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Kansas State Board of Education July highlights: Board members hear social-emotional success stories, learn about Apollo III

Posted: Jul 15, 2021
Author: Ann Bush

Kansas State Board of Education members had an opportunity to hear social-emotional success stories during their July meeting.

Jaqui Ortega, who will be a senior at Highland Park High School, Topeka Unified School District 501, shared with board members a video she created which highlighted the beauty of her classmates and her school.

It started out as a class project for her journalism/yearbook class. She drew inspiration from a YouTube video highlighting someone telling others they were beautiful. Ortega decided to do the same thing at her school. She recorded a five-minute video of reactions of classmates, teachers and staff members after she told them they were beautiful. Reactions ranged from giggles and smiles to tears.

The video has gone viral with more than 14,000 views, hundreds of shares and likes – and that’s just on the Highland Park High School’s newspaper Facebook page.

Ortega is a great student example of how social-emotional and character development are being embedded in schools across Kansas.

Staff members from Clay County USD 379 shared highlights regarding districtwide redesign efforts and the 2021 Summer of Learning program. Clay County serves Clay Center, Wakefield and the surrounding area.

The district has two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school in Clay Center. There also is a K-12 school in Wakefield. Clay County USD 379 is a member of the Kansans Can Redesign Project Gemini II cohort.

With about $160,000 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, Clay County was able to offer a six-week, full-day summer learning opportunity to 74% of its K-5 students for free. The district serves about 1,300 students. 

The summer program focused on social-emotional skills and academics, two things that were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson discussed ESSER and Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) funds, critical race theory, the Sunflower Summer app and the upcoming Kansans Can Success Tour.

Dr. Mischel Miller, director of the Kansas State Department of Education’s Teacher Licensure and Accreditation (TLA) team, gave a final report on data collected by systems that paused accreditation activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The State Board in October 2020 approved public and private systems pausing from the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) requirements through June 30, 2021. Board members directed KESA staff members to have systems that voluntarily paused to have a preliminary and final report on academic and social-emotional progress.

KSDE sent out a survey to determine which systems wanted to pause during the pandemic. There were 229 systems that chose to pause, and they all were required to complete the in-depth survey. In addition to open-ended questions about short-term and long-term goals, as well as lessons learned, the survey captured information about:

  • Data sources being used to measure growth in student academic performance.
  • Level of improvement in elementary, middle/junior high and high school students.
  • Impact of academic progress by subgroups by school level.
  • Impact of academic progress by content area and school level.
  • How social-emotional needs of students were being addressed.
  • Identification of evidence-based social-emotional curriculum used.
  • Data collected to verify effective implementation and supports for social-emotional well-being.
  • How culture and climate were being addressed.
  • How social-emotional needs of staff were being addressed.

Short-term goals included offering summer learning opportunities; tutoring and/or after-school supports; enhancing or expanding tiered systems of supports; hiring staff members; and prioritization of data.

Long-term goals (next school year) included hiring staff members to support needs; creating a more efficient schedule; examining and implementing new curriculum; focusing on teacher preparation; adopting and utilizing data tools; and the continuation of short-term strategies (such as after-school programs and tutoring).

Lessons learned included:

  1. Addressing social-emotional needs and mental health of students is critical in supporting academic outcomes.
  2. Integrating technology to better serve students and importance of reliable internet access.
  3. Prioritizing communication.
  4. Learning environment matters.

State Board members also accepted the recommendation of the Accreditation Review Council (ARC) to change the accreditation status of Hope Lutheran and St. Paul Elementary from conditionally accredited to accredited.

There are three recommendations ARC presents to the board for accreditation:

  • Accredited means the system is in good standing (compliance) with the State Board, and that it has provided conclusive evidence of growth in student performance. In addition, the system has provided conclusive evidence of an intentional, quality growth process.
  • Conditionally accredited means the system is in good standing (compliance) with the State Board, and either the system did not provide conclusive evidence of growth in student performance or was not able to provide conclusive evidence of an intentional, quality growth process.
  • Not accredited means the system is not in good standing (compliance) with the State Board; or the system did not provide conclusive evidence of growth in student performance, and the system was not able to provide conclusive evidence of an intentional, quality growth process.

