Highlights of the April State Board of Education Meeting
Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
TOPEKA – The Kansas State Board of Education voted to move what are currently guidelines around the appropriate use of emergency safety interventions in Kansas schools to regulations and asked the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) to draft language for the regulations. The action came during the Board’s monthly meeting April 17 in Topeka.
Board members heard from a number of individuals and organizations regarding the need for statewide regulations related to the use of seclusion and restraint during the open forum portion of the Board meeting, and received recommendations from the Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC). The SEAC recommendations included adopting regulations related to emergency safety interventions, stipulating that the regulations apply to all students and not just students with disabilities, and ensuring the regulations mirror the intent of the 2011 Guidelines on Seclusion and Restraint. Included in those guidelines is terminology which describes incidents of seclusion and restraint under the umbrella of emergency safety interventions, which would reflect the guideline’s intent that seclusion and restraint be used only for emergency or safety reasons and not as a behavior modification technique.
The draft regulations are scheduled to come before the State Board in May.
In other action, the State Board approved model standards for Emotional, Social and Character Development. As model standards, the Emotional, Social and Character Development Standards are not a requirement for Kansas schools, but are in place to assist schools that would like to develop programs aimed at helping students to develop in those areas. The Kansas standards are unique in that they are the first standards in the nation to integrate social, emotional learning and character development into a single set of standards aligned with the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS).
State Board members also approved entering a contract to create a Kansas Bullying Assistance and Support Hotline. The hotline would be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide support and referral services as needed to students and parents.
Also in April, State Board members voted 6-2, with one member abstaining and one member absent, to accept the voluntary surrender of a teacher’s license for revocation. Information provided to the Kansas State Department of Education, and to State Board members, was that the teacher was voluntarily surrendering her license as a condition of an agreement reached with her employer for her resignation with early retirement benefits as a result of allegations she delayed reporting alleged abuse for two weeks. Some Board members questioned why the facts surrounding the teacher’s voluntary surrender of the license were not investigated and acted upon by the Professional Practices Commission. KSDE legal counsel explained that an investigation was not warranted given that the surrender of the license was made voluntarily and was part of a negotiated agreement in which both parties were represented by legal counsel. In addition, the teacher was given the opportunity to revoke her voluntary surrender and chose not to do so.
In other action, the State Board adopted new Professional Learning Standards. These are the 2011 standards revised by Learning Forward, which was previously known as the National Staff Development Council (NSDC). In 2008, the State Board endorsed the NSDC Standards for Staff Development. When the organization underwent the name change to Learning Forward, those standards were revised. The Board’s action in April adopts the 2011 revised standards.
Also in April, State Board members received updates on the Next Generation Science Standards, the Kansas Learning Network, the 21st Century Accreditation model and education legislation. Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker also reported on the status of the state’s request for flexibility from provisions of the No Child Left Behind legislation.
DeBacker informed Board members that KSDE was waiting to receive a letter from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) detailing concerns with the state’s waiver request. While the letter had not been received at the time of the Board meeting, DeBacker shared that a phone call with a representative from the USDOE had indicated that one of the areas of concern was related to how the state would tie student achievement to teacher evaluations. The waiver criteria requires that student achievement be a component of teacher evaluations and that guidelines related to that be in place by the end of the current school year. While the state is piloting a model teacher/leader evaluation method, it has not yet determined how student achievement will be tied to those evaluations. The state’s waiver request indicates that it will have guidelines in place by the end of the current school year that indicate student achievement will be a primary component of teacher evaluation, however the specifics of what that will look like will not be available until a later date, and the evaluation process will not be fully implemented until 2014.
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for May 8 and 9 in Topeka.