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Kansas State Board of Education April highlights: Board may consider 'out-of-box thinking' when it comes to teacher shortages

Posted: Apr 15, 2022
Author: Ann Bush

Dr. Mischel Miller, director of the Kansas State Department of Education’s Teacher Licensure and Accreditation (TLA) team, told Kansas State Board of Education members during their April meeting it may take some “out-of-the-box thinking” when it comes to teacher staffing shortages.

Miller told State Board members this Tuesday, April 12, during an update on Teacher Vacancy and Supply and discussion on the spring educator vacancy report.

KSDE’s TLA  team collects vacancy data each spring and fall from school districts. The collected data plays an important role in helping determine future needs and recommendations for licensing and recruitment/retention efforts.

Miller’s presentation included selected data from vacancy reports collected in the fall and spring of the 2021-2022 school year. Teacher vacancies across the state continue to rise, according to the reports.

The top five vacancy areas in fall 2021 and spring 2022 were special education, elementary, English language arts, math and science. There were 1,253 vacancies in those areas in fall 2021, and 1,381 in spring 2022.

Miller said a preliminary survey shows that teacher preparation programs across the state are graduating more students than there are vacancies. However, she said, she will need to delve deeper into the survey before knowing more details.

There are a few licensure options that may be considered “out of the box” that could help fill some of the vacancies, Miller said. Those include:

  • Waiving the number of days an individual can serve as a substitute. The number of days were waived for 2020-2021 and 202-2022.
  • Look at extending the Temporary Emergency Authorized License (TEAL), which allows an individual meeting certain qualifications to apply for a substitute teaching license. So far, TLA has processed 850 applications. Miller said the State Board could look at adding an online training module component created by Kansas educators.
  • Consider nonhigher education alternative route programs.
  • Adding teams of educators that leverage their distributed expertise to meet the needs of a larger group of students. For example, four teachers with varying levels of experience could work together to teach a cohort of 100 students instead of each educator teaching 25 students.

 

The Board created the Teacher Vacancy and Supply Committee (TVSC) to continue the work of a Blue Ribbon Task Force. The TVSC continues to meet regularly to work on specific issues. Teacher recruitment and retention is an ongoing initiative of the TVSC and the Professional Standards Board, Miller said.

Deb Ayers-Geist, chair of the TVSC, talked about the background of the committee. She said the TVSC became a subcommittee of the Professional Standards Board in the fall of 2016. TVSC consists of two KSDE employees, two higher education members, two district administrators, two building administrators, two teachers and two community members, Ayers-Geist said.

Since its inception, the committee has:

  • Conducted three Retention Summits.
  • Implemented Vacancy Report tracking.
  • Recommended and implemented a two-year mentoring requirement for new teachers entering the profession.
  • Developed two pilot programs to license special education and elementary education teachers. Those programs resulted in a permanent pathway for special education paraprofessionals to become licensed teachers.

 

The Accreditation Review Council (ARC) submitted its accreditation recommendation for two public systems – De Soto Unified School District 232 and Independence USD 446. ARC recommended to the State Board of Education that both public systems be accredited through the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) model. The State Board is scheduled to act on the recommended statuses in May, said Jeannette Nobo, assistant director for the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) Teacher Licensure and Accreditation (TLA) team.

This school year, 92 systems – 80 public, one state and 11 private – are scheduled for accreditation. Of these 92 systems, 37 entered the KESA process as year one. Thirty-five didn’t take a pause year, while two systems paused and then requested to be accredited with their cohorts.

All remaining systems entered as year two systems, which means if the pause wouldn’t have been available, they would have been scheduled for accreditation in 2020-2021.

Beginning in April and through the month of July, it is expected that the State Board will receive ARC recommendations for all 92 systems, Nobo said.

State Board members approved four Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) change requests and 10 ESSER III plans for use of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Doug Boline, assistant director of Special Education and Title Services (SETS), said there were four ESSER II change request plans from districts representing 2,304 students, and 32 individual budgeted expenditures totaling $866,000. There were 10 districts that submitted ESSER III plans representing 9,570 students with 253 individual budgeted expenditures totaling $10.9 million.

Students from Sabetha Elementary School, Prairie Hills USD 113, shared with State Board of Education members how they and other students from across the state helped get a bill passed to designate the sandhill plum as the state fruit.

