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March Kansas State Board of Education highlights: Kindergarten readiness discussed

Posted: Mar 22, 2017
Categories: KSDE
Author: Ann Bush

Early learning programs in Kansas play an important role in making sure children are ready for kindergarten, said Tammy Mitchell, assistant director of the Kansas State Department of Education’s (KSDE) Early Childhood, Special Education and Title Services team.

Kindergarten readiness is one of the five outcomes that will help measure success of the board’s vision, which is Kansas leads the world in the success of each student.

Mitchell, as well as members of a Kindergarten Readiness Workgroup and KSDE, on Wednesday, March 15, updated Kansas State Board of Education members about kindergarten readiness.

A Kindergarten Readiness Group, comprised of teachers, administrators, KSDE staff members and representatives from higher education, was formed to study kindergarten readiness. It developed these key ideas about kindergarten readiness:

  • Measuring kindergarten readiness provides a snapshot of where children are upon entry to kindergarten.
  • Kindergarten readiness snapshot will include communication (language and literacy), problem solving, motor and social emotional areas of development.
  • Families and caregivers will be engaged in gathering information about their child’s development and early childhood experiences prior to kindergarten.

During the discussion about the snapshot that can help determine a student’s readiness for kindergarten, Mitchell was joined by Monica Murnan, director of student support services for Greenbush Educational Service Center; Shawna Jones, kindergarten teacher at Canton-Galva USD 419; Sandy Rempel, kindergarten teacher at Buhler USD 313; Penny Stoss, assistant superintendent for Nickerson/South Hutchinson USD 309; and Amy Blosser, early childhood director for the Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund.

A kindergarten readiness snapshot is a hinge, not a gate, Murnan said. It swings back to inform about prior experiences and swings forward to inform about effective classroom practices. The snapshot informs communities regarding early childhood opportunities, but it isn’t a tool to keep 5-year-old children out of kindergarten.

Blosser gave an update on the Ages and Stages Questionnaires snapshot pilot. She said questionnaires aren’t a test. Instead, they look at developmental milestones; provide a snapshot; are brief to administer; are largely observational in nature; and include parental input.

The two Ages and Stages Questionnaires used in the pilot were ASQ:3, which looks at communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal-social. The other questionnaire was ASQ: SE2, which looks at these skills: social-emotional, regulate emotions and interaction with others.

Thirty-seven districts took part in the pilot. There were 189 teachers in 62 school involved, and 2,222 questionnaires were completed.

Teachers were asked to complete a survey about the pilot. Overall, teachers felt items focused on key kindergarten skills; items were clear and easy to understand; training was essential; and data is useful in the classroom.

Challenges that were noted from the survey included:

  • Engaging parents and trusting their contributions.
  • Online tech setup and system timing out.
  • Feasibility and time.
  • Knowing how to use and share the data and supporting learning activities.

Representatives from Canton-Galva USD 419, Buhler USD 313 and USD 309 Nickerson/South Hutchinson shared their experiences about the pilot.

The group said consistent statewide data is needed for decision making.

Mitchell shared the implementation timeline:

  • Spring 2017: Present recommendation to the State Board of Education; KSDE engages in Request for Proposal (RFP) process; a vendor is selected; and contract negotiations would take place.
  • Summer 2017: Materials ordered and shipped to every elementary school in Kansas; training of trainers begins.
  • Fall 2017: Phase 1 training for kindergarten teachers.
  • Spring 2018: Phase 2 training for kindergarten teachers.
  • Fall 2018: Data collection for about 37,000 children upon kindergarten entry.

Mitchell talked to the board about the next steps in kindergarten readiness. Early learning programs are crucial, she said. At-risk children who don’t participate in high-quality early learning programs are 50 percent more likely to be placed in special education; 25 percent more likely to drop out of school; 60 percent more likely to never attend college; 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime; and 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent, according to 2016 Kids Count Data.

Mitchell invited board members to Early Learning Roadshows, which are sessions on early learning that are taking place across the state in March and April.

