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Kansas State Board of Education December highlights: Board members approve change to school gating criteria

Posted: Dec 11, 2020
Author: Ann Bush

Kansas State Board of Education members at their December virtual meeting accepted a recommendation to modify the Navigating Change guidance to allow for elementary school students to remain in an in-person or hybrid learning environment even when county metrics recommend a remote only learning environment – if school districts adhere to established safety protocols.

In Kansas, as of Nov. 23, 2020, 3.2 percent of COVID-19 cases had been among children ages zero to 9 years of age. Kansas-specific data follows a general national trend, which indicates that children ages 0 to 10 years of age make up a smaller proportion of the overall cases, Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson told board members. Evidence also suggests that children in this age group are less likely to transmit the virus if they are infected, although there is some evidence that the secondary infection rate from children may be higher among their close household contacts.

Given what is currently known about infection rates in young children and secondary infections caused by young children, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas COVID Workgroup for KIDS recommended modifying the Navigating Change guidance document to allow for elementary schools to remain in an in-person or hybrid learning environment when county metrics recommend a remote only learning environment if school districts meet the following criteria:

  1. Students, teachers and staff members within the elementary buildings should wear a mask appropriately, in accordance to Navigating Change guidelines.
  2. Each building used for elementary instruction follow ventilation guidance in accordance to Navigating Change guidelines.
  3. Each building used for elementary instruction should sanitize and clean surfaces and restrooms in accordance to Navigating Change guidelines.
  4. Students, teachers and staff members should continue regular hand hygiene as per Navigating Change.
  5. Each school district may onboard point of care testing capacity to test any students, teachers and staff members who become symptomatic with COVID-19 symptoms during the school day.
  6. Buildings require appropriate staffing for classrooms, administrative offices, custodial staff, transportation, food service and other programs that are vital to the district’s success. This also includes the ability to fill vacancies with licensed substitute staff when needed. If districts cannot maintain adequate staffing for a building, then that building should be closed until it is able to operate safely and effectively.
  7. Middle and high schools should continue to follow Navigating Change gating criteria as currently adopted.

State Board members approved the accreditation of Shawnee Heights Unified School District 450 through the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) process.

Mischel Miller, director of Kansas State Department of Education’s Teacher Licensure and Accreditation (TLA) team, and Jeannette Nobo, assistant director of TLA, were available to answer questions.

Board members approved the Dyslexia Handbook.

The Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia had asked that the Dyslexia Handbook be ready for the field and parents by 2020.

The Dyslexia Handbook was created with input from a variety of stakeholders, including parents, school psychologists, teachers, special education leaders, reading specialists, Kansas not-for-profit agencies and KSDE staff members.

The handbook is comprised of the definition of dyslexia, characteristics of dyslexia, screening for dyslexia, evidence-based reading instruction guidelines and reading intervention recommendations.

The document was presented to the board for review in November prior to anticipated action in December.

Cindy Hadicke, KSDE’s education program consultant (elementary) for Career, Standards and Assessment Services, was on hand to answer questions.

The board received recommendations for the performance levels and cut scores for the Kansas English Language Proficiency Assessments (KELPA).

The performance levels and cut score recommendations were developed during virtual standards setting meetings. Panels of Kansas educators met Oct. 6-9 for grades kindergarten, second and third and fourth and fifth, and met Oct. 12-16 for grades one, sixth through eighth and ninth through 12th.

The Achievement and Assessment Institute (AAI) at the University of Kansas conducted the standard-setting process.

Dr. Neal Kingston, director of AAI, explained the process that was used to determine performance levels and cut scores.

There were four domains: listening, speaking, reading and writing. All items went through Kansas educator content and bias panel reviews and were operationally field tested in 2020.

John McKinney, director of family and student services for Shawnee Mission Unified School District 512; Myron Melton, a KSDE education program consultant for the Special Education and Title Services (SETS) team; and State Board Chair Kathy Busch presented a report from the School Mental Health Advisory Council on the implementation of Bullying Task Force recommendations.

Commissioner Watson in April 2019 appointed a Blue Ribbon Task Force to examine the issues of bullying in Kansas’ schools. The Task Force’s final report was intended to help school boards, administrators, teachers, students, families and communities in addressing bullying. It offered seven recommendations to guide the work.

The School Mental Health Advisory Council was tasked with addressing the Task Force’s recommendations. The council formed sub-committees to research and consider current statutes, definitions, regulations and policies; more clearly define cyberbullying; provide guidance on data collection; and develop a bullying prevention plan and resource toolkit.

The Kansas Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying identified prevention, school climate and culture as keys to remedying the bullying problem.

The School Mental Health Advisory Council developed some best practices to address cyberbullying, including:

  • Provide an annual status update to the local Board of Education regarding bullying, cyberbullying and the use of KSDE’s Social, Emotional and Character Development standards
  • Provide students with information and resources annually on bullying and cyberbullying, including the definitions
  • Provide families/caregivers with information, resources and trainings annually on bullying and cyberbullying including the definitions
  • Provide students education on digital citizenship to prepare them to take ownership of their digital lives
  • Create a positive school culture that fosters a sense of safety.

