by August 2012.
Also in September, Board members received information about the status of physical education and physical activity in Kansas schools. In Kansas, it is required that physical education be offered in elementary schools, but there is no requirement as to the number of minutes, days or weeks it must be offered. There is no requirement for physical education in middle school and in high schools students must have one credit of physical education in order to graduate. That credit may include health and human sexuality.
One of the programs being offered in Kansas to assist in achieving physical fitness goals is the K-FIT program (Kansas Fitness Information Tracking). K-FIT is a three-year project funded by the Kansas Health Foundation that will provide Fitnessgram, an online fitness assessment tool, and training on its use to approximately 900 physical education teachers in Kansas. Fitnessgram will allow the teachers to conduct fitness testing, including aerobic capacity, flexibiltily and upper body strength, on students in grades five, seven and nine and to share those results with KSDE. So far, 250 teachers have been trained on Fitnessgram and are awaiting final programming to allow the system to go live. Once the program is live, Kansas will be the first state able to link individual fitness data and academic indicators.
With regard to physical activity, Kansas has implemented the Let’s Move In Schools program, a collaborative program between the Kansas Health Foundation; KSDE; the Kansas Department of Health and Environment; the Kansas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; and the National Association for Sports and Physical Education. The two-year initiative will train up to 200 physical education teachers and university faculty to become directors of physical activity. The directors will establish practices to help ensure students get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Seventy-five teachers have already been trained and 125 more are expected to be trained next summer.
Board members also had an opportunity to hear from the state’s national finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. Angie McCune is an elementary math teacher at West Elementary School in Wamego and Claire Overstake is an elementary science teacher at Stucky Middle School in Wichita. The teachers shared with Board members their experiences as national finalists and also some of the strategies they use in their classrooms for teaching math and science.
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for October11 and 12 in Topeka.