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Kansas State Board of Education March highlights: Board discusses student inclusivity and racial equity

Posted: Mar 11, 2022
Author: Ann Bush

The Kansas State Board of Education discussed student inclusivity and racial equity during its March 8-9 meeting in Topeka.

On Tuesday, March 8, Shannon Portillo, associate dean for academic affairs for The University of Kansas Edwards Campus, School of Professional Studies, and a member of the Governor’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice, shared recommendations from the Commission.

Gov. Laura Kelly signed an order on June 24, 2020, forming the Commission. She asked the Commission to study issues of racial equity and justice across systems in Kansas, focusing first on policing and law enforcement.

The group submitted its first report to Gov. Kelly on law enforcement and policing in December 2020, Portillo said. It included more than 60 recommendations to state agencies, the Kansas Legislature and local governments on how to improve racial equity in Kansas around policing.

The Commission in 2021 focused on studying racial equity with economic systems, education and health care, Portillo said.

The group repeatedly heard about overlapping issues in communities of color across the state, according to Portillo. The issues all connected to the Social Determinants of Health, which became the Commission’s focus in 2021. The Commission broke out into three subcommittees, studying and making recommendations on economic systems, education and health care.

The Commission met every other week from July 2020 through December 2021. The meetings included learning sessions, presentations and discussion. The Commission also solicited feedback from Kansans via social media, Portillo said.

Education recommendations in the 2021 report submitted to Gov. Kelly’s office including:

  • Considering the perspective of people of color and people from groups impacted by COVID-19 in the process of distributing federal relief funds.
  • Providing language interpretation and translation services so that Kansans have access to their government.
  • Teacher diversity. As entities look at implementing direct relief and allocating discretionary funds, they should create structures that bring people of color and communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 to the table where decisions are being made and consider their perspectives. Also, ensure policies can be adapted for education students who have outside jobs, families and/or limited resources; and collaborate with local educational associations or other groups who can help provide equity training and assist with recruitment efforts.
  • Review and eliminate the use of Native American mascots, imagery and names by educational institutions and sports teams, unless used by a tribal school or educational institution.
  • Support the use of the Collective Impact Model to reduce homelessness through intentional partnerships.
  • Support recommendations in the Kansas Registered Apprenticeship (RA)/Work-Based Learning Expansion Initiative report.
  • Improve access to mental health care in educational settings.

The State Board approved the establishment of a Literacy Advisory Council, which will provide guidance and recommendations to increase student literacy skills.

Dr. Laurie Curtis, early literacy/dyslexia program manager for the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), shared information on the proposed development of the Literacy Advisory Council. The council will be comprised of stakeholders in Kansas who are dedicated to helping support and advance gains in literacy achievement for Kansas students. Members of the council will represent different geographic regions and district sizes.

Literacy bylaws will be drafted for future consideration that will clarify council operation and procedures in alignment with the vision and mission of the Kansas State Board of Education.

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

Doug Boline, assistant director of KSDE’s Special Education and Title Services (SETS) team, gave State Board members an update on ESSER change requests and expenditure plans.

There was one ESSER II change application from a district representing 2,304 students, Boline said. There were 32 individual budgeted expenditures totaling $1.1 million.

The State Board has approved 286 ESSER II plans totaling $283.5 million.

There were 15 ESSER III plans totaling $25 million approved at the March meeting. There are 224 district ESSER III plans that haven’t been submitted, Boline said, and 18 are under KSDE review.

The State Board approved the Kansas City Teacher Residency (KCTR) program as an alternative elementary licensure pilot for elementary teaching through June 30, 2023, dependent on meeting program review and approval.

In March 2021, State Board members approved the KCTR program as an alternative elementary licensure pilot for elementary teaching. However, because of unforeseen circumstances, the original motion was amended to allow the KCTR program to become a state accredited opportunity for teacher preparation.

Dr. Mischel Miller, director of KSDE’s Teacher Licensure and Accreditation (TLA) team, along with Dr. Charles King and Andrew Stewart, both with KCTR, answered questions from State Board members.

