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Kansas State Board of Education December Highlights: Fowler USD 225's school redesign plans approved

Posted: Dec 17, 2018
Author: Ann Bush

Kansas State Board of Education members approved the school redesign plans of Fowler Unified School District 225, which is one of the districts taking part in the Kansans Can School Redesign Project: Gemini I.

Fowler presented implementation plans to the State Board on Tuesday, Dec. 11. Fowler is the last district that implemented its redesign during the 2018-2019 school year to present to the board.

Jeff Bollinger, Fowler superintendent, led the presentation. The district began its redesign process about three years ago, even before the State Board kicked off its redesign project, Bollinger said.

The district has four pillars of redesign:

  • Personalization
  • Project-based learning
  • Civic engagement
  • Social-emotional character development

Fowler’s vision statement is Fowler School District will provide a personalized and rigorous education that creates opportunities to build foundational knowledge and demonstrate application in real-life scenarios.

Corri McDowell, K-12 principal at Fowler, talked about the importance of the district’s students seeing the world. For example, some students attended the Kansas State Fair this year. In fourth grade, students begin going on overnight trips. Fourth- and fifth-grade students visited Hutchinson to see the Cosmosphere and Nickerson to visit Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm.

Along with seeing the world, students are learning about the world. A group of students learned about the Oklahoma City bombing before traveling there. The district also wants students to lead the world, and staff members encourage students to work together. Recently, students of all grade levels worked together to make yeast rolls for a community Thanksgiving dinner.

Kim McLachlan, a Fowler second-grade teacher, discussed the major components of redesign at the elementary level. The elementary school went from a traditional report card to a standards-based report card. She also shared about the elementary’s Bug Time, which is an hour of daily instruction specifically designed to challenge each student at his or her own level.

The elementary also has Project Science, which incorporates hands-on activities, and a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)  Lab. Tammy Bollinger, a fourth-grade teacher at Fowler, and an elementary school student shared about Leader in Me, a program that encourages every student to become a leader. Students can choose from a variety of leadership roles within the school, including photographer, news reporter and crosswalk buddy.

Megan Adams, a sixth through 12th grade English Language Arts teacher, talked to board members about the district’s major components of secondary redesign, including mentorship and Individual Plans of Study (IPS), which can ensure students stay engaged and dedicated.

From mentorship, it is an easy shift to an IPS structure, Adams said. There is heavy parental involvement, and an annual IPS is created by a student, his or her parents and mentor before students enroll in classes each year.

McDowell led discussion on project-based learning. Students who are in grades six through 10 at the junior and senior high school use Summit Learning for project-based learning. Students receive project-based core instruction and work in a self-directed learning lab – either individually or in groups. Juniors and seniors also are required to take an hour of project-based learning.

Students also take part in a Project Week, where students have to tackle a topic such as energy efficiency or housing solutions. Fowler Senior High students discussed Project Week and also how project-based learning fits into civic engagement.

Other elements of redesign include no bells; flexible seating; no textbook fees or fees for instrument rentals; summer school; and an after-school program, Bollinger said.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson discussed high school graduation rates. The goal for the state is to have a 95 percent graduation rate, Watson said. The state is making progress, he said. In 2015, the state had a graduation rate of 85.7 percent. In 2018, the state had a graduation rate of 87.5. This is an increase of 1.8 percent.

In 2015, in the subgroup of English Language Learners, there was a graduation rate of 77.2 percent. In 2018, that number was 80.6 percent, which is an increase of 3.4 percent.

In the Free and Reduced subgroup, there was a graduation rate of 77.5 percent in 2015. In 2018, that number was 80.1, which is an increase of 2.6 percent.

In the Students with Disabilities subgroup, there was a graduation rate of 77.2 percent in 2015. That number increased in 2018 to 79.4 percent, which is an increase of 2.2 percent.

Watson also discussed an audit conducted by Berberich Trahan and Company. The overall purpose of the audit was to determine whether the distribution of state aid complied with the law. The company reviewed and tested the data for 28 school districts selected based on size, location and demographics.

The audit also looked at whether the State Board has appropriate measures in place to reasonably ensure quality control over data provided to legislators, courts and experts performing cost studies and what measures the State Board used to ensure quality control over reports. Auditors found that based on the processes and procedures in place, the measures are reasonable to ensure quality control.

The commissioner also announced the Apollo phase of the Kansans Can School Redesign Project. There will be a webinar at 9 a.m. Jan. 23, 2019. The application window opens on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, and closes April 5, 2019. The districts selected for the Apollo phase will be announced during a board meeting on April 16, 2019.

Board members approved amendments to licensure regulations. The board in March 2018 approved submission of a set of regulations through the formal adoption process. The Kansas Department of Administration is currently reviewing the regulations. Kansas State Department of Education staff members have additional proposed amendments, including reinstating a teaching endorsement for driver education and creating a limited-use teaching license based on the Coalition of Innovative School Districts’ specialized certificate.

Other minor changes are:

  • Initial and professional license types.
  • Definition of restricted school specialist.
  • Separating recent experience from recent credit.
  • Renaming foreign exchange license.
  • Adjusting mentoring requirements for school specialist.
  • Math is general mathematics and advanced mathematics.

The board recognized and endorsed the desire of all current members of the Coalition of Innovative School Districts to be released from the Coalition effective immediately. The Coalition’s membership currently consists of seven school districts – Marysville USD 364; Concordia USD 333; McPherson USD 418; Hugoton USD 484; Fredonia USD 484; KCK USD 500; and Blue Valley USD 229. The Coalition presented their proposal to the State Board for consideration at the November meeting.

