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Kansas State Board of Education November highlights: Board members receive proposed KESA changes, Kansas Early Learning Standards

Kansas State Board of Education November highlights: Board members receive proposed KESA changes, Kansas Early Learning Standards

Kansas State Board of Education members at their November meeting received proposed changes to the current accreditation model that Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) staff members say will better connect school improvement and accreditation, allow for a rapid, personalized response to system needs, and increase accountability and support.

Dr. Jay Scott, director of the KSDE Accreditation and Design (AD) team, and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Ben Proctor presented the proposed changes during the State Board meeting, which took place Tuesday, Nov. 14, and Wednesday, Nov. 15, at the Landon State Office Building, 900 S.W. Jackson, in Topeka.

If the State Board approves the changes to the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) model, the new model would be implemented in the 2024-2025 school year, Scott said.

KSDE staff members are asking the State Board to approve four fundamentals as a basis for accreditation. The four fundamentals are:

  • Structured literacy: Ensuring most effective literacy instruction.
  • Standards alignment: Aligning classroom instruction and resources to standards.
  • Balanced assessment system: Using data to inform instruction.
  • Quality instruction: Promoting quality instruction through high expectations.


KSDE staff members also are asking the Board to approve an annual accreditation system featuring more opportunities for systems to obtain feedback on progress in the areas of accreditation from their peers, experts and KSDE. The new annual accreditation system would create a more dynamic review process that would allow for a rapid, personalized response to system needs.

In the proposed new model, the Accreditation Review Council (ARC) will retain its role of making accreditation recommendations to the State Board. However, ARC members would only review systems with persistent gaps in any of the areas of accreditation.

The State Board is scheduled to vote on the recommendations in December.

In conjunction with the proposed KESA changes, Proctor also discussed proposed contracts with two businesses that can help KSDE build capacity for school improvement.

The partnering contracts would be with The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and Hanover.

TNTP was founded in 1997 and currently works in 35 states, Proctor said. TNTP released a research project, “The Opportunity Myth,” in 2018 that articulated the importance of students accessing grade-level assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and teachers with high expectations. This led to emphasis on school systems adopting high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) to improve instructional coherence and overall student learning experiences.

With the contract, KSDE would work with TNTP to develop guidance that would assist districts with selecting HQIM to improve instruction and implement the four fundamentals. The process includes the development and delivery of a data collection tool for instructional materials in English language arts, mathematics and science.

If the State Board approves the contract, work would begin in January 2024 with in-person and virtual engagements across Kansas.

The total cost of the project would be $54,517.

KSDE’s proposed work with Hanover would be span two years, Proctor said, and would begin in January 2024. Hanover would assist and advise KSDE staff members with the development of protocols for the new KESA annual review process. Hanover would provide KSDE staff members with advisement and research briefs on the school improvement model as the agency works to operationalize the four fundamentals in Kansas school systems.

Hanover would provide KSDE staff members with the research connecting the four fundamentals and key structures that support implementation of the fundamentals. Hanover also would provide summary reports based on information KSDE collects through the KESA facilitation process. This information would help systems, KSDE and the State Board understand where gaps exist in implementing the fundamentals.

The annual cost for the Hanover contract would be $300,000, Proctor said.

State Board members received updated Kansas Early Learning Standards (KELS), which provide guidance to early childhood providers and teachers on the developmental continuum of learning for children from birth through kindergarten.

Amanda Petersen, director of KSDE’s Early Childhood team, and Natalie McClane, an education program consultant on the Early Childhood team shared the updated document. They were joined by several members of the KELS revision team, including Sheila Bertelsen, Dodge City USD 443; Amy Meek, Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund; Michelle Gilbert, Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas; and Jennifer Pishny, Kansas Child Care Training Opportunities Infant Toddler Specialist Network.

The KELS document isn’t designed to serve as a curriculum in an early childhood program or other setting, Petersen said. It also isn’t designed to exclude children from a program, school or activity, and it shouldn’t serve as an assessment of children, families or programs.

The group began its work in February 2022. This is the fourth revision of the KELS document. The standards were last updated in January 2014.

The revision process was a collaborative effort with partners across the Kansas early childhood education community, Petersen said. They are firmly grounded in research, evidence and developmentally appropriate educational practices.

The State Board is scheduled to act on the updated KELS at a future meeting. The Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund also will receive the document and take action.

State Board members had an opportunity to hear from a private system and a public system about what they are doing to address the academic needs of their students to ensure they are academically prepared for postsecondary success.

Mike McDermeit, superintendent of Haviland Unified School District 474, and Kimberly Fielding, director and founder of Honey Tree and Branches Academy in Wichita, made presentations. Both systems earned silver stars in the category of academically prepared for postsecondary through the Kansans Can Star Recognition Program.

Haviland USD 474’s two major goals for the first cycle of its KESA process were:

  • Relationships: By the spring of 2023, the district wanted to decrease the percentage of high-risk, social-emotional students to 10% or less. In fall 2023, the percentage of high-risk, social-emotional students was at 10%.
  • Relevance: Decrease the percentage of students in Levels 1 and 2 on the state assessments in social studies to less than 40%.


Haviland adopted and implemented Second Step in grades K-8 and set a goal for each student to have a minimum of three positive relationships in the building.