The students learned about the legislative process, civic engagement and collaboration as they advocated for designating the sandhill plum as the state fruit. Several students shared with Board members what they learned during the process.

The bill was signed into law on Tuesday, April 12, by Gov. Laura Kelly. Dozens of students from the 30-plus schools that participated in the project attended the signing at the Statehouse.

Trish Backman with the Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) and Bert Moore, director of KSDE’s SETS team, gave a quarterly update on the work of SEAC.

SEAC’s mission is to work collaboratively to provide leadership for continuous improvement of educational systems to ensure equity and enhance learning for all students in Kansas. Board member Jim McNiece is an ex-officio member of SEAC and serves as a liaison between SEAC and the State Board.

SEAC’s purpose is to provide policy guidance to the State Board with respect to special education and related services for children with exceptionalities in the state.

Geoff Andrews, superintendent of the Salina Diocese Catholic Schools, and Dr. Nick Compagnone, also with the Salina Diocese Catholic Schools, presented on postsecondary effectiveness. The Salina Diocese Catholic Schools received a gold star for postsecondary effectiveness through the Kansans Can Star Recognition Award.

The Star Recognition Program recognizes district success in each of the outcome areas that Kansans have indicated they value in the state’s education system. Outcomes are categorized as either quantitative or qualitative measures. These outcomes serve as the roadmap for Kansas to reach its vision for education.

For the past several months, Board members have been receiving a presentation from different Star Recognition honorees.

Postsecondary success is a quantitative category that reports the percent of high school graduates who either earned an industry-recognized certification, a higher education degree or continued their education two years after graduation. The postsecondary effectiveness Star award recognizes districts that exceed the predicted effectiveness rates.

The diocese covers 26,000 square miles – from the Flint Hills to Mount Sunflower, Andrews said. There are 15 schools in 10 counties.

In order to enhance social justice awareness, the Salina Diocese has implemented the Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching – life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God’s creation.

The Salina Diocese Catholic Schools had a graduation rate of 96.8% in 2020 and graduation rate of 96.7% in 2021.

The system used Friendzy for social-emotional learning. It is an evidence-based social-emotional learning program designed to change school culture. The system also recently started using Xello for career exploration and preparation.

Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math (STREAM) is also important at the district, Andrews sad. The focus helps students in understanding different skills that can help them be successful lifelong learners. The emphasis on STREAM also has increased rigor and incentive for learning.

Silver Lake USD 372 also received a gold star for postsecondary effectiveness through the Kansans Can Star Recognition Award. Brad Womack, superintendent of Silver Lake USD 372, and Ryan Luke, principal of Silver Lake High School, shared how Silver Lake achieved gold.

The district focuses on CTE pathways and student-led businesses, such as a bank, greenhouse, print shop and more, Luke said.

USD 372 is committed to creating “big school opportunities in a small school environment,” the superintendent said. The district also builds relationships with private donors, businesses and community members and provides opportunities for students to have individuality and flexibility in scheduling. Silver Lake staff members are encouraged to think outside the box, and families have high expectations for their children.

The district, while “property poor,” is “very much a middle class,” Womack said.  The majority of students have parents who have college degrees, own a business or have high-skill or high-paying jobs.

Students in seventh through 12th grades have yearly on-campus field trips to colleges and have access opportunities to local colleges, businesses and the military, according to Womack.

The State Board accepted the recommendation of the Evaluation Review Committee for a new school counselor program at Ottawa University.

Dr. Catherine Chmidling, an education program consultant for KSDE’s TLA team, presented and answered questions about the new program.

KSDE’s Nathan McAlister, humanities program manager for KSDE’s Career, Standards and Assessment Services (CSAS) team, gave an update to the Board on history, government and social studies. He also shared updates on Kansas history, technical reporting clarifications concerning the student data category labeled “other,” and gave a report from discussions with the House Education Committee.

KSDE’s Deputy Commissioner Dr. Craig Neuenswander gave State Board members an update on legislative matters.

On Wednesday, April 13, State Board of Education members toured the Kansas State School for the Blind in Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kansas.

The State Board will meet next on May 10 in Topeka. Board members on May 11 will tour the Kansas State School for the Deaf in Kansas City, Kansas, with an optional tour of an area high school after.

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