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Kansas State Board of Education December highlights: Board members receive final report on LiNK

Posted: Dec 16, 2021
Author: Ann Bush

The Kansas State Board of Education at its December meeting received a final report on Literacy Network of Kansas (LiNK), a three-year, $27 million literacy project facilitated by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE).

Kimberly Muff, project director for LiNK on the Career, Standards and Assessment Services (CSAS) team for KSDE, gave the final report. The federal Striving Readers grant, which totaled more than $27 million over three years, was awarded to KSDE in September 2017.

LiNK subgrantee projects were awarded in June 2018, with more than 95% awarded directly to projects. There were eight projects representing 190 schools in 32 districts.

Projects included Dodge City Unified School District 443; Garden City USD 457; Manhattan-Ogden USD 383; Olathe USD 233; and consortia Greenbush L9; Greenbush M7; Leavenworth/Atchison; and Southwest Plains.

The LiNK vision included building capacity to impact literacy at the state, regional and community levels and to positively influence literacy growth of disadvantaged students. By federal guidelines, disadvantaged students includes students with disabilities; English learners; and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Each project received $3.225 million during the three-year initiative.

As far as sustainability, Muff said, projects now have systems of support in place; an understanding of the continuous improvement cycle; new resources; new and enhanced partnerships with communities and families; and professional development.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson shared ACT WorkKey results for 2019-2021. In Kansas, 65% were silver ready in ACT WorkKeys. Thirty-four percent were platinum/gold ready.

He also announced the window for applications for the Kansans Can Star Recognition qualitative measures is open from Dec. 15-June 30, 2022. The Star Recognition Program recognizes districts in the goal areas that Kansans stated were important to achieving the success of each student, Watson said.

Districts have to apply for the qualitative measures. These areas are social-emotional growth, kindergarten readiness, Individual Plans of Study (IPS) and civic engagement.

Districts don’t have to apply for the quantitative measures because KSDE calculates data for these awards. These areas are academic preparation, graduation, postsecondary success and the Commissioner’s Award.

The State Board accepted the recommendation of the Accreditation Review Council (ARC) and awarded the status of accredited to St. Agnes Elementary and the status of conditionally accredited to Holy Spirit Catholic and Spearville USD 381.

Dr. Mischel Miller, director of KSDE’s Teacher Licensure and Accreditation (TLA) team, shared ARC’s recommendations for Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA).

Systems reviewed by ARC are forwarded to the State Board one month prior to the Board’s action. Last month, St. Agnes Elementary, Holy Spirit Catholic and Spearville USD 381 were forwarded to the State Board for review and a status recommendation.

Beth Fultz, assistant director of KSDE’s CSAS team, explained the how and why behind state assessment performance level decisions and their relationship to state academic content standards.

  • Level 1: A student at Level 1 shows a limited ability to understand and use the skills and knowledge needed for postsecondary readiness.
  • Level 2: A student at Level 2 shows a basic ability to understand and use the skills and knowledge needed for postsecondary readiness.
  • Level 3: A student at Level 3 shows an effective ability to understand and use the skills and knowledge needed for postsecondary readiness.
  • Level 4: A student at Level 4 shows an excellent ability to understand and use the skills and knowledge needed for postsecondary readiness.

 

Kansas standards are written by teachers to answer the question: What should Kansas students know and demonstrate at a given grade level in a content area?

Academic standards are reviewed/revised on a cycle of seven years and approved by the State Board of Education, Fultz said.

The last review of content standards for English language arts and math occurred in 2017. The most notable change was replacing “college and career readiness” language with “prepared for postsecondary success.”

Content standards define what students should know and be able to do. Performance level descriptors articulate how much they should know and be able to do at each performance level category.

Deputy Commissioner Dr. Brad Neuenswander discussed math and English language arts relative to the ACT.

State Board members recognized recipients of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) School of Excellence. Recipients are Broken Arrow Elementary and Broken Arrow Elementary PTA, Shawnee Mission USD 512; and Shawnee Mission North High School and Shawnee Mission North High School Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), Shawnee Mission USD 512.   

The National PTA School of Excellence is a recognition program that supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students. The program also reiterates the importance of a joint commitment between PTA and school leaders to work together to achieve PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.

Schools that exhibit improvement are honored as National PTA Schools of Excellence, a distinction that spans two years.

Patty Jurich, with Kansas PTA, introduced the PTAs/PTSAs and administrators from each of the schools and Shawnee Mission USD 512.