The districts involved in the Coalition will continue to meet as a professional development group, Watson said.

The State Board recognized the 2016 National Finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The recipients are Heidi Harris, who teaches mathematics at Union Valley Elementary School, Buhler USD 313, and Nancy Smith, who teaches science at Bentwood Elementary School, Olathe USD 233. Harris and Smith shared some of the innovative programs they use in mathematics and science instruction to foster student achievement.

The two honorees received a $10,000 unrestricted award from the National Science Foundation, as well as a week-long conference in Washington, D.C., where they had the chance to network with finalists from other states.

The State Board of Education approved the Safe and Secure Schools standards, which are required per 2018 House Substitute for Senate Bill 109, Section 76. Susan McMahan and John Calvert were hired by KSDE to create the new Safe and Secure Schools Unit. McMahan and Calvert review and evaluate school safety and security plans and provide technical assistance to school districts. 

Scott Smith, director of KSDE’s Career Standards and Assessment Services (CSAS), gave an update on the Kansas Building Report Card (Elementary and Secondary Education Act requirements). The Report Card is a web application that provides information on a range of performance indicators, as well as metrics on State Board goals at the district and building level.

Indicators include:

  • Academic achievement, percent of scores at levels 3 and 4, which are the highest levels on the Kansas State Assessment.
  • Gap comparison groups
  • English Language Leaner (ELL) progress toward proficiency.
  • Percent of scores at level 1, which is the lowest level on the Kansas State Assessment.
  • Graduation rate.

These indicators are combined for the overall combined result.

The State Board heard from Glen Suppes, a superintendent at Smoky Valley USD 400, who was selected as the Kansas School Superintendents’ Association 2019 Kansas Superintendent of the year. Suppes has served as superintendent at Smoky Valley since 2000. He now will be considered for the National Superintendent of the Year program.

Gayla Randel, a KSDE education program consultant, presented on Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) integration with social-emotional learning. She was joined by Pam Lamb, the state Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) advisor; Stella Tharp, a Career and Technical director at Ottawa High School; and Juanelle Garretson, a former teacher at Southeast of Saline.

Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis and Craig Neuenswander, director of KSDE’s School Finance team, gave board members an update on legislative matters.

During Wednesday’s meeting, State Board of Education members received information regarding the Kansas Special Education Advisory Council’s (SEAC) public discussions regarding Emergency Safety Intervention (ESI) regulations, including clarification of the seclusion definition.


Colleen Riley, director of KSDE’s Special Education and Title Services (SETS) team, said SEAC began discussion of the definition of seclusion at its September meeting. SEAC had a public comment session on ESI regulations during its November meeting. It was brought to SEAC’s attention that the definition of seclusion is being inconsistently interpreted. Specific phrases include:

  • Being placed in seclusion.
  • Enclosed area.
  • Purposefully isolated.
  • The reasonable belief the student is preventing from leaving the enclosed area.

The current definition of seclusion contained in K.A.R. 91-42 is: Seclusion means placement of a student in a location where all the following conditions are met:

  • The student is placed in an enclosed area by school personnel.
  • The student is purposefully isolated from adults and peers.
  • The student is prevented from leaving, or the student reasonably believes that the student will be prevented from leaving, the enclosed area.

Riley said SEAC recommends that the definition of seclusion in K.A.R. 91-42-1 remain in place, but that the State Board utilize its authority to clarify and provide guidance on language included in the ESI regulation concerning the definition of seclusion. SEAC asked that the State Board chair and the State Board-SEAC liaison work with the Kansas Technical Assistance System Network (TASN) and other providers to clarify the definition of seclusion.

The board agreed to bring together a workgroup to clarify the definition of seclusion. The meeting will take place before SEAC’s January meeting.

Board members also received updates on the Kansas State Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

Luanne Barron, superintendent of the Kansas State School for the Deaf, led the presentation on the School for the Deaf. Outreach services and supports are a large part of what the school does, Barron said.

Since July 1, the Language Assessment program has assessed 18 children birth to age 3, and more than 650 children will be phased into the program in the next five years, Barron said.

The Sound START program has increased the number of children it has served. Eighty-seven children birth to age 3 are receiving services. Since July, the school has provided 451 home visits in 17 counties, according to Barron.

This is the pilot year for the School for the Deaf’s Blended Learning Instruction, which serves students in early childhood through upper elementary. This online program teaches American Sign Language to a mix of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students.

Jon Harding, superintendent of the Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB), led the presentation on the School for the Blind. The growth areas of the school are in STEM/coding, partnerships, birth through age 3 outreach, data collection and leadership/technical assistance.

Many blind students are left out of STEM and coding, Harding said, so KSSB is offering students more opportunities. On Feb. 14, KSSB will host its first event in a series. There also will be Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) events in March and June.

The school has seen more students on campus and more placement requests, Harding said. There also have been more participants in the Braille Challenge, which takes place in February.

KSSB looked at having another route to accreditation, but decided the Kansas Education System of Accreditation would be a good fit, according to Harding. The school entered the accreditation system in its second year, Harding said.

Board members attended a reception for outgoing board members John Bacon, District 3; Sally Cauble, District 5; and Ken Willard, District 7.

The next board meeting will take place Jan. 15-16 in Topeka.


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