Kansas State Board of Education members at their August board meeting approved updates to the guidance document, “Navigating Change: Kansas’ Guide to Learning and School Safety Operations,” which included a tool that districts can use to help determine when to implement different learning environments in response to COVID-19 activity in their areas.
The Kansas School Gating Criteria was created with input from educators and medical professionals. The guidance is broken into four levels – green, yellow, orange and red – with red indicating the need to implement the most restrictive learning environment.
The levels are – green (on-site); yellow (pre-K-5, on-site/hybrid, and sixth through 12th grade, hybrid); orange (pre-K-5, on-site/hybrid, and sixth through 12th grade, remote only); and red (remote only).
The building gating criteria is based on student absenteeism. There also are community gating criteria, which is based on several things, including the two-week county percent positive case rate and hospital capacity.
Watson stressed that this document is guidance only and is subject to change.
Board members accepted the recommendations of the Accreditation Review Council (ARC) and awarded the status of accredited to public systems Turner Unified School District 202, Ness City USD 303, Eureka USD 389 and private system Heartspring.
The board approved the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) in 2016 as the model to accredit schools in Kansas. KESA shifted accreditation from schools to the district/system level and moved accreditation from a yearly event to a five-year continuous improvement model approach.
The ARC provides recommendations to the State Board. There are three recommendations to choose from – accredited, conditionally accredited and not accredited.
During the 2019-2020 school year, there were 29 systems scheduled for the accreditation process. Because of COVID-19, not all systems were able to complete their visits. Consequently, systems to be accredited this year will be forwarded for review and action each month through December 2020.
In June, the ARC reviewed the documentation of eight systems, both public and private, for the purpose of determining an accreditation recommendation. Executive summaries of Turner USD 202, Ness City USD 303, Eureka USD 389 and Heartspring were presented to the board in July for review.
Three other ARC recommendations were provided to the board for review at the August meeting. The board will act on the recommendations at the September board meeting. The three systems were public school systems Paola USD 368 and El Dorado USD 490 and private system Hope Lutheran.
The ARC originally recommended that Paola USD 368 be conditionally accredited. The system went through an appeals process. However, the ARC still recommended that the system be conditionally accredited.
The ARC originally recommended a status of conditionally accredited for El Dorado USD 490. The system went through an appeals process. After the appeals process was complete, the ARC changed its recommendation to accredited.
The ARC recommended a status of conditionally accredited for Hope Lutheran. The system didn’t appeal the decision.
Deputy Commissioner Dr. Brad Neuenswander shared feedback from educators and administrators on the use of the guidance document, “Navigating Change: Kansas’ Guide to Learning and School Safety Operations,” and the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
Neuenswander also gave an update on dyslexia training. The recommendations of the Kansas Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia were approved by the State Board in November 2019. Training has been developed by KSDE and made available to all education service centers. There are a few service centers currently offering this training for schools. KSDE is offering the training free virtually via Zoom to schools.
Because of a lack of funding to continue some work, the following recommendations for a new timeline were presented to the board:
• Professional learning: Move to the end of 2021 school year rather than the beginning.
• Universal screening: Move to the beginning of the 2022 school year rather than the 2021 school year.
• Tiered systems of support: Move to the beginning of the 2022 school year rather than the 2021 school year.
• Evidence-based literacy (structured literacy): Move to the beginning of the 2022 school year rather than the 2021 school year.
• Dyslexia handbook: Move to July 2021 rather than July 2020.
• Dyslexia paid position at KSDE: Move to July 2021 rather than July 2020.
KSDE’s Catherine Chmidling, an education program consultant for Teacher Licensure and Accreditation (TLA), presented the higher education preparation program standards for reading specialists, pre-K-12.
Educator preparation program standards establish program approval requirements to ensure that preparation programs in Kansas provide educator candidates with the chance to learn the knowledge and skills educators needs for today’s learning context. Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) utilize program standards to develop their preparation programs and submit them for approval.
Work groups are revising all program standards to ensure they reflect new knowledge and skills educators need. As work groups complete drafts, the draft standards are sent to appropriate Specialty Professional Associations (SPAs) when relevant and available. Each standards work group reviews input from the SPAs and public comment, and a final draft is formulated. Following review and final approval by the Professional Standards Board, the standards are sent for State Board of Education approval.
Action on the higher education preparation program standards for reading specialists is scheduled to occur at the September board meeting.
KSDE’s Bert Moore, director of Special Education and Title Services, and Heath Peine, current chair of the Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC), gave board members an update on the work the council has completed or is currently doing.
The State Board appointed two new members to SEAC with terms of service through June 30, 2023.
Brandon Gay, representing adult corrections (Colby Community College, contract manager of correctional education), was approved for State Board District 5.
Tobias Wood, representing state agency (Kansas Board of Regents), was approved for State Board District 4.
State Board members also appointed Cody Calkins to his first term on the Licensure Review Committee effective through June 30, 2023. Calkins, representing building level administrators, State Board District 5, is from Lakin Middle School, Lakin USD 215.