The district made improvements in the area of Individual Plans of Study (IPS) by making the Junior High Career Exploration Class a required class in the fall of 2022. Teachers also received training on how to use and implement Xello, and the counselor and careers class teachers worked together to create a format for each student’s IPS, including each seventh- and eighth-grade student having a digital portfolio that is a living document. Each IPS is reviewed monthly with a counselor, and the counselor and principal review each IPS at the end of a student’s eighth-grade year before the student moves on to high school.

Honey Tree Academy was founded in 2007, Fielding said. Branches Academy was founded in 2010.

The goal for Branches Academy is to have 90% of its students score at a Level 3 or above on state assessments. In 2022-2023, 68% of students scored at a Level 3 or 4 in math, and 73% scored at a Level 3 or 4 in English language arts.

Honey Tree and Branches focus on social-emotional skills by having staff members and students trained and actively utilizing Capturing Kids Hearts, Love and Logic and Conscious Discipline.

State Board members also heard from Dr. Tiffany Anderson, superintendent of Topeka USD 501, and students from the Topeka USD 501 College Prep Academy and the Topeka Center for Advanced Learning and Careers (TCALC).

The College Prep Academy provides an opportunity for scholars to graduate from the advanced program prepared to succeed in college and career options of their choice.

Students visit colleges, intern at businesses, join extracurricular activities and volunteer in the Topeka community.

Content at the academy is accelerated (one to two years above grade level) and is aligned to Kansas standards, and the academy uses project-based learning with a focus on real-world application.

College and career readiness was a strategic plan goal area of focus for Topeka USD 501 in 2017 as a result of low graduation rates at various schools, with Highland Park High School and Topeka High School having below 90% graduation rates.

The College Prep Academy opened in TCALC as a program for middle school students to help close the achievement gap and address college and career access for students.

Anderson introduced Renae Easter and Misael Hernandez, students at TCALC who participate in the Teaching as a Profession pathway.

TCALC offers nine pathways from which students can choose to focus their studies and explore career opportunities. One of the newest pathways is Teaching as a Profession. Within this pathway, students learn about human development, educational history and theories, quality teacher traits, planning and preparation, the learning environment, instruction and more.

The State Board approved recommendations of the Evaluation Review Committee (ERC) regarding educator preparation programs for Central Christian College, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Friends University, Pittsburg State University and Wichita State University.

State Board members received the ERC recommendations from Catherine Chmidling, assistant director of KSDE’s AD team, at their October meeting.

Trish Backman, a KSDE school mental health coordinator, provided State Board of Education members with an update on the School Mental Health Advisory Committee (SMHAC).

The purpose of the SMHAC is to advise the State Board of Education on unmet needs within the state in the area of school mental health. It coordinates with legislators and stakeholders to address relevant issues effectively and coordinates statewide collaborative social-emotional character development partnerships with stakeholders to best meet the needs of students, Backman said.

Some of the most recent accomplishments include:

  • 2022: Online Climate Types report tool for districts.
  • 2022: Trauma-responsive practices modules and TASN School Mental Health Initiative Professional Development and Coaching team expansion.
  • 2023: Updated mandated reporting guidelines from Kansas Children’s Service League.
  • 2023: Update to the Suicide Prevention, Intervention, Reintegration and Postvention Toolkit.


State Board of Education members approved the Accreditation Review Council’s recommendations to conditionally accredit two public systems; accredit one public system and one private system; and not accredit Urban Preparatory Academy through Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA).

West Elk USD 282 and Winfield USD 465 entered KESA in year one and paused in year four during the 2020-2021 school year, Scott said. ARC recommended these two systems be conditionally accredited.

Healy USD 468 and Lakemary Center were conditionally accredited during the 2021-2022 school year and were reviewed for redetermination in August 2023. ARC recommended these two systems be accredited.

Urban Preparatory Academy joined KESA in 2020. ARC recommended not accrediting Urban Prep.

State Board members approved the Kansas Standards for Library and Information Literacy.

KSDE’s Nathan McAlister, humanities manager on the Career, Standards and Assessment Services (CSAS) team, first presented the updated Kansas Standards for Library and Information Literacy to State Board members in September.

The previous standards, which aren’t assessed curricular standards, were known as the Kansas Curricular Content Standards for Library/Information and Technology, McAlister said in September.

This is the first review of the library standards since their adoption in 2017, McAlister said. Kansas library educators requested a review of the standards, so a Library Review Committee, comprised of volunteer library educators representing all grade levels, was created to help with the review. 

The revised standards were posted for public comment on the KSDE website for 30 days to get feedback from the public. KSDE also conducted two Zoom public comment forums to receive feedback.

The State Board heard from Matt Lindsey, president of the Kansas Independent College Association (KICA), about topics that overlap with State Board concerns.

KICA, headquartered in Topeka, develops and enhances the competitive standing of its 21-member independent, nonprofit, regionally accredited, degree-granting colleges and universities, including 18 four-year institutions, two two-year institutions and one primary graduate institution, Lindsey said.

Overlapping issues of concern include teacher preparation trends, special education, college readiness of high school graduates, and dual-credit effectiveness and affordability.

Deputy Commissioner Dr. Craig Neuenswander and State Board members discussed legislative priorities for the 2024 session.

Priorities for the 2023 session included academic efforts, health and safety issues, funding (including special education) and education policy governance.

The 2024 Kansas Legislature will begin its session on Jan. 8, 2024.

The State Board is slated to act on the 2024 legislative priorities at its December meeting, which will take place Dec. 12-13 in Topeka.

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Posted: Nov 20, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush
Tags: KSBE

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