Hope Lutheran was granted a conditionally accredited status by the State Board in September 2020. Since that time, the system has been working with KSDE and its teachers to satisfy the areas of improvement outlined in its accreditation report.

St. Paul Elementary School was granted conditionally accredited status by the State Board at is February 2021 meeting. Since that time, St. Paul has worked in collaboration with its diocese and building team members to satisfy the areas of improvement stipulated in its accreditation report by the ARC.

The ARC met June 16, 2021, to review the documentation submitted by both systems, and upon review determined that Hope Lutheran and St. Paul had satisfactorily completed all areas of improvement.

ARC recommended continuing a yearly follow-up for Hope Lutheran.

Board members accepted the recommendation of the ARC and awarded the status of accredited to Remington-Whitewater Unified School District 206.

The ARC met two days in June to review 17 public and 10 private systems and prepare accreditation status recommendations. The KESA process provides each system with a 15-day timeline to either accept or appeal the ARC’s recommendation. At the July 2021 meeting, the board was presented 14 of the 27 systems for review.

The following systems have been recommended by ARC for accreditation:

  • Cimarron-Ensign USD 102
  • Prairie Hills USD 113
  • Olathe USD 233
  • Emporia USD 253
  • Valley Center USD 262
  • Rock Creek USD 323
  • Oxford USD 358
  • Caldwell USD 360
  • Chaparral USD 362
  • Holcomb USD 363
  • Durham-Hillsboro-Lehigh USD 410
  • Auburn-Washburn USD 437
  • Dodge City USD 443
  • South Haven USD 509

Board action is anticipated on the recommendations at the State Board’s August meeting.

Twelve schools are joining the Kansans Can School Redesign Project as the Apollo III cohort, the sixth and final phase of the project.

The announcement brings the total number of schools taking part in the Kansans Can School Redesign Project to 194, representing 71 districts.

All five of the districts selected to take part in the Apollo III phase already have other schools participating in earlier phases and are now adding new schools.

The schools, along with their districts, taking part in Apollo III are:

Andover Unified School District 385

  • Sunflower Elementary School
  • Wheatland Elementary School

Columbus USD 493

  • Park Elementary School

Emporia USD 253

  • Riverside Elementary School
  • Timmerman Elementary School

Hutchinson USD 308

  • Graber Elementary School
  • Morgan Elementary School
  • Hutchinson Middle School 7
  • Hutchinson Middle School 8

Winfield USD 465

  • Lowell Elementary School
  • Whittier Elementary School
  • Winfield Early Learning Center

The Kansans Can School Redesign Project was announced in 2017 in support of Kansas’ vision for education in Kansas – Kansas leads the world in the success of each student.

The first seven school districts to take part in the first phase of the project, Mercury 7, were announced in August 2017. The other cohorts are Gemini I, Gemini II, Apollo and Apollo II.

State Board members accepted redesign plans of Apollo and Apollo II schools’ redesign plans.

Apollo schools and their districts are:

  • Lawrence USD 497 – Free State High School.
  • Goodland USD 352: Goodland Junior-Senior High School, North Elementary School and West Elementary School.
  • Barber County North USD 254: Medicine Lodge Grade School and Medicine Lodge Junior-Senior High School.
  • Northeast USD 246 – Northeast High School.
  • Uniontown USD 234 – Uniontown High School.

Apollo II schools and their districts are:

  • Emporia USD 253 – Emporia Middle School
  • Flinthills USD 492 – Flinthills Primary School and Intermediate School and Flinthills Junior-Senior High School.
  • Hays USD 489 – Lincoln Elementary School.
  • Marais des Cygnes Valley USD 456 – Marais des Cygnes Valley Elementary School and Marais des Cygnes Valley Junior-Senior High School.

Dr. Rick Doll, executive director of the Kansas Educational Leadership Institute (KELI), gave the board an update.