KSDE’s Mischel Miller, director of TLA, gave board members an update on a two-year statewide pilot of alternative licensure pathways for elementary education and high-incidence special education. The pilot began during the 2018-2019 school year.
The Limited Apprentice pilot offered two pathways, Miller said. The first was for experienced special education paras to achieve a license for high-incidence special education. The second was for elementary education. Participants must have at least a bachelor’s degree.
The Limited Apprentice License program pilot design was recommended by the Teacher Vacancy and Supply Committee (TVSC). The pilot included a formal evaluation at the conclusion of the program. Results were shared with TVSC, and based on those results, TVSC formulated final recommendations for the pilot programs.
TVSC recommended that the special education paraprofessional to teacher pathway – Limited Apprentice License program – be continued. The new pathway should be designed as an alternative pathway that allows candidates to start teaching prior to completing the full program
Other recommendations include:
• Priority should be given to create an alternative means for teachers already licensed to add an elementary education endorsement in a more efficient, streamlined manner.
• Continue to explore and then pilot an alternative pathway for those individuals with bachelor’s degrees to transition to teaching and earn an elementary education teaching license.
The board is scheduled to vote on the recommendations during the September board meeting.
Scott Gordon, KSDE’s general counsel, presented proposed amendments to the Professional Practices Commission regulations, which guide the process by which the board determines if a teaching license should be denied, suspended, revoked or publicly censured.
The Office of General Counsel (OGC) has been working on updating this set of regulations since 2017. In response to feedback and recent legislative changes, OGC submitted the most recent version of regulations to the board.
Amanda Petersen, KSDE's director of Early Childhood, shared an update on work to strengthen the Kansas early childhood system. Kansas was awarded $8.9 million in federal grant funding. The Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund is the lead agency and has hired three people to implement the Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five. The grant is authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The first year of the grant runs April 30, 2020-April 29, 2021. Congress may appropriate funding for two additional years.
Thousands of Kansans helped inform a comprehensive needs assessment of early care and education programs and services. The needs assessment led to the development of a statewide strategic plan, All in for Kansas Kids. The strategic plan has seven goal areas: state-level collaboration, community-level collaboration, family knowledge and choice, private sector collaboration, capacity and access, workforce, and quality and environments.
Petersen focused her updates on promoting kindergarten readiness, addressing accessibility, availability and quality, and coordinating governance.
Under kindergarten readiness, Petersen discussed the kindergarten readiness snapshot. Kansas elementary schools are partnering with parents and caregivers to implement the Ages and Stages Questionnaires, Third Edition (ASQ-3), and the Ages and Stages Questionnaires: Social-Emotional, Second Edition (ASQ:SE-2).
All accredited schools are required to administer both the ASQ-3 and the ASQ: SE-2 to kindergarten students between July 1-Sept. 21, 2020.
Under the areas of addressing accessibility, availability and quality, Petersen said that in July, the Kansas Department of Commerce awarded Community Service Tax Credits to 25 nonprofit organizations to support education, health care and housing projects across the state. This included $1 million in awards for child care and early childhood development projects.
In August, the State Finance Council approved the education proposals recommended by the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Committee, Petersen said. This includes $9,993,750 in early childhood investments - a network of early childhood consultants; an early childhood educator health fund; and technology for families.
The board accepted the reopening guide for the Kansas State School for the Blind in preparation for the 2020-2021 school year.
Jon Harding, superintendent of the Kansas State School for the Blind, presented the school’s opening plan. The school will have remote learning for all students from Aug. 24-Sept. 4. On-site classes will begin Sept. 9.
The Kansas State School for the Blind based its decisions on feedback from parent surveys, the “Navigating Change” document and communications with other schools and organizations to develop its school reopening plan. The preference was in-person learning, Harding said.
Students will be required to wear masks. Block scheduling will be used, lunches will be delivered, and each student will have his or her own dormitory room.
The board also accepted the KSD Strong School Reopening Plan for the Kansas School for the Deaf in preparation for the 2020-2021 school year.
Luanne Barron, superintendent of the Kansas School for the Deaf, presented the school’s opening plan.
There was a lot of planning and discussion in developing the KSD Strong School reopening plan, Barron said.
The school did a parent and staff survey in July. Seventy-five percent of staff members indicated that they are completely or moderately comfortable in returning to campus. Seventy-three percent of parents requested in-person learning.
The Kansas School for the Deaf will open for remote and on-site learning on Sept. 9, Barron said.
Students at the Kansas School for the Deaf will have their own dormitory room, Barron said. The school also will require masks in dormitories when students are interacting. If a student is in the dorm room alone, the mask can be removed.
Dr. Randy Watson and Dr. Brad Neuenswander discussed high school graduation and transition into adulthood with the board. They also engaged the board in discussion about Individual Plans of Study (IPS) and postsecondary completion/attendance.
The next Kansas State Board of Education meeting will take place Sept. 8-9 at the Landon State Office Building, 900 S.W. Jackson, in Topeka.
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