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Kansas State Board of Education October highlights: Commissioner Watson gives annual report

The Kansas State Board of Education at its October meeting received the Kansas State Department of Education’s Annual Report highlighting the state’s educational successes and challenges over the past year. 

This year’s Kansas state assessment results for math are the highest since 2017, and overall, more students are scoring at proficient levels in math and English language arts than last year, Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson shared during his Annual Report on Tuesday, Oct. 10. 

Kansas also is seeing higher graduation rates overall and across all subgroups, and more students are earning college credits while in high school, Watson said. 

The State Board also heard about proposed changes to the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation model, the latest report on teacher vacancy rates and updates from the Kansas State Schools for the Blind and Deaf and the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) during their October meeting Oct. 10-11 in Topeka. 

Shane Carter, director of KSDE’s Teacher Licensure team, shared the fall vacancy report with State Board members. The data includes the fall 2022 and spring and fall 2023 collections. The fall 2023 collection includes data from Aug. 1-Sept. 25. 

The top five vacancies were the same in all three collections. However, for the first time since KSDE began collecting this data, elementary vacancies outnumbered special education vacancies. Elementary had the largest increase of vacancies (60%) from spring 2023 (289) to fall 2023 (462). Special education only saw a 7% increase – from 377 in spring 2023 to 404 in fall 2023. 

In fall 2022, the top five vacancies and the number of vacancies (in order) were: 

  • Special education: 385 
  • Elementary: 329 
  • English language arts: 93 
  • Math: 85 
  • Science, 95 
  • Total: 1,650 

In fall 2023, the top five vacancies and the number of vacancies (in order) were: 

  • Elementary: 462 
  • Special education: 404 
  • Math: 112 
  • ELA: 98 
  • Science: 92 
  • Total: 1,810 

Carter also presented on the progress the Professional Standards Board has made in finalizing the content appeal process for teacher candidates who have failed to pass the Praxis content exam at least twice. The Professional Standards Board met on Sept. 29 to finalize the scoring rubric and appeal process approved by the State Board of Education at its August 2023 meeting.  

If a teacher candidate fails to pass the Praxis content exam a minimum of two times, an alternative assessment process is being developed to verify content knowledge. The alternative assessment will utilize holistic scoring using a rubric to award points for a teacher candidate's highest score on the Praxis; their grade point average of college credit hours being completed as part of the content area; a district evaluation; and an interview conducted by the Licensure Review Committee to address the teacher candidate’s knowledge of instruction to meet content standard requirements. 

Upon completion of the interview, the Licensure Review Committee will recommend approval or denial of a license to the State Board. The State Board will make the final decision to approve or deny a license.  

The Teacher Licensure team is finalizing the instructions and application to submit a content test appeal to the licensure review committee. The intent is for the instructions and application to be available in the coming weeks.  

Board of Education members accepted recommendations from the Commissioner’s Task Force on Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and Emergency Assistance Nonpublic Schools (EANS) Distribution of Money to approve ESSER III change requests for use of federal COVID-19 relief funds.       

Doug Boline, assistant director of KSDE’s Special Education and Title Services (SETS) team, said there were 15 ESSER III change requests, representing 18,646 students. The changes include 548 individual budgeted expenditure items totaling $31.8 million. Out of $768.1 million allocated for ESSER III, $740.9 million (96.5%) has been approved for allocation, with $21 million (2.7%) remaining. 

State Board members received 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.  

KSDE’s Catherine Chmidling, assistant director of Accreditation and Design, discussed the ERC recommendations with State Board members. 

Each educator license and endorsement program must be peer-reviewed and approved by the State Board. The educator preparation program reviews take place on a seven-year cycle. All preparation programs offered by a college/university are reviewed as part of the provider’s Education Accreditation process. 

The ERC recommends an approved status through June 30, 2029, for Central Christian College’s Physical Education I, pre-K-12; and new program with stipulation status through Dec. 31, 2025, for ESU’s Elementary Unified I, K-6 (new), and Innovative Elementary, Limited Elementary Residency Program (LERP) I, pre-K-6 (new). 