This is the fourth year that Shawnee Mission North High School has applied for and received the PTA School of Excellence.

Jane Groff, Kansas Parent Information Resource Center (KPIRC) executive director, and Tamara Huff, KPIRC project coordinator, shared information with State Board members on family engagement strategies and resources.

KPIRC promotes meaningful family engagement at all levels of education and provides information and resources to help parents, educators and other organizations promote the educational success of every Kansas child, Groff said.

Groff and Huff discussed current strategies used to support districts and schools in their efforts to engage families in their children’s learning.

“Kansas leads the world in family engagement,” Huff said.

Kansas is the only state with a statewide Family Engagement Survey and includes family engagement in the KESA process, she said.

Between the 2016-2017 school year and the 2020-2021 school year, 44,041 responses were collected from the statewide Family Engagement Survey.

Groff and Huff also talked about how family engagement ties in to the State Board of Education outcomes, accreditation, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), school mental health and diversity/equity/inclusion.

Sherri Schwanz, president of the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA); Julie Wilson, KNEA associate executive director; and Idalia Shuman, KNEA teaching and learning director, discussed with the State Board how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated stressful classroom working conditions and made the need for social-emotional professional supports more pressing for educators.

Thirty percent of teachers across Kansas aren’t covered by an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), Wilson told the State Board. KNEA, through an NEA grant, has provided an EAP to all KNEA members who are without an employer-funded EAP, Wilson said.

The top six issues Kansas NEA members addressed with a mental health provider are stress, anxiety, depression, family, grief or bereavement and partners/couples. Stress and anxiety accounted for 53% of cases in the KNEA EAP, according to Wilson.

KNEA’s EAP expires on Jan. 31, 2022, Wilson said. She encouraged the board to highlight the needs of teacher wellbeing to encourage local boards to provide EAPs.

Shuman said teachers also had professional development loss during the pandemic, so NEA has been offering microcredentials, blended learning and asynchronous learning.

About 50% of Kansas teachers are part of KNEA, Shuman said.

Representatives from Baldwin City USD 348 and DeSoto USD 232 discussed their initiatives and approaches to social-emotional growth. Both districts received silver awards in the Kansans Can Star Recognition Program.

State Board members accepted the recommendations of the Commissioner’s Task Force on Emergency and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) and Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools (EANS) Distribution of Money and approved the submission of public school district expenditure plans for ESSER II federal COVID-19 relief funds as presented.

All 286 Kansas school districts have submitted ESSER II plans, said Doug Boline, assistant director of Special Education and Title Services (SETS) team. The board had previously approved 272 ESSER II plans. This month, 14 ESSER II plans and 26 ESSER II change requests were reviewed.

The 14 applications represent 8,631 students, and there are 208 individual budgeted expenditures totaling a value of $4.3 million. Twenty-six districts submitted change requests representing 101,823 students. There were 958 change requests for individual budgeted expenditures totaling a value of $51 million, with one recommended as ineligible by KSDE.

Dr. Scott Smith, director of KSDE’s CSAS team, and Nathan McAlister, humanities program manager on the CSAS team, gave board members an update on history, government, social studies (HGSS) assessment and standards.

The development of Kansas HGSS standards is undertaken by a committee of Kansas educators and stakeholders.

The current HGSS curricular standards encourage the focus on discipline-specific application of content in authentic situations rather than rote memorization of specific content, Smith said. This approach of setting rigorous standards that complement the uniqueness of local curricula began 10 years ago in May 2011 in preparation for 2013 standards. The current 2021 HGSS standards are the second iteration of this approach.

Benchmarks of HGSS include:

  • Benchmark 1: Students will recognize and evaluate ...
  • Benchmark 2: Students will analyze context and draw conclusions ...
  • Benchmark 3: Students will investigate and connect ...
  • Benchmark 4: Students will use their understanding of … to make a claim or advance a thesis using evidence and argument.

 

Classroom-based assessments are rigorous, personalized and authentic assessments that allow for student voice and choice while balancing content and skills where students are invested in their learning. Examples of classroom-bases assessments include National History Day; local civics project; podcasts; website; document-based questions; research papers; Unsung Hero Project; performance; and writing a eulogy/obituary/memorial, McAlister said.

Deputy Commissioner Dr. Craig Neuenswander updated State Board members on legislative interim committees.

