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Kansas State Board of Education August Highlights: Gemini I districts share school redesign plans

Posted: Aug 16, 2018
Author: Ann Bush

The plans of three districts involved in the Gemini I Kansans Can School Redesign Project were approved by the Kansas State Board of Education on Wednesday, Aug. 15.

Beloit Unified School District 273, Skyline USD 438 and Ashland USD 220 presented their plans, which all shared common themes of personalized and project-based learning and social-emotional growth, with State Board of Education members during the second day of the board’s August meeting in Topeka.

“Today, Aug. 15, I know we are a better school district because we submitted that application,” said Diane House, principal of Skyline Elementary School and assistant principal of Skyline Middle and High schools.

House was referring to an application the district submitted to become a Mercury 7 district. Mercury 7 was the first phase of the Kansans Can School Redesign Project in 2017. The Kansas State Department of Education received 29 applications from districts across the state. On Aug. 8, 2017, the seven selected districts were announced.

The Mercury 7 districts’ redesign plans were presented and approved at the June 2018 State Board of Education meeting.

Skyline USD 438, as well as other districts that applied for the Mercury 7 project, were given the chance to join the Gemini I project. Skyline was excited about the opportunity, House told board members.

Skyline Elementary, Middle and High schools are all housed in the same building, so the district decided to focus on a systemwide redesign, said Becca Flowers, Skyline superintendent. The district focused on three – what they called – Promises, which are positive team culture, meaningful learning and real-world experiences.

The district is moving from a behavior-based culture to a commitment-based culture, which means educators are building commitment statements and reacting to students based on who they are, not what they do, said Kenny Eddy, a coach at Skyline.

Because Skyline USD 438 is comprised of several smaller communities, the district also is concentrating on creating more of a unified community feeling, said Steven Novotny, a music teacher at the district.

The district also is using flexible modular scheduling to allow for an individualized learning plan for each student. It also allows for more collaboration between students and staff members, students and parents, parents and staff members, and the district and community, said Morgan Ballard, a Skyline teacher.

Jamie Wetig, superintendent of Ashland USD 220, led the discussion of the district’s redesign process.

Ashland USD 220’s vision statement is: “USD 220 believes in the rigorous and innovative traditions of our past. We seek to create a school system that develops lasting partnerships between the students, their families, community members and the faculty. USD 220 will also develop opportunities for all students to explore multiple careers and training that recognize and build on each student’s strengths.”

Ashland USD 220 began a four-day school week in 2004.

Jason Endicott, principal of Ashland Elementary School, said in 2017 the district decided to focus on relationships (family engagement) and rigor, (Career and Technical Education or CTE).

Ashland USD 220 is using KansaStar to document its progress. KansaStar is a web-based tool that guides schools and districts in charting improvement and tracking effective practices using indicators.

The first KansaStar indicator focuses on relationships, and the second indicator focuses on rigor.

For the relationship indicator, Ashland High School is changing the traditional parent-teacher conference to a modified, student-led model, Endicott said. Even younger students are becoming more involved at conferences by working with their teachers to create PowerPoint presentations about their work. The district also is putting a large emphasis on parental engagement through family nights and increasing the roles of PTO and the Booster Club. High staff members created the AHS Families initiative, which is for students in seventh through 12th grades. These students will meet twice per month under the direction of a classroom teacher and use a specific curriculum to discuss various character development topics.

For the rigor indicator, the district wants to provide all students, along with their parents (family members), with supports and guidance to prepare them for college and careers (e.g., plans of study, career awareness activities, career exploration and college visits.) The district’s Career Exploration Class for juniors and seniors will be offered each semester to qualified applicants and will include three weeks of classroom curriculum that teaches the soft skills necessary for successful job seekers.

After that, students are placed in a work environment that matches their career interests. The students will attend the work study three days per week and then will reflect on their experiences for one day per week. At the end of the semester, the students will offer a presentation to guests about their experiences.

Beloit USD 273 selected these focus areas – personalized learning; project-based learning; social-emotional growth; and stakeholder immersion.

Beloit Elementary School is implementing a Keys to Success plan that will allow teachers to nominate a student who is demonstrating key character traits, Beloit staff members said. The student’s picture will be displayed at the school, as well as on the school’s social media sites. The nominated student also will have a pizza party with the principal; wear a special lanyard throughout the month they are nominated; and classroom teachers can give extra privileges, too.

The school also is implementing the Olweus Bully Prevention Program in the 2018-2019 school year to help build better peer relationships, and the school’s social worker will lead students through bullying prevention meetings.