The mission of KELI is to collaborate and share resources to support professional growth of educational leaders needed in Kansas schools for the 21st century. The mission of the organization is divided into two strands – induction and mentoring of new superintendents, principals and special education administrators, and ongoing professional learning opportunities for district and school leaders and leadership teams.

KELI partners with KSDE, the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB), United School Administrators (USA), Kansas School Superintendents’ Association and Kansas State University.

This is the 10th year for the KELI program.

The State Board received public school expenditure plans for ESSER II federal COVID-19 relief funds. There have been 131 ESSER II plans previously approved by board members. Thirty-eight ESSER II plans and 11 ESSER II change requests were reviewed at the July meeting.

The 38 applications represent 100,548 students with 632 individual budgeted expenditures totaling $92.5 million.

Dr. Watson proposed that the board consider a “true up” for ESSER III funds of an extra $25 per student, which would ensure all districts receive at least $625 per student.

Scott Gordon, KSDE’s general counsel, proposed a modification to his office’s authority based on trends in prior years. In 2014, the State Board authorized the Office of General Counsel, within certain parameters, to use its discretion in determining which licenses and which candidates for licensure need to appear before the Professional Practices Commission (PPC) and the State Board.

Gordon proposed that under a new rule his office could use discretion and approve applications if the applicant or licensee is legally eligible to be licensed and the OGC believes the applicant/licensee doesn’t pose a risk to students or to the profession. The OGC wouldn’t be able to deny an applicant a license without it going before the PPC, Gordon said. State Board members are expected to vote on Gordon’s proposal at the August meeting.

Bert Moore, director of KSDE’s Special Education and Title Services (SETS) team, and Heath Peine, immediate past chair of the Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC), gave an update on SEAC to board members.

SEAC’s mission is to work collaboratively to provide leadership for continuous improvement of educational systems to ensure equity and enhance learning for all students in Kansas. The purpose of SEAC is to provide policy guidance to the State Board with respect to special education and related services for children with exceptionalities in the state.

Melissa Rooker, with the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, discussed the Sunflower Summer program, which is being funded by federal money to offer summer enrichment activities for Kansas students. It is a collaboration between KSDE, Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, KU Center for Public Partnerships and Research, and Greenbush Education Service Center.

Adults can visit sunflowersummer.org to download the Sunflower Summer mobile app to their phone or tablet device. The app is available for both iPhone and Android users. An adult will need to register their family members and include their county and school district. There are nearly 70 attractions to choose from across the state, including zoos, museums, historic landmarks, libraries and outdoor locations.

The Board approved its 2022 and 2023 meeting dates. In June, the State Board proposed scheduled of regular meeting dates for 2022 and 2023. The drafts followed the traditional schedule of meeting the second Tuesday and Wednesday of the month.

Jim Porter, board chair, passed out a draft letter addressing critical race theory (CRT). He asked board members to read the letter before he and Janet Waugh signed it.

The board accepted the recommendations of the Commissioner’s Task Force on ESSER and EANS Distribution of Money and approved the submission of school district expenditure plans for ESSER II federal COVID-19 relief funds as presented.

Board members acted on final budget recommendations. Dr. Craig Neuenswander, deputy commissioner of fiscal and administrative services at KSDE, at the June meeting reviewed and discussed budget options for fiscal year 2023.

The board approved a response letter from KSDE’s Division of Fiscal and Administrative Services explaining federal requirements to the Division of the Budget and Legislative Research on expenditures of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

KSDE allocated available state-level ESSER funds for allowable expenditures. The State Board in April 2021 approved the process for distribution of ESSER III federal funds to support COVID-19 response efforts in Kansas schools. The Kansas Legislature in House Bill 2134 outlined specific expenditures for use of the federal relief funds in schools.

The response letter to the Division of the Budget Director of Legislative Research addresses each of the expenditure recommendations.

Board members also issued a response on critical race theory claims.

The board will meet next Aug. 10-11 in Topeka.

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