He also asked the board to reconsider funding Communities in Schools (CIS). He said there are funds – the $100,000 that Communities in Schools asked for - available in the learning loss set-aside ESSER funds.

State Board members previously elected to provide ESSER set-aside funds for programming that didn’t include CIS, based in part of CIS testimony to the Legislature that the funds would be used to build sustainability for current programs. Recently, CIS provided information to KSDE staff members about their focus this year on reengagement of students in an effort to address learning loss caused by the pandemic.

Communities in Schools of Mid-America is working in 39 schools across the state this school year, according to a letter from CIS to the State Board.

“In each of these schools, the CIS role in COVID recovery is a focus on reengagement,” the letter stated. “Reengagement with school for all students, especially at-risk students, and their families is key to addressing learning loss cause by the pandemic.”

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, chair of the Senate Committee on Education, spoke to the State Board of Education about strengthening legislative collaboration.

Baumgardner also shared information about the Kansas Promise Scholarship program. The program was created during the 2021 Kansas legislative session to assist students attending Kansas community college, technical colleges, Washburn Institute of Technology and certain private postsecondary educational institutions and who are enrolled in specified programs of study – generally in the fields of information technology and security; mental and physical health care; advanced manufacturing and building trades; or early childhood education and development.

There has been $10 million set aside for fiscal year 2022 and fiscal year 2023, Baumgardner said. The program began in August. Since then, $1.9 million has gone to 414 community college students.

Adults can apply for the scholarship, too.

Applicants, within certain income guidelines, can receive a scholarship in the amount of the aggregate amount of tuition, required fees, books and required materials.

Upon completion of the program, students must reside and work in Kansas for a minimum of two consecutive years or enroll in a Kansas institution of higher education and subsequently reside and work in Kansas for a minimum of two consecutive years, according to information provided on the Kansas Board of Regents website.

For more information, visit https://www.kansasregents.org/students/student_financial_aid/promise-act-scholarship.

Board chair Jim Porter gave his report, and board members gave committee reports. Board attorney Mark Ferguson also gave a report, and board members made requests for future agenda items.

Board member Janet Waugh read a resolution honoring Kansas State Department of Education employees.

Board member Jim McNiece, who also serves as co-chair of the Graduation Requirements Task Force, shared a report from the task force. Board members Melanie Haas, Betty Arnold and Jean Clifford also serve on the task force, McNiece said.

Jarred Fuhrman, principal at Basehor-Linwood High School, Basehor-Linwood USD 458, serves as co-chair of the group.

Commissioner Watson at the June 2021 State Board of Education meeting announced the establishment of the Graduation Requirements Task Force. The purpose of the group is to examine current graduation requirements in Kansas and determine what changes, if any, need to occur in order to better meet the needs of students in the 21st century and reach the Board’s vision to lead the world in the success of each student.

McNiece discussed some background work completed by the entire task force. The Education Commission of the States presented a 50-state review of graduation requirements to the group and continues to offer support and guidance. The group had direct conversations with representatives from Ohio, Washington, Illinois and New Hampshire and also heard presentations from those representatives, as well as other experts.

The task force also created a workgroup focused on special needs students. The workgroup is led by Trisha Backman, of Lawrence Gardner High School, Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex.

The Graduation Requirements Task Force was broken into three subcommittees. The subcommittees and their leaders are:

  • Courses to add or delete (if any): Christie Meyer, principal, Eisenhower High School, Goddard USD 265.
  • Mastery of skills and competencies demonstrated: Ed Raines, principal, Washburn Rural High School, Auburn-Washburn USD 437.
  • Value-added diplomas (i.e., industry-recognized certificate, college credits): Kelly Nusser, principal, Lyons High School, Lyons USD 405.

 

Each subcommittee leader updated the board on the work that has taken place in their groups during the past six months.

“This has been a busy six months,” Meyer told the board.

Fuhrman said serving on the Graduation Requirements Task Force has been an outstanding opportunity for him personally and professionally, and there has been a lot of enriching conversations on the subcommittees and the task force as a whole.

McNiece stressed that no decisions have been and this was just an update on the work that has taken place so far.

The Graduation Requirements Task Force will meet in person in Topeka on Jan. 20, 2022, according to Fuhrman. During the spring of 2022, stakeholder input will be gathered, and final recommendations will be presented May 10, 2022, to the State Board.

The State Board of Education will meet again Jan. 11-12, 2022, in Topeka.

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