Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
Highlights of the April State Board of Education meeting
TOPEKA – April 24, 2013 – The State Board of Education adopted new standards for History, Government and Social Studies that place an emphasis on the development of practical skills in the areas of history, government, civic, economics and geography. The action came during the Board’s monthly meeting April 16-17 in Topeka.
In presenting the standards to the State Board, Don Gifford, education program consultant for social studies at the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), explained that one of the objectives of the standards writing committee was to move beyond simple recitation of facts or memorization of discreet bits of information to developing habits of mind that encourage the application of knowledge in real-life situations.
The new standards consist of five standards that apply at varying levels of complexity at all grade levels. Those standards are: choices have consequences; individuals have rights and responsibilities; societies are shaped by beliefs, ideas and diversity; societies experience continuity and change over time; and relationships among people, places, ideas and environments are dynamic. A 36-member committee comprised of K-12 educators, including teachers, administrators and district staff, as well as post-secondary educators, policy makers and community members, worked for 20 months to develop the new standards.
The standards were approved on a 9-0 vote; Board member Kathy Busch was absent from the meeting due to illness.
Also at their April meeting, Board members had their first chance to discuss the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of voluntary, internationally benchmarked academic standards that identify science and engineering practices and content for grades K-12. Kansas was one of 26 lead states in the state-led, collaborative process to develop the NGSS.
The NGSS are built upon the vision for science education outlined in A Framework for K-12 Science Education, developed by the National Research Council. The standards differ from current state standards by blending core science knowledge with scientific practices and cross cutting concepts, which aligns with what research has shown are the most effective practices in teaching science. State Board members have received monthly updates on the standards development since the effort began in September 2011. The final standards were released publicly April 9. As a lead state partner in the NGSS effort, Kansas agreed to give serious consideration to adopting the standards as presented.
The presentation to the State Board reviewed the process to develop the standards, which was coordinated by the National Research Council (the staffing arm of the National Academy of Sciences) and managed by the non-profit, education reform organization Achieve. A 60-member Kansas Review Committee comprised of representatives from elementary, middle and high school educators, post-secondary science and science education professors, the Kansas State Board of Education and business and industry has been meeting for the past 18 months to review drafts of the standards and provide feedback and guidance to the standards writing committee. The Kansas Review Committee is expected to bring a recommendation to the Board on whether to adopt the standards in May.
Board members received a number of updates during the April meeting, including one on the work of the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), a group of 25 states and territories working to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core Standards for English language arts and mathematics. Kansas is one of the governing states for the consortium and Education Commissioner Dr. Diane DeBacker reported to the Board on a recent meeting of the SBAC governing states. During the meeting, the group agreed upon one level of achievement descriptors that would be used for standard setting. Additional achievement level descriptors will be developed for reporting results from the assessment. The group also agreed to have the SBAC executive director begin conversations with the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing (CRESST) at the University of California, Los Angeles, to house the work of SBAC once the federal grant that is facilitating the work of the consortium expires in 2014.
State Board members are expected to vote later this year on whether to use the SBAC assessments for English language arts and mathematics in Kansas, or whether to pursue a different option to assess students’ progress against the Kanas College and Career Ready Standards.
Board members also received an update on the work of the Teaching in Kansas Commission II (TIKC II). The commission was formed to develop the criteria that would tie student performance to teacher and principal evaluations, as required in the criteria to receive an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver. Kansas’ waiver application was conditionally approved in July 2012, contingent upon building student growth into teacher and principal evaluation systems in the state.
Scott Myers, director of Teacher Licensure and Accreditation at KSDE, told Board members that the TIKC II group met several times and examined other states’ approaches to connecting student growth to educator evaluations and eventually recommended that KSDE engage with local schools and districts to determine which measures could best be used to demonstrate student growth. A series of local forums were conducted to allow educators and other interested individuals to discuss what assessments and other measures might be appropriate for determining student growth for the purpose of teacher and principal evaluation. Following the forums, KSDE worked with the Regional Education Lab to review the various measures suggested during the forums and determine which offered both reliability and validity in measuring student growth. The TIKC II group is now reviewing the work of the Regional Education Lab and considering additional sources of evidence. The group is expected to make a recommendation to the State Board in May, in time to meet the June deadline for submitting the Kansas plan to the U.S. Department of Education.
Another update provided during the April meeting was on the Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) that are part of the state’s new accountability system. The new accountability system is part of the state’s ESEA waiver and it does away with the old Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures. Board members received an explanation for each of the four AMOs related to assessment results that are part of the new system. The assessment AMOs are based on achievement on reading and math assessments, student growth on assessments, closing the performance gap between a school’s lowest performing 30 percent of students as compared to a state benchmark, and reducing the number of students who are non-proficient on state reading and math assessments. Under the new accountability system, each school is assigned a unique AMO on each of the four measures, based on existing student performance on the measure. Most Kansas schools will only need to meet one of the assessment AMOs, as well as AMOs related to participation rate on state reading and math assessments and graduation rate, in order to be considered making progress.
State Board members also had an opportunity to learn about early childhood initiatives in the state. Gayle Stuber, early childhood coordinator with KSDE, shared with Board members the definition for early childhood in Kansas, which is birth through grade 3, and noted that it is inclusive of all programs that serve families and children from prenatal through grade 3. Stuber said KSDE is not the only agency in Kansas overseeing early childhood efforts so it is important for KSDE to work collaboratively with other agencies and organizations. Among the programs Stuber reviewed with the Board were the Parents As Teachers Program, the State Pre-Kindergarten Program, the Kansas Preschool Program and the federal IDEA program that provides education and services for preschool students with disabilities.
Stuber said that in recent years KSDE had collaborated with its partners in early childhood education to develop and implement a school readiness study, to develop early learning standards for the state, to develop and implement a school readiness data collection and a school readiness framework. The State Board has adopted as one of its strategic goals promoting and encouraging best practices for early childhood programs. The presentation in April was meant to give Board members a sense for where early childhood efforts were at in the state and where attention or efforts may be needed to promote high quality early learning experiences.
An update on legislative matters was also before the Board in April. In addition to receiving an update on bills related to education issues, Board members also reviewed House and Senate versions of the budget.
The next meeting on the State Board of Education will be May 14 and 15 in Topeka.