The council also had some recommendations for data collection, such as aligning data collection with the definition; identifying two types of longitudinal data collection; identifying types of bullying; and including definitions of the types of bullying.

With the Kansas Communities that Care survey, the council recommended reducing the number of questions, improving readability, adopting a new survey platform and offering new technology to reduce administration time.

Additional considerations are:

  • Providing a district planning toolkit with aligned resources.
  • Leveraging bullying resources to impact attendance rate, discipline, dropout rate and academic achievement.
  • Utilizing existing initiatives and projects to message a comprehensive and aligned response.

State board members heard from the 2020 Kansas Blue Ribbon Schools. The National Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools whose students achieve at very high levels or are making significant progress in closing achievement gaps among different groups of students.

Principals and staff members from the 2020 Blue Ribbon Schools shared information about their schools with board members.

The 2020 Blue Ribbon Schools and their principals are:

  • Bostic Traditional Magnet Elementary School, Wichita USD 259, Principal Jared Grover.
  • Bradley Elementary School, Ft. Leavenworth USD 207, Principal Michaela Culkin.
  • Piper Elementary School, Piper-Kansas City, USD 203, Principal Bilee Grable.
  • Prairie Creek Elementary School, Spring Hill USD 230, Principal Tammy Endecott.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, Wichita, Principal Stephanie Warren.
  • Timmerman Elementary School, Emporia USD 253, Principal Allyson Lyman.

State Board members approved a proposal on the 1,116 hour requirement. Watson shared the proposal after board members asked him at the November meeting to craft some suggestions and present them at the December meeting.

Schools requesting a waiver from the hours must schedule and use professional development hours between Dec. 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, he said. The State Board would waive the number of school hours equal to the number of hours used for the professional development - up to 20 hours. The time must be used for either staff development, staff collaboration, parent-teacher conferences, assistance to teachers and other staff members in the planning and delivering of instruction during the pandemic – or any combination thereof.

Board members approved a recommendation for aligning spring break calendars across the education system. This was a proposal by a work group representing the Kansas Board of Regents, Kansas State Board of Education and the Coordinating Council.

The Board of Regents and the State Board convened a work group to study the potential alignment of spring break calendars.

A proposed schedule beginning in spring 2022 was presented to the Board of Regents at its November meeting for consideration, and it was forwarded to the State Board for discussion and action at its December meeting.

The proposed spring break schedule is:

Year                Spring Break

2022               March 14-18

2023               March 13-17

2024               March 11-15

Kimberly Muff, an education program consultant for KSDE, shared the 2019-2020 Literacy Network of Kansas (LiNK) Annual Report with board members. KSDE received the federal Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy award, which totaled more than $27 million, in September 2017. LiNK provides the state with an opportunity to build capacity for literacy at the state, regional and community levels.

KSDE announced eight grant recipients in June 2018, including four district awardees and four consortia awardees. Grant recipients represent 32 school districts and about 88,000 children from 190 schools across Kansas.

Board members Jim Porter and Deena Horst, who serve as legislative liaisons, facilitated discussion to set the board’s 2021 legislative agenda. The board identified the following areas they will [DLK2] support:

  • Recommendations of the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia.
  • Ongoing work of the Special Education Transition Work Group.
  • Ongoing work and recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying.
  • Ongoing work and recommendations of the School Mental Health Advisory Council, including efforts for suicide prevention and awareness.
  • The passage of Tobacco 21 legislation, pus bans on flavoring for electronic nicotine devices and marketing of such products to you.
  • Legislative recommendations of the School Bus Stop Arm Violation Committee.
  • Work with the attorney general to reduce human trafficking in Kansas.
  • All efforts to reduce the opioid epidemic in Kansas.
  • The goal of moving toward providing the first 15 credit hours tuition free during high school.
  • Continued coordination and investment in career and technical education programs that are aligned to workforce needs.
  • Opportunities to expand early childhood and kindergarten readiness.
  • State statute and moving toward funding 92 percent of the excess cost of special education.
  • Prioritizing school workers for receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kansas.

Luanne Barron, superintendent for the Kansas School for the Deaf, and Jon Harding, superintendent for the Kansas State School for the Blind, gave their quarterly updates to the board.

Students at the School for the Deaf haven’t noticed too much of a difference at the school during the pandemic, Barron said. The school has tried to maintain traditions and keep things as normal as possible.

Harding said students at the School for the Blind have been on site since Sept. 9. Before that date, students had two weeks of remote learning. He discussed the new makerspace on campus that allows students to be innovative and design.

Board members also had a Zoom farewell reception for outgoing board members Kathy Busch and Steve Roberts. The December meeting was their last meeting.

The board will meet next Jan. 12-13.

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