Beloit Junior-Senior High School now has PRIDE time, which replaced homerooms for students. During PRIDE time, students can work with advisors on Individual Plans of Study, career goals, character education and more.

Like other districts involved in the redesign process, Beloit Junior-Senior High also is using student-led conferences instead of parent-teacher conferences. In the fall of the 2017-2018 school year, there was very low attendance at parent-teacher conferences. That changed in the spring of 2018 when students began setting up the conferences and leading them, staff members said. The attendance in the spring was 97 percent.

The school, during the 2017-2018 school year, began transforming its library to a “learning commons” area, which will offer students more collaboration opportunities. The new space will include media areas with white-board-writable surfaces, USB plug-ins for media devices and group seating areas. Beloit Junior-Senior High also is adding a coffee shop to help students learn about entrepreneurship, business plans, marketing, graphic design and other real-world skills.

Districtwide, schools are placing more of an emphasis on a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) systemwide curriculum.

The district also has a regional Alternative Learning Center. The Center collaborates with multiple agencies, such as juvenile justice and mental health, and moved from an online education program to a Boys Town education model.

For more information about the Kansans Can School Redesign Project, visit https://www.ksde.org/Agency/Fiscal-and-Administrative-Services/Communications-and-Recognition-Programs/Vision-Kansans-Can/School-Redesign.

The State Board of Education accepted the recommendations of the Accreditation Review Council (ARC) and awarded the status of Accredited to the following systems:

  • Louisburg USD 416
  • Central Heights USD 288
  • St. Michael the Archangel, Overland Park
  • Maur Hill-Mount Academy, Atchison
  • Most Pure Heart of Mary, Topeka
  • Good Shepherd School, Shawnee
  • Christ the King School, Kansas City

The State Board of Education approved the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) in 2016. KESA accredits systems/districts instead of schools. KESA also shifts accreditation from a one-year cycle to a five-year improvement model approach.

State Board of Education members approved a one-year specialized teaching certificate application for use in Kansas City, Kansas, USD 500. The request came from the Coalition of Innovative School Districts and Kansas City, Kansas, USD 500.

The specialized teaching certificate is nontransferable to any other Kansas school district. The individual who applied may be hired by Kansas City, Kansas, USD 500 as a nonlicensed professional employee or licensed professional employee in areas outside of his/her area of licensure for the 2018-2019 school year.

Board members also approved a Teach for America proposal. Teach for America is a nonprofit organization and a member of the AmeriCorps National Service network. The organization recruits people who have a bachelor’s degree. These people become “corps members” and teach for at least two years in a public or public charter K-12 school in one of the communities the organization serves.

The Kansas Legislature appropriated $520,000 for Teach for America for fiscal year 2019. There will be seven corps members who will serve in Kansas City, Kansas, USD 500, in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school year.

Board members also heard from KSDE’s Stay Smith, who gave an update on Career and Technical Education (CTE) in the state. KSDE’s CTE team members shared information about modifications to selected career pathways, as well as the addition of the Aviation and Fashion, Apparel and Interior Design pathways.

Currently, there are 2,746 pathway programs throughout the state, Smith said.

KSDE CTE team members worked on several different pathways, including the energy pathway, which was completely revised, KSDE’s Peggy Torrens told board members. In the energy pathway, the number of engineering courses was decreased and the number of maintenance courses was increased to better prepare students for the energy field.

There also was a complete revision of the engineering pathway. The courses dropped from 27 to 19 (several were combined). Three previous introduction courses were combined for a new introduction course, Torrens said.

Two aviation pathways have been added – aviation production pathway, which falls under the engineering cluster, and aviation maintenance, which falls under the transportation cluster. Wichita USD 259 is piloting both pathways.

There are two strands under the aviation production pathway - design and production. There also are two strands under the aviation maintenance pathway, avionics and engine maintenance.

Andrew Hysell, executive director of the Kansas Reading Roadmap, gave an update on the program. The program currently partners with 60 sites across the state to increase reading proficiency through after-school and summer tutoring aligned through the Kansas Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) process. The Kansas Reading Roadmap also provides a family support and engagement program called Literacy, Integrated Family Engagement (LIFE).

KSDE’s Cheryl Johnson, director of KSDE’s Child Nutrition and Wellness team, shared information about the Breakfast Leadership Grant of $50,000 from Share Our Strength – and an extra $10,000 from General Mills - to help ensure more Kansas students are able to start the day with a healthy breakfast and be ready to learn.

The next State Board of Education meeting will take place Sept. 11-12 at the Landon State Office Building, Board Room, 900 S.W. Jackson St., Suite 102, in Topeka.


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