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Kansas State Board of Education May highlights - Recommendation: Computer science should count as core math, science credit

Posted: May 13, 2021
Author: Ann Bush

Dr. Stephen King, a computer science education program consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education, presented a recommendation to the Kansas State Board of Education that computer science be counted as a core math or science credit.

The recommendation took place during the State Board’s May 11 meeting in Topeka. The board also met Wednesday, May 12, for tours of the Kansas State School for the Blind in Kansas City and the Kansas School for the Deaf in Olathe.

State Board of Education members in February 2020 approved five recommendations brought forth from the Computer Science Education Implementation Task Force. At that time, board members requested regular progress updates. The five recommendations approved were:

  • Create a dedicated statewide computer science education position, which is a position that King took more than a year ago.
  • Encourage all schools to offer computer science, which is ongoing.
  • Computer science should satisfy a core graduation requirement. There are 48 states that allow computer science to satisfy a core graduation requirement – Kansas doesn’t. 
  • Create a licensure endorsement.
  • Arrange funding. Existing Title II professional development funds have been allocated for computer science training.

King and others examined other states’ policies for examples and met with math and science consultants to draft a regulation change. A draft was submitted to the field for comment, and the comments were compiled.

A computer science endorsement existed until about 2000, King said. Currently, 19 teachers in Kansas are endorsed.

Computer science standards revisions are currently out for public comment.

State Board of Education members are scheduled to vote on the recommendation that computer science be counted as a core math or science credit at its June meeting.

Mark Thompson, a health and physical education program consultant for KSDE’s Career, Standards and Assessment Services (CSAS) team, gave State Board members an update on vaping and other trends. Thompson also is the E-Cigarette/Vaping Task Force coordinator.

He was joined for the presentation by Jordan Roberts, youth prevention manager with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s (KDHE) Bureau of Health Promotion; Hina Shah, senior analyst with the Kansas Health Institute; and Michelene Krueger, health educator for the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

Feedback from schools suggests there has been a decrease in vaping, Thompson said. While there are possibly fewer users, there is likely a higher use among those who are vaping.

Roberts discussed KDHE’s promotion of My Life, My Quit, a free and confidential program to help people quit smoking and vaping.

Board members also received an update on Project ECHO, which aims to apply the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model and use a collaborative blended, virtual learning approach to equip critical personnel with vaping cessation resources, tools and techniques. Project ECHO is a pilot in 20 schools across the state.

Krueger spoke about the Johnson County Vape Recycling Program that started in January 2020. In Shawnee Mission Unified School District 512, five middle schools and six high schools participated. Vