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Kansas State Board of Education February highlights: Commissioner issues directive, Kansas School Finance Distribution commission created

Posted: Feb 15, 2018
Author: Ann Bush

TOPEKA — Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson on Tuesday, Feb. 13, issued the following directive to the Kansas State Department of Education during the Kansas State Board of Education meeting:

Today, I am announcing that I am directing the agency to fully comply with the recommendations given by the Kansas Legislative Post Audit in their report:

A Report to the Legislative Post Audit Committee
By the Legislative Division of Post Audit
State of Kansas
December 2017
K-12 Education: Evaluating Transportation Services Funding
On page 32 of that report, the Legislative Post Audit Committee recommends:
Kansas Department of Education
To address the areas where its administration of the transportation funding formula does not align with state statute, the Department of Education should do the following:
1.    Remove the minimum funding level from its funding calculation, beginning with the 2018-19 school year to give adequate notice to the school districts that would be affected (p. 11).
2.    Develop a process to ensure only students for whom “transportation was made available to” are counted. One option to consider would be requiring districts to certify which students they made transportation available to then auditing that certification on a sample basis each year (p. 14).
3.    Count students for whom “transportation was made available to” as 1.0 FTE in all distance categories to align with the statutory definitions (p. 15).

The agency is directed to fully comply with these recommendations.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the State Board approved Watson’s recommendation to have an immediate, full, complete and comprehensive audit of KSDE concerning the computation and distribution of the major categories of K-12 state aid programs authorized by the 2017 Kansas Legislature under the Kansas School Equity and Enhancement Act. 

The board also approved Watson’s recommendation to establish the Kansas School Finance Distribution Commission to give oversite, guidance and recommendations to the agency, State Board and the Legislature. The commission is charged with reviewing the computation and distribution of the major categories of K-12 state aid programs authorized by the Kansas Legislature, including highlighting and examining all changes in state law, policy and/or economic factors that affect the distribution of state aid to school districts.

Jon Harding, superintendent of the Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB), and Luanne Barron, superintendent of the Kansas School for the Deaf (KSD), shared their recommendations on outreach resources and supports to meet the needs of students, parents and staff members within their local communities and schools.

The State School for the Blind had its first stakeholder meeting Feb. 1, Harding said. Stakeholders included alumni, parents, special education directors, KSSB staff members and KSSB advisory board members.

Harding made the following recommendations: KSSB will provide direct and leadership services; continue the expansion of regional providers (3 years old and above); ask for KSDE’s help in promoting KSSB; provide an online algebra class using online technologies; expand summer school, Braille challenge, workshops and assessments; expand low-vision clinics; develop relationships with medical facilities to provide information on KSSB services to Kansas children; ask KSDE for help accessing data; and train, mentor and support new vision professionals. 
KSSB also wants to conduct workshops for parents on topics of interest, including financial planning, parent rights and transition planning, Harding said.

KSD has had two stakeholder meetings, Barron said. Stakeholders included alumni, parents, KSDE staff members, and representatives from several other organizations.
Barron shared the following recommendations for KSD: review current job descriptions and services provided; continued monitoring and review of the statewide needs assessment that was done as part of the outreach five-year plan; build relationships throughout the state; conduct regional feedback sessions to determine additional supports that are needed; develop three new positions based on the needs discovered; revise the current outreach five-year plan to address new needs; and utilize a data feedback loop to continually improve outcomes.
State Board members approved higher education preparation program standards for Family and Consumer Sciences, grades sixth through 12th.

In the afternoon session, the board recognized National Title I Distinguished Schools from Kansas. The 2017 Title I Distinguished Schools are Pleasant Ridge Elementary School, Easton Unified School District 449, and Valley Heights Elementary School at Blue Ridge, Valley Heights USD 498. The Kansas schools are two of the 63 schools across the nation that were honored.

Pleasant Ridge was honored for exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years. Amanda Brimer, principal at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School, presented to the board.
Valley Heights Elementary was honored for closing the achievement gap between student groups. Robert Green, principal at Valley Heights Elementary School, also spoke to the board about what Valley Heights is doing.

The 2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year team was introduced to the state board. Team members are Samantha “Sam” Neill, Teacher of the Year and a high school English language arts teacher at Buhler High School, Buhler USD 313; Jennifer Donovan, an elementary school music teacher at Clear Creek Elementary School, De Soto USD 232; Jamie D. Manhart, a high school journalism teacher at Silver Lake Jr.-Sr. High School, Silver Lake USD 372; Megan E. Nagel, a sixth-grade English language arts and science teacher at Santa Fe 5/6 Center, Newton USD 373; Angela “Angie” Powers, a 10th-grade English and AVID teacher at Olathe Northwest High School, Olathe USD 233; Gilbert “Gil” Still Jr., a fourth-grade teacher at Northwest Elementary School in Dodge City, Dodge City USD 443; Sarah C. VenJohn, a high school mathematics teacher at Winfield High School, Winfield USD 465; and Bradley “Brad” Weaver, an elementary music teacher at Atchison Elementary School, Atchison USD 409.

KSDE’s Susan Helbert shared proposed amendments to licensure regulations as recommended by the Professional Standards Board and the Regulations Committee. KSDE staff members propose that the regulations begin the required adoption process, which starts by submitting the proposed regulations to the Department of Administration and Attorney General’s Office for review. After a review by the Department of Administration and Attorney General’s Office, the State Board will schedule a date for a public hearing on the proposed regulations.

Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis gave board members an update on several legislative matters.

After Dennis’ presentation, board members discussed the issue of discrimination based on race, per the request of board member Steve Roberts.

Wednesday’s board meeting started with KSDE’s Tiffany Blevins and Julie Ewing giving board members an update on the Kindergarten Readiness outcome.

Team members from the Early Childhood, Special Education and Title Services (ECSETS) team recently traveled across the state to provide training on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire-3 (ASQ-3) and Ages and Stages Questionnaire: SE-2 (ASQ: SE-2). Beginning in August 2018, schools will begin issuing the Ages and Stages Questionnaire’s to parents of students entering kindergarten. The questionnaire helps identify the student’s social-emotional and academic readiness.

The ASQ: 3 screens incoming kindergartners for communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal-social skills, Blevins said.

The ASQ: SE-2 screens for social-emotional skills; if a child regulates emotions; and if a child can interact positively with others.

There were 261 districts, including more than 600 kindergarten teachers, administrators and support staff members, who attended trainings at nine locations across the state, Blevins told the board. There were 25 districts that were unable to attend for various reasons, but they will have opportunities in the future to attend training.

Districts will need to determine a training schedule that best meets the needs of the districts, keeping in mind that data collection will take place Aug. 1-Sept. 20, 2018. Districts are encouraged to include other early learning professionals, including kindergarten, prekindergarten and parent educators, in the district ASQ trainings.

The State Board, at the end of Wednesday morning’s session, received training from Ruth Glover, executive director of the Kansas Human Rights Commission on inappropriate behavior and the inclusive workplace.

Board members ended the day with board reports.

The next meeting will take place March 13-14 at the Landon State Office Building, 900 S.W. Jackson. 


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