KCTR residents who successfully complete requirements for licensure will be approved for their first teaching license beginning in June 2023, King told State Board members.

KCTR provides a three-year program that specifically begins with a full-year residency learning opportunity. KCTR recruits, prepares, develops and places candidates in partnership with the local school district and higher education institution.

Tate Toedman, assistant director of KSDE’s SETS team, introduced the two 2021 National Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Distinguished Schools from Kansas – Lincoln Memorial Elementary School, Caney Unified School District 436, and Bertram Caruthers Elementary School, Kansas City USD 500.

There were only 49 schools that named National ESEA Distinguished Schools.

All schools were honored in February at the national ESEA conference in New Orleans.

Cameron Traxson, principal of Lincoln Memorial Elementary; Blake Vargas, superintendent of Caney Valley USD 436; and Melissa Mattox, library media specialist at Lincoln Memorial Elementary, presented information about Lincoln Memorial and the conference.

Lincoln Memorial serves pre-K through sixth-grade students, Mattox said.

Molly Struzzo, principal at Bertram Caruthers Elementary, Anna Stubblefield, superintendent of Kansas City USD 500, Kristin McCloud, a counselor at Bertram Caruthers, and Michelle Manning, assistant principal at Hazel Grove Elementary School, discussed their school and the conference, too.

Bertram Caruthers Elementary serves 335 kindergarten through fifth-grade students and 67 pre-K students.

The National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program, which is a project of the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA), has been publicly recognizing qualifying schools for their positive educational advances since 1996. The program showcases the success of hundreds of schools in one of three categories:

  • Category 1: Exceptional student performance and academic growth for two or more consecutive years.
  • Category 2: Closing the achievement gap between student groups for two or more consecutive years.
  • Category 3: Excellence in serving special populations of students.

 

Lincoln Memorial Elementary School is being recognized in Category 1 (exceptional student performance), and Bertram Caruthers Elementary School is being recognized in Category 2 (closing the achievement gap).

Denise Kahler, KSDE’s director of Communications and Recognition Programs (CRP), introduced the 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools from Kansas.

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.

The 2021 Blue Ribbon Schools are:

  • Ellsworth Elementary School, Ellsworth USD 327, principal Tammi Graff.
  • Grandview Elementary School, El Dorado USD 490, principal Susan Holthaus.
  • Mahaffie Elementary School, Olathe USD 233, principal Peggy Head.
  • Roosevelt Elementary School, Hays USD 489, principal Keri Petersen.
  • Sabetha Elementary School, Prairie Hills USD 113, principal Sara Toedman.

 

Susan Gray, a pre-K through eighth-grade principal at Valley Falls USD 338, and Greg Morgan, Valley Falls High School principal, shared how the school district received a gold star in the Kansans Can Star Recognition Program. Districts with graduation rates above the state average are honored through the Star program. Those districts that have a graduation rate at or above 95% receive the highest recognition of gold.

Morgan discussed the 13 Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways offered at the high school. A bioengineering pathway will be added in the 2022-2023 school year.

Gray talked about the collaboration between the district and the community, which allows students many opportunities, such as volunteer activities and job shadowing. Relationship building is important, Gray said.

Acting Commissioner Dr. Craig Neuenswander gave his legislative liaison report.

Board member Dr. Deena Horst was reappointed to the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) Board of Directors beginning July 1, 2022.

The KSHSAA Board of Directors consists of not less than 60 members, including representatives from the State Board. KSHSAA Board of Director members are limited to a maximum term of six consecutive years.

Current representatives from the State Board are Jim McNiece, whose term continues through June 30, 2023, and Horst, whose term ends June 30, 2022. Horst was eligible for an additional two-year term on the Board of Directors.

The State Board approved hiring Ben Proctor, superintendent of Hesston USD 460, as KSDE’s Deputy Commissioner, Division of Learning Services.

Prior to being named superintendent, Proctor served as a middle school principal in Hesston, a high school principal in Cherokee, as well as taught and coached in several other districts. He earned his doctorate in educational leadership from Wichita State University. Additionally, Proctor earned a bachelor’s in history education from McPherson College and a master’s in school leadership from Baker University.

