Highlights of the September State Board of Education meeting
Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
State Board of Education members received data at their meeting in September from the 2011-2012 state assessments showing the first overall decline in student performance since No Child Left Behind was implemented in 2001.
The declines were experienced in all of the content areas tested in the last school year, including reading, math, science and history/government. While the declines among the all student groups in reading and math were relatively small – under two percentage points – Brad Neuenswander, Deputy Commissioner for Learning Services at the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), explained to Board members that the greatest declines in performance were among subgroups such as students qualifying for free lunches, African American students, Hispanic students and English language learners.
Board members were interested in knowing what may have contributed to the declines, but Neuenswander said it was still too early to determine that with certainty. Neuenswander said the data was still new and KSDE had not het had time to review it thoroughly to identify what factors may be contributing to the declines. The declines seen among free lunch students, African American students and Hispanic students were significant enough that Commissioner Diane DeBacker announced she would form a commission to look into what might be impacting performance among those groups.
Just more than one week after the Board meeting, KSDE staff found that some of the steepest declines seen in the initial results were due to three school districts that had used ACT assessments in eighth grade and in high school in place of the state-administered assessments. Revised reports still showed a decline in performance among free lunch students, as well as African American and Hispanic students, although not as deep as originally reported. Commissioner DeBacker indicated she still intended to move forward in forming the task force to look at what might be adding to the state’s achievement gap.
In other business, the Board voted to waive for one year a requirement in the Quality Performance Accreditation (QPA) system that would have required some schools to submit a plan of improvement based on their 2012 QPA results. Because the state will be implementing a new accountability system in the 2012-2013 school year, AYP will no longer be calculated following the 2011-2012 school year. Based on that, it is anticipated that the AYP requirements in the school accreditation program will also change, which led the Kansas State Department of Education to recommend that the Board waive the requirement to submit an improvement plan based on 2012 AYP results.
Board members also approved a QPA waiver for the Kansas City Kansas School District. The waiver exempts the school district from having to administer state assessments in science for the 2011-2012 school year. In the last school year, the school district had sought a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education from using the state assessments as the accountability measure for No Child Left Behind. Instead, the district wanted to use the ACT exam in high school, the ACT EXPLORE in grade eight and the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exams for grades three through seven. The U.S. Department of Education ultimately granted the waiver for grade 8 and in high school, but did not allow the district to use the MAP exams in place of state assessments in grades three through seven. Because the notification from the Department of Education came very late in the school year, the district had already administered the MAP exams, but not state assessments to students. KSDE extended the testing window by two weeks and the district was able to administer reading and math assessments to students in grades three through eight, but was not able to administer the science assessments within the extended testing window.
While MAP does provide correlations between scores on their assessment and state assessment performance levels, Commissioner DeBacker said protocol for the state’s accountability system requires data that is verified through the assessment vendor. MAP is not one of the state’s assessment vendors, so allowing the Kansas City School District to use the MAP science assessments in place of the state assessments will require securing the data from the vendor and having KSDE staff hand figure the data, something the agency does not have the staff to do. Also, many school districts in the state give the MAP exam to students as a formative assessment. If the state were to allow the Kansas City School District to use their MAP results for accountability purposes, it would set a precedent for other districts that might then seek to use MAP in place of state assessments, as well.
If the Board did not approve the waiver for the school district, there was the potential for every school within the district to be accredited on improvement at the start of the next school year.
Also in September, Board members received an update on the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Kansas is one of the lead states in the development of the Standards based on the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education. Matt Krehbiel, education program consultant for science at KSDE, shared with Board members that the next public draft of the standards is expected to be available sometime in November. Virginia Wolken, a retired physics teacher who serves on the Kansas NGSS review committee, walked Board members through a lesson plan and what it might look like under the current standards and the new science standards. She explained that the new standards held great potential to improve learning because they would require that students learn about science by doing science instead of reading about it. Because of the focus on integrating the three dimensions of science outlined in the Framework for K-12 Science Education, the new standards would challenge teachers to advance their instructional practices in a way that incorporates the three dimensions, Krehbiel said.
In other business, the Board voted to establish a coordinating council with the Kansas Board of Regents that would be comprised of two members from the State Board, two Regents, the president of the Kansas Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education. The purpose of the coordinating council would be to identify one to three projects each year to work on collaboratively and then assign work groups to pursue. The council would work in a similar fashion to the P-20 Council appointed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Its purpose would be to ensure alignment and continuity between secondary and post-secondary education in the state.
Also in September, Board members learned about some of the state’s efforts in early childhood education. Board members heard about efforts within KSDE to collect state-level data and provide information on early childhood programs that support school readiness and early learning, as well as cross-agency work to ensure a unified and efficient approach to improving early learning. Presentations were also provided by two community early childhood programs.
The Opportunity Place (TOP) in Wichita, is a public/private partnership providing full-day, full-year programming for 3- and 4-year-olds in the Wichita area. The program shared data showing that four-year-olds exiting the TOP program show high levels of proficiency in the five early childhood indicators of Social Development, Language and Literacy, Mathematical Thinking, Social Studies and Scientific Thinking. More importantly, those students showed significant proficiency gains over eight to nine months in the program. A longitudinal study shows that TOP graduates have 75 percent fewer discipline referrals and 50 percent fewer special education placements than their non-TOP peers. The study also showed that by grade four, TOP graduates score 10 points higher on state assessments for reading and 9 points higher for mathematics than their non-TOP peers.
The Age-to-Age Preschool in Iola incorporates pre-school and kindergarten classes in the Windsor Place nursing home in the community through a partnership between the nursing home and the local school district. Separate studies of the program by Kansas State University and Wichita State University found the program has a positive impact on the environment, society, community and the morale of both students and the adults in the program. Positive cognitive effects were also demonstrated in dementia patients participating in the program. A long-term longitudinal study that will look at outcomes for students as they leave the program, and as they move into adulthood, is currently underway.
The next meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education will be Oct. 16 and 17 in Topeka.