The ERC also recommends: 

  • New program approved with stipulation status through Dec. 31, 2025, for FHSU’s Innovative Low Incidence Limited Residency License (LRL), A, pre-K-12, and Low Incidence A, pre-K-12 (new). 
  • Approved status through Dec. 31, 2029, for FHSU’s Art 1, pre-K-12, continuing; Building Leadership, A, pre-K-12 continuing; Chemistry 1, 6-12, continuing; District Leadership, A, pre-K-12, continuing; Driver Education, A, 9-12, continuing; Earth and Space Sciences I, 6-12, continuing; English for Speakers of Other Languages, pre-K-12, continuing; Gifted, A, pre-K-12, continuing; and Library Media Specialist, A, pre-K-12, continuing. 
  • Approved status through June 30, 2029, for Friends University’s Art I, pre-K-12, continuing; High Incidence Limited Apprentice I, pre-K-12, continuing; History, Government, Social Studies I, 6-12, continuing; Music I, pre-K-12, continuing; and Physical Education I, pre-K-12, continuing. 
  • Approved status through Dec. 31, 2025, for PSU’s Reading Specialist, A, pre-K-12 continuing, and Reading Specialist, A, pre-K-12, continuing. 
  • Approved status through Dec. 31, 2030, for PSU’s Building Leadership, A, pre-K-12, continuing; District Leadership A, pre-K-12, continuing; Early Childhood Unified I, B-K, continuing; English Language Arts, I, 5-8, continuing; ELA I, 6-12, continuing; Low Incidence, A, K-6 6-12, continuing; Music, I, pre-K-12, continuing; and Physical Education, I, pre-K-12, continuing. 
  • New program approved with stipulation through Dec. 31, 2025, for ESU’s Elementary Education Unified (ELEM UG, I, K-6, new. 
  • Approved status through Dec. 31, 2029, for ESU’s Art I, pre-k-12, continuing; Building Leadership, A, pre-K-12, continuing; Chemistry, I, 6-12, continuing; Early Childhood Unified (UG), I, birth to third grade, continuing; Earth and Space Science, I, 6-12, continuing; ESOL, pre-K-12, continuing; and Reading Specialist, A, pre-K-12, continuing. 

The Program Review Team is comprised of content experts from pre-K-12th grade and higher education. The team reviews each program’s alignment report, key assessment and data, as well as a team report. The review team then makes a recommendation for program approval to the State Board. 

The State Board is scheduled to act on the ERC recommendations at its November meeting. 

John Calvert, head school safety specialist for KSDE’s Safe and Secure Schools Unit, shared the results of a firearms safety curriculum survey. The State Board requested the firearms curriculum survey during its June 2023 meeting, and State Board members approved the survey for distribution in July 2023. 

Responses were collected from all 286 public school districts, Calvert said.  

Survey results show: 

  • There are 242 schools that don’t offer a firearms curriculum and 44 that do offer it. These include 38 Hunter’s Education in Our Schools programs and six other programs. 
  • Three districts confirmed using Hunter's Education for clubs or trap shooting. 
  • Two districts use Student Athlete Firearm Education (SAFE) for trap shooting. 
  • One district uses a school resource officer to help teach Eddie Eagle. 

State Board of Education members approved the Accreditation Review Council’s (ARC’s) recommendations to accredit one public system and one private system, and conditionally accredit one public system and one private system through Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA). These four systems entered KESA in the first year and paused in year four during the 2020-2021 school year.  

The ARC can make a recommendation of:    

  • Accredited – Evidence of student success, a quality continuous improvement process and in compliance. 
  • Conditionally accredited – Insufficient evidence of either student success or a quality process and in compliance.  
  • Not accredited – Insufficient evidence of student success and a quality process or not in compliance.  

The ARC recommended that the following systems be accredited:  

  • Galena USD 499  
  • St. John’s Lutheran Elementary  

The ARC recommended that the following systems be conditionally accredited:  

  • Central USD 462  
  • Christ the King (Kansas City)  

KSDE’s Dr. Jay Scott, director of Accreditation and Design (AD), lead the KESA discussion. 

State Board members received additional ARC recommendations this month for action at their November meeting.  

 The ARC recommends that the following systems be conditionally accredited:  

  • West Elk USD 282 
  • Winfield USD 465 

The ARC has system redetermination recommendations of accredited for the following systems:  

  • Healy USD 468 
  • Lakemary Center 

The ARC has system redetermination recommendations for maintaining conditional accreditation for:  

  • Liberal USD 480 
  • Lawrence Gardner High School 

The State Board asked for an ARC review on Marais Des Cygnes Valley USD 456. ARC recommends that the district maintain its accredited status.  

Scott and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Ben Proctor gave State Board members an update on school improvement and accreditation. 

The first version of KESA focused on the 5 Rs - relationships, relevance, responsiveness culture and results. The proposed updated KESA model focuses on four fundamentals of standards alignment, balanced assessments, structured literacy and high-quality instruction. 

In the proposed new model, an ARC review would take place when a system is not making progress in the Fundamentals, student results and/or in compliance areas. The ARC review would be for systems needing more intensive supports in those areas. 

The four fundamentals and the annual review process for accreditation will be submitted to the State Board as receive items in November. Board members also will receive a summary of feedback that KSDE staff members received from focus groups on school improvement and accreditation. 

Tim Hallacy, superintendent of Shawnee Heights USD 450, introduced Karen Brantingham, a reading Specialist from Shawnee Heights, and Linda Dishman, an instructional interventionalist at Shawnee Heights. They spoke to the State Board about the successes they have seen after taking Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS™) training.  

“These two ladies have done a tremendous job and are two of the nearly 70 teachers across our district who are being trained or finished training in the science of reading and implemented that across the district,” Hallacy said. 

The State Board in 2021 invested $15 million of ESSER funding into the early literacy initiative, which includes offering free LETRS™ training to Kansas educators. Registration is currently taking place for January 2024 training cohorts. The registration deadline is Nov. 17. For more information and to register, click here.  

The training is a two-year time commitment for teachers, Brantingham said. It is a lot of time added to a teacher’s professional responsibilities, but it is worth it, she said. While it takes time and energy, teachers can immediately adjust lesson plans to implement what they are learning.  

Brantingham and Dishman said it is the most valuable training they have ever received. 

“You guys gave the children of the state of Kansas a gift in providing this training to be available for Kansas teachers, so thank you very much,” Brantingham said. 

Deputy Commissioner Dr. Craig Neuenswander reviewed issues discussed during recent interim education committee meetings held on Oct. 2-3 and Oct. 9-10, as well as a K-12 Education Cost Study Report presented by the Legislative Post Audit on Oct. 10. 

Wednesday’s meeting started with a presentation from the 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team. 

Brian Skinner, the 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year and an interrelated special education English teacher at Newton High School, Newton USD 272, spoke about the team’s year. 

Skinner said this was his 112th presentation during his time as the 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year. The team has presented 42 times, he said. 

Other team members who presented were Jessica Gazzano, an art and publications teacher at Woodland Spring Middle School, Spring Hill USD 230; Erica Huggard, a biology, anatomy and physiology teacher at Emporia High School, Emporia USD 253; Mallory Keefe, preschool teacher at Cheney Elementary School, Cheney USD 268; Pamela Munoz, a kindergarten teacher at McCarter Elementary School, Topeka USD 501; Kendal Norberg, a fourth-grade teacher at Broadmoor Elementary School, Louisburg USD 416; and Carly Torres, a fifth-grade teacher at Wiley Elementary School, Hutchinson USD 308. Jaimie Swindler, a special education teacher and member of the team, wasn’t able to attend. 

Luanne Barron, superintendent of the Kansas School for the Deaf, gave a quarterly report to State Board members. 

The school is currently in the process of going through dual accreditation through KESA and the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD). 

Jon Harding, superintendent of the Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB), also shared his quarterly update. KSSB serves more than 800 students, and of those, 50 are enrolled on the KSSB campus. KSSB provides services to 100 school districts and 105 counties across the state. 

Bill Faflick, executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, presented the organization’s annual report of operation and reviewed highlights and challenges of the past year in activities and athletics. 

In an ongoing effort to support Kansas students and coaches, KSHSAA created Mental Health Matters, a five-part video series aimed at helping sponsors, school leaders and coaches support students who may be struggling with mental health challenges, Faflick said. 

Faflick discussed handbook rule changes for the 2023-2024 school year; updates to rules and protocols; and legislation impacting KSHSAA, including House Substitute for Senate Bill 113 (also known as Homeschool Participation) and the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act (also known as the Transgender Sports Law). 

The Kansas State Board of Education will meet next on Nov. 14-15 at the Landon State Office Building in Topeka. 

Posted: Oct 13, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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