During his Tuesday morning report, Kansas Commissioner of Education Randy Watson presented information on the Class of 2010 postsecondary enrollment and progress and the state of Kansas' postsecondary progress. The five-year graduation rate is 84 percent, and the five-year success rate is 54.5 percent. The five-year effective rate is 45.6 percent.

The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate is the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma divided by the number of students who entered high school as ninth graders four years earlier (adjusting for transfers in and out).

The success rate is the sum of the percentage of students who enrolled in postsecondary in both the first and second year following high school graduation plus the percentage of students who graduated from postsecondary.

The effective rate is the calculated graduation rate multiplied by the calculated success rate.

In order to meet Kansas’ workforce education demand, Watson reminded the board that the five-year success rate needs to increase to 70 to 75 percent.

Scott Myers, director of KSDE's Teacher Licensure and Accreditation team, and KSDE's Catherine Chmidling presented the Kansas educator preparation program standards for chemistry (6-12), physics (6-12) and foreign language arts (preK-12) for board action, and the board approved the new standards.

Jack Lynch, state engagement manager for EducationSuperHighway, gave an update on the Kansas Connect and Learn Initiative. Ninety-six percent of school districts in Kansas have or are planning to implement within one year a one-to-one program or a “bring-your-own-device” program.

Lynch said at least 81 campuses out of 1,117 across the state aren’t connected to fiber, which limits their ability to support digital learning. Districts without fiber are spread across the state. Ninety-three percent of campuses without fiber are rural or small towns, Lynch said.

EducationSuperHighway is currently meeting with service providers to discuss fiber upgrade plans, Lynch said. The organization will use transparency to improve affordability. It will consult with districts that overpay to find better solutions. In the future, the organization will conduct a detailed Wi-Fi survey to determine upgrade needs, and it will provide resources to districts needing support.

After the presentation by EducationSuperHighway, board member Kathy Busch was selected to represent the board on the Kansas State High School Activities Association board of directors.

During Tuesday’s afternoon session, representatives from the Kansas Association of Health Physical Education Recreation and Dance shared information on the connection between physical activity and enhanced student learning.

Next, Myers gave an update on the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA). KESA accredits districts as opposed to schools, and it is a five-year cycle, Myers said. The beginning of the fourth quarter of the KESA rollout plan will begin soon.

Each district will build their own Outside Visitation Team (OVT), which will work with the district in a coaching capacity, Myers said. Training for the Outside Visitation Team (previously called the Outside Validation Team) started in March. There have been more than 800 registrants.

All districts will begin KESA in July. The OVT visit will occur in the spring of 2018, and districts will then submit their KESA initial report by the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

There will be three levels of accreditation: accredited, conditionally accredited and not accredited. Levels of status will be recommend by an Accreditation Review Council (ARC).

Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander talked to the board about accreditation of schools for the 2017-2018 school year. All schools that are currently accredited by the State Board of Education will retain that status until it is superseded by KESA or unless that status is changed by official action of the board. Neuenswander asked that the board accredit all schools until each district begins KESA.

The board approved the motion.

Dr. Laurie Curtis, co-chair of the Teacher Vacancy and Supply Committee, gave an update, and she shared mentoring recommendations from the committee.

The committee recommended the State Board authorize implementation of the proposed mentoring guidelines and requirements for new teachers as presented as a pilot program for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years.

The board approved the mentoring guidelines.

The board approved Jean Rush, a superintendent at Humboldt, as a member to the Licensure Review Committee as a representative of Chief School Administrators. The term of office would be partial and run March 14, 2017, through June 30, 2017, and then a full three-year term from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2020.

KSDE’s Kent Reed and Cherie Blanchat, from Kansas Technical Assistance Network, discussed House Bill 2048 (Erin’s Law) and trauma-informed care in schools and what KSDE is doing to address it.

Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis gave board members an update on legislative matters.

The next State Board of Education meeting will take place April 18 in Topeka. The board will travel to the Kansas State School for the Deaf and Kansas State School for the Blind on April 19.

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