Proctor will join the KSDE team July 1.

Dr. Miller, Jeanette Nobo, assistant director of KSDE’s TLA team, as well as KSDE redesign specialists Jay Scott and Dr. Tammy Mitchell, gave an update on Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) and school redesign.

A new team is forming in KSDE’s Division of Learning Services (DLS) that will work on school improvement, the expansion of school design and KESA, Miller said.

The team will be called the Accreditation and Design Team (ADT). Mitchell, Scott and Sarah Perryman, coordinator for school redesign coordinator will join Nobo and KSDE’s Myron Melton, KESA coordinator, and John Girodat, education program consultant, to form the team. Mitchell and Scott will co-direct the team.

Miller will continue to serve as director of Teacher Licensure and will take on a larger role in expanding innovation with higher education, spending more time working with 24 higher education institutes and 430 teacher preparation programs.

To date, 34 private systems have been accredited through KESA, and 48 public systems have been accredited, Nobo said. Six private systems and three public systems have been conditionally accredited. There are 177 more systems that will come before the board for accreditation during the 2022-2023 school year.

Scott and Mitchell gave State Board members an update on the Kansans Can School Redesign Project. Seventy-one districts, encompassing 194 schools, are involved in the project, Scott said.

The redesign team has learned some important lessons during the past four years, Scott said. Those include the importance of leadership, collaboration and transparency and the power of focus and identifying key goals.

A Regional Training and Support Pilot was put in place to help districts. KSDE partnered with service centers (Greenbush North, Orion/Sumner County Coop and Southwest Plains) for the pilot. Districts taking part are (Greenbush North) Prairie Hills USD 113, Olathe USD 233, Emporia USD 253, Shawnee Heights USD 450 and Eudora USD 491; (Orion/Sumner County Coop) Oxford USD 358, Caldwell USD 360 and South Haven USD 509; and (Southwest Plains) Cimarron USD 102, Holcomb USD 363 and Dodge City USD 443).

The State Board had a discussion on student inclusivity with Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribal Council Chairman Joseph “Zeke” Rupnick, Tribal Council member Raphael Wahwassuck and Dr. Alex Red Corn, assistant professor, educational leadership coordinator for indigenous partnerships for Kansas State University. Red Corn, a member of the Osage Tribe, also is the executive director for the Kansas Association for Native American Education (KANAE).

Red Corn’s presentation had three main topics of focus:

  1. How do American Indian stereotypes live in our educational systems?
  2. How visible are Native students, and their affiliated nations, within our systems?
  3. What are some ways that we can more substantively engage our Native communities moving forward, for the benefit of all?

 

Nationwide, 93% of American Indian/Alaska Native children are in state-run public schools, not federal Bureau of Indian Education or tribally run schools, Red Corn said.

His presentation had five considerations for improving education about, for and with American Indians in Kansas. Those are:

  1. Curricular reform.
  2. Affirming sovereignty of Native nations.
  3. Examination of data infrastructure.
  4. Create a position in KSDE to coordinate American Indian education programming, relationship building and related initiatives.
  5. Removal of American Indian themed mascots and imagery.

There are 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States, Red Corn said, including four in Kansas.

Red Corn discussed Title VI funding, which is an Indian Education formula grant program administered out of the United States Department of Education Office of Indian Education. Districts that meet a minimum of 10 American Indian and Alaska Native students qualify for Title VI funding.

The program is designed to address cultural, language and educationally related academic needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students, including preschool children, Red Corn said.

Kansas has 146 school districts that qualify for Title VI Indian Education formula grant funding, he said. However, only 13 of those districts used the funding in fiscal year 2021. Those 13 districts collectively bring in $731,132 to the state specifically for educating American Indian and Alaska Native students, which means those programs in Kansas are averaging $225 per American Indian and Alaska Native student through the funding.

State Board members will continue to pursue more information and discussed the creation of a committee to work with Kansas’ Native American tribes on a variety of topics that Red Corn mentioned during his presentation.

The Kansas State Board of Education will have its next regular monthly meeting April 12-13.

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