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State Board approves at-risk recommendations, adopts literacy practices statement, hears AI presentation and more at February meeting

State Board approves at-risk recommendations, adopts literacy practices statement, hears AI presentation and more at February meeting

The Kansas State Board of Education at its February meeting approved recommending to the legislature that the five-year research requirement within the current definition of evidence-based instruction be removed from K.S.A. 72-5153.

At-risk recommendations

Deputy Commissioner Dr. Ben Proctor shared with board members that current statute defines “evidence-based instruction” as being based on peer-reviewed research conducted over a five-year period. Based on this definition, only nine of the 165 programs currently on the state’s list of approved at-risk programs would meet this five-year requirement. Most evidence-based programs and practices are backed by research conducted over a one-to-two-year period.

Proctor emphasized that a program not on the list of approved Evidence-Based Programs and Practices is not an indication that it isn’t an effective program or practice. It simply means there is no peer-reviewed research available to comply with the law. 

The State Board voted unanimously to approve an updated Evidence-Based Programs and Practices list that includes 72 programs and 78 practices that have peer-reviewed evidence to support at-risk students and may be used to provide students with additional educational opportunities, interventions, and services above and beyond regular education services.

The statute also allows the use of at-risk funding for provisional at-risk educational programs, which are defined as evidence-based at-risk programs or services identified or developed by a school district as producing or likely to produce measurable success that has been submitted to the State Board for review.

Provisional At-Risk Program Application Process

  • KSDE will provide school districts with an application process to submit programs and practices that are not currently on the approved evidence-based practices list but meet the statutory definition for a provisional at-risk educational program.
  • The application includes district evidence that the program or practice is producing or is likely to produce measurable success and which above and beyond category the provisional at-risk program meets.
  • Additionally, KSDE staff recommends the State Board to consider requiring peer-reviewed evidence for any at-risk or provisional at-risk program to be put on the evidence-based list.

Proctor reminded the board that the list of approved at-risk programs isn’t static. KSDE will provide an application to providers of evidence-based programs and practices to submit peer-reviewed evidence for consideration to be added to the evidence-based list.  Applications will be considered if the program or practice meets the statutory requirements of an evidence-based practice, including peer-reviewed evidence, making it eligible for the utilization of at-risk funds for a school district.


Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson reviewed with the board a five-page document outlining all the work the board has done over the past four years to create and sustain strong literacy practices in Kansas based on the Science of Reading.

This has included:

  • Updating educator preparation program standards to ensure alignment with the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and the International Literacy Association standards.
  • Requiring educator preparation providers to submit updated assurances identifying where Science of Reading concepts are taught in literacy-aligned programs.
  • Requiring five Science of Reading criteria to be part of regularly scheduled program reviews for early childhood, elementary and special education license and endorsement areas.
  • Funding the training of all EEP faculty and early childhood, elementary and special education teachers in the Science of Reading through the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS©) program.  

In articulation of its commitment to strong literacy practices in Kansas schools, the State Board adopted the following statement:

The Kansas State Board of Education requires all accredited schools in Kansas to use evidence-based methodology fully aligned with the Science of Reading, specifically Structured Literacy, to provide literacy instruction for students. The Kansas State Board of Education prohibits the use of practices and pedagogy identified in research to be counterproductive to reading acquisition. In addition, the State Board recommends literacy-specific universal screening measures and diagnostic, formative and summative assessments to be utilized by accredited schools and school districts. 

Commissioner Watson also shared that over the next few months, he will be asking the board to approve the following:

  • Expand funding for LETRS Training into 2026.
  • Expand assessment options at the classroom, school and district level.
  • Expand leadership training for administrators and staff.
  • Expect all Kansas teachers in preschool, elementary and special education to demonstrate knowledge of the Science of Reading.
  • Expect ALL Kansas administrators and instructional coaches in preschool, elementary and SPED to demonstrate knowledge of the Science of Reading.
  • Expect ALL Kansas reading specialists to demonstrate knowledge of the Science of Reading. This would include meeting one of the following:
    • Show successful completion of all modules of LETRS training.
    • Pass the new ETS reading exam.
    • (Both options would be paid for with ESSER funds approved by the State Board of Education.)
  • Other options as determined by the State Board of Education.

Four-day school week

Commissioner Watson shared with the board the research KSDE has conducted regarding four-day school weeks. This is a topic that is starting to surface in each board member’s district.

Since 2011, 93 Kansas school buildings have used a four-day schedule at some point. Some returned to a five-day schedule, some have gone back and forth. The current count of four-day school buildings for 2024 is 77. Originally, districts went to four-day weeks to save money. Today, districts are using a four-day week as a teacher recruitment tool.

KSDE researchers analyzed the 2022-2023 school year population of 54 buildings using a four-day school week and 1,335 buildings using a five-day school week to compare the means between the two groups and identify any significant differences that exist. Schools represented public and private elementary, middle, junior high and high schools. The schools must have had students enrolled and have state assessment data for that school year.

Researchers found there is a significantly higher proportion of high school buildings using a 4-day week schedule (46.3%) than a 5-day schedule (27%). Additionally, 92.6% of the building using a four-day week had enrollments of less than 158 students and none with enrollments of 440 students or more. Eighty-seven percent of four-day buildings are classified as “rural remote.”

On average, the daily instruction time of four-day buildings is significantly longer (46 minutes) than that of five-day buildings. However, the weekly instruction time of four-day buildings (1810 minutes) is significantly shorter than that of five-day buildings (2031 minutes).

Key findings:

  • On average, rural four-day buildings have significantly more novice teachers and teachers with fewer years of experience overall.
  • In general, rural five-day schools are performing academically better than four-day schools in all four performance areas on state assessments though the difference is not statistically significant.
  • Rural five-day schools are performing significantly better than four-day schools in English, Math and Science subject areas and the composite on the ACT.
  • The mechanisms on how school schedules interact with school performance remain unclear. Other factors should be considered and explored to truly understand why we see performance differences between these two groups.

ESEA Distinguished Schools

Roxanne Zillinger, education program consultant for the KSDE Special Education and Title Services team introduced representatives from the two 2023 ESEA Distinguished Kansas Schools. These schools were honored earlier in February at a ceremony in Portland, Oregon during the National ESEA Conference.

The National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program publicly recognizes qualifying federally funded schools for positive educational advances and the outstanding academic achievement of their students.

Distinguished schools are selected by the state education agency for recognition in one of the following categories:

  • Category 1: Exceptional student performance and academic growth for two or more consecutive years.
  • Category 2: Closing the achievement gap between students.
  • Category 3: Excellence in serving special populations of students.

Valley Heights Elementary School was recognized in category 1 – exceptional student performance and academic growth for two or more consecutive years.

The school is located in Blue Rapids. Titus Staples is the building principal, and Sean Spoonts is the superintendent of Valley Heights USD 498. The school was selected as an ESEA Distinguished School in 2017, too. However, it was recognized in category 2.

Staples credits his school’s success to the relationships his staff have created with students and families, and the hard work of their educators.

The district is committed to using the Kansans Can Star Recognition Program to help them get to the next level of achievement.

Wheatland Elementary School was recognized in category 2 – closing the achievement gap between student groups for two or more consecutive years.

Wheatland Elementary is located in Valley Center. Rachel McClaran is the building principal, and Greg Lehr is the superintendent of Valley Center USD 262.

School representative shared with the board that teachers work collaboratively to reach their school goal; using data to drive decisions. Now that they have improved their math scores, they plan to focus on improving reading scores.

Student showcases

The State Board had the opportunity to hear from Maria Cibrian Vazquez of the Uniontown FFA Chapter, who was the winner of the first ever FFA Invitational Spanish Creed Speaking Contest held during the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis on November 1, 2023.

Contestants were required to deliver the entire five-paragraph creed in Spanish to a panel of judges without missing a word. After the recitation, the judges asked contestants questions and judged them on the quality of their responses. Cibrian Vazquez passed out copies of the creed to board members so they could follow along as she flawlessly delivered the creed in Spanish.

The State Board also heard from a group of Valley Falls High School students, Valley Falls Unified School District (USD) 338, and their FACS teacher Ms. Margo Ellerman, who were one of two winning teams of the KSDE Child Nutrition and Wellness Recipe Challenge.

Students were challenged to develop recipes using Kansas-grown products that not only tasted good but met all nutritional requirements for school meals. The winning recipes were submitted to the USDA for final review and will be posted to the Institute of Child Nutrition Child Nutrition Recipe Box.    

The Valley Falls team created recipes for Kansas Granola that features oats and popped wheat berries and for their Berry Delicious Applesauce featuring Aronia berries.

Students from West Elk USD 282 were also winners of the Recipe Challenge for their Poppa Chocky Muffins and Pumpkin Bars both featuring Sorghum flour.

Child Nutrition Management Certificate

KSDE Child Nutrition and Wellness Director Kelly Chanay recognized six food service professionals who recently earned their Kansas Certificate in Child Nutrition Management. This program is sponsored by KSDE and approved by the Kansas State Board of Education. Each recipient completed 120 hours of KSDE Child Nutrition and Wellness-approved management classes.

Kansas Certificate in Child Nutrition Management

  • Lisa Morris, food service director, Halstead USD 440
  • Glenda Johnston nutrition services director, Spring Hill USD 230
  • Kathy Schultz, food service director, Dodge City USD 443
  • Nancy Horton, food service director, Easton USD 449
  • Cathy McAfee, food service manager, Wamego USD 320
  • Heather McPherson, food service director, Cheylin USD 103

Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Program

Shane Carter, KSDE director of Teacher Licensure, shared that the Kansas Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Program is now open statewide. Applications will be accepted through June 1, 2024, for the fall 2024 cohort.

This program provides a grow-your-own teacher recruitment strategy allowing districts to target non-bachelor’s degree holding staff, recent high school graduates, or community members to become teachers in their district.

This four-year, competency-based apprenticeship enables district-identified individuals to pursue a bachelor’s degree in education from an accredited college or university, while working full-time in a classroom as a paid apprentice. Individuals who successfully complete this program will receive a Kansas Initial Teaching License.

Elementary Pre-K-6 teacher preparation standards

The State Board approved revisions to the Elementary Pre-K-6 Teacher Preparation Standards that were presented at the January meeting.

Education preparation providers use program standards to develop preparation programs and then submit those programs to KSDE and the State Board for review and approval. The standards also help to establish professional learning requirements for licensure renewal. 

A standards revision committee, made up of Pre-K-12 and higher education representatives, was charged with increasing attention to literacy and ensuring the elementary preparation standards encompass the full scope of the Pre-K-6 license.

Changes made to the 2017 standards include:

  • Increased emphasis on Pre-K.
  • Increased emphasis on literacy.
  • Updated language.
  • The 2017 standards included seven standards. The new standards include eight standards.
  • The 2017 standards had one ELA standard; the new standards split the ELA into three Literacy Standards.
  • The 2017 standards had a standard for the Arts (i.e. Music, Art, Theatre) and a standard for Health and Physical Education. The new standards combine the Arts and PE standards into one comprehensive standard (Standard 8).

ESSER III change requests

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 121 ESSER III change requests, representing 34,337 students. The changes include 413 individual budgeted expenditure items totaling $34 million. Out of $768.1 million allocated for ESSER III, $758 million (98.7%) has been approved for allocation, with $9.1 million (1.2%) remaining.

KESA accreditation framework update

Deputy Commissioner Dr. Ben Proctor gave State Board of Education members an update on the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) framework, also known as KESA 2.0.

Proctor shared that a lot of work is taking place right now. The KSDE School Improvement Work Group priority projects include developing the school improvement model, developing School Improvement Day protocols and recruiting facilitators, and working with service centers and other partners.

Dr. Jay Scott, director of KSDE’s Accreditation and Design (AD) team share that his team is focused on completing KESA check-in meetings with every system. These are in-person, one-on-one meetings between each system and its assigned AD team member to discuss the system’s current state of student data and provide an understanding of the KESA 2.0 process.

Scott shared that system feedback indicates these meetings are being very well received and viewed as valuable.

Common assessment grant

The State Board approved awarding a $250,000 grant to Olathe USD 233 for the purpose of creating testing items, building a common assessment within the Kite system and conducting psychometric work.

Common assessments allow districts to measure how students are performing relative to the district’s own scope and sequence of learning. Teachers can use these results to determine if there is a need to reteach content within that specific scope and sequence.

Generative Artificial Intelligence

Dr. Glenn Kleiman, senior advisor, Stanford Accelerator for Learning, provided the board with a high-level look at generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) and its potential impact on education.

Kleiman shared that GenAI is very different from prior technologies including prior AI technologies. Whereas computers only do what they’re programmed to do, GenAI is able to learn on its own. GenAI develops its knowledge through being trained on large data sets to create neural networks of knowledge with billions of connections.

AI has advanced rapidly and will continue to do so. Kleimann pointed out that AI is at its weakest right now because it is getting stronger every minute.

Although it can often mimic human intelligence, it is very different.

  • AI is the intelligence of powerful pattern-finding and prediction-making technologies.
  • Human intelligence builds over the lifespan from innate abilities, social learning, interactions in the physical world, seeking to achieve goals, emotional engagement, schooling, broad experiences within the context of family, community and culture, and much more.
  • AI agents provide new entities that can play many roles to enhance and extend teaching and learning, but not replace teachers and other people.
  • Teachers and students need to be in control and drive interactions with AI.

The board learned about the limitations and risks of AI, including:

  • Generating biased and toxic information.
  • Making up “stuff”–hallucinate and fabricate–and lack “truthiness.”
  • Lacking transparency and “explainability.”
  • Violating privacy and security requirements.
  • Being used to generate misinformation and deep fakes.
  • Being culturally unaware and exclusionary.
  • Responding inappropriately to the social and emotional states of users.

Kleiman shared several ways that AI could actually assist teachers and ways in which it can become a risk to students if misused. He emphasized that teachers and students must remain in control and drive interactions with AI.

Ways AI can assist teachers:

  • Provide instant feedback to students.
    • Early reading
    • Writing
    • Coding
  • Provide coaching about pedagogy.
  • Help communicate with families.
  • Help support English learning students.
  • Analyze student data and prepare recommendations and reports.
  • Tutor individual students.
  • Facilitate students collaborative work.
  • Help provide new learning opportunities for students.
  • In general, provide automated teaching assistants.

Risks to students if AI is misused:

  • Increase inequities.
  • Decrease students’ engagement in learning.
  • Increase academic integrity problems.
  • Provide poor substitutes for teachers’ roles.
  • Fail to prepare students for future college, careers and communities.

Kleiman offered these concluding thoughts:

  • Don’t underestimate what AI tools can already do and what they will be able to do in the near future.
  • Don’t trust AI without addressing its risks and limitations.
  • We are just at the beginning of how AI will impact many aspects of our lives.
  • We need to figure out how to harness AI for teaching and learning and to develop students AI literacy.
  • Change is coming; keep calm and carry on while responding thoughtfully to it.
  • “Education leads. Technology needs to serve it.”

Legislative update

Deputy Commissioner Frank Harwood provided a briefing on each of the education-related bills currently being considered by House and Senate Education committees.

Approximately 500 bills have been introduced to date and KSDE is tracking 96 that are related to education.

Harwood highlighted the following bill that directly impact the State Board:

HB 2612 – Requiring school districts to be in compliance with all state laws, and rules and regulations to be accredited; and requiring the Kansas State Board of Education to establish a process to challenge determinations of such compliance.

SB 407/HB 2521– Requiring the Kansas State Board of Education to authorize teaching licenses for individuals who complete an alternative teacher certification program.

HB 2669 - Codifying the Mental Health Intervention Team (MHIT) program administered by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) in state statute.

SB 501/HB 2785 Transferring certain childcare programs to the Kansas office of early childhood and separating licensing duties between the secretary for health and environment and the executive director of early childhood.

Bills with action in committee:

House sub for HB 2494 – Removed school security plans, moves oversite of cardiac plans to KDHE.

Passed favorably out of committee.


SB 386 – Removed requirement for districts that close a building, moves to current or prior year enrollment.

Passed favorably out of committee.


SB 387 – Added transportation for open enrollment students may be required under applicable law.

Passed favorably out of committee.


Harwood also shared the most recent updates to the bills addressing at-risk and special education funding.


Professional Practices Commission Regulations

State Board member received proposed amendments to the Professional Practices Commission (PPC) regulations.

Regulations being amended include:

91-22-1a  Grounds for Denial

91-22-1b  Grounds for Censure, Suspension, and Revocation

91-22-2    Commission Procedure

91-22-5a  Complaints

91-22-9    Answers

91-22-22  Hearing Procedure

91-22-25  Decision and Review by State Board

KSDE General Counsel Scott Gordon reminded board members that they will conduct a public hearing on the proposed amendments during their meeting on March 12 and will vote on Wed. March 13 whether to approve the amendments.

Special Education Advisory Council

Marvin Miller, chair of the Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC), presented the group’s 2022-2023 annual report.

SEAC is a federally mandated component of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and works to ensure that the state of Kansas is engaging stakeholders on topics related to serving students with exceptionalities.

2022-2023 SEAC accomplishments:

  • Reviewed stakeholder feedback on each of the SPP/APR results indicators.
  • Reviewed data for the 2021 SPP/APR submitted to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).
  • Collaborated with the KSDE Teacher Licensure team to explore remedies that address the shortage of special education teachers, substitute teachers, and related services providers and administrators.
  • Provided feedback to the KSDE Teacher Licensure team on concerns related to licensing, including the need for preparation programs specific to low incidence licensing.
  • Reviewed data trends for Early Childhood Indicator 6 related to serving preschool students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.
  • Discussed legislative bills that could impact the provision of special education services and supports to students with exceptionalities.
  • Received an update from the KSDE General Counsel on the amended Emergency Safety Intervention statute.
  • Participated in the Graduation Taskforce recommendations for changes in the graduation requirements for all students, including students with exceptionalities which was adopted by the KSBE and begins with the class of 2028.
  • Received updates on the federal stimulus funds (CARES, CRSSA, and ARP).
  • Received an overview of the upcoming Differentiated Monitoring System that Kansas will receive during the 2023-2024 school year with an onsite visit from OSEP planned for September 2024.
  • Added Ex-Officio membership to the State School for the Blind/Visually Impaired and the State School for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing.
  • Received an update on the Alternate Assessments specific to the 1% state cap including the plan for an EL Alternate Assessment that will begin in the 2023-2024 school year.
  • Received a report on the KSDE-SETS Team monitoring for Correctional Facilities and Jails for students with disabilities that meet the school age requirements.
  • Approved the updates to the Visually Impaired Fact Sheet which contained acuity levels that were restrictive, with the adoption of language that meets the KSDE Eligibility Indicator document which reported appropriate eligibility language.
  • Received information on how KSDE calculates Maintenance of Effort for local agencies.
  • Received a report from the Career Technical Education (CTE) program lead on how the required Individual Program of Study aligns with the Transition requirements for the Course of Study, while encouraging students with exceptionalities to enroll in CTE programs.
  • Celebrated the State of Kansas receiving a “Meets Requirements” for the 2021 SPP/APR.

The State Board will meet next on March 12-13 in the Board Room at the Landon State Office Building, 900 S.W. Jackson, Suite 102, in Topeka.

Posted: Feb 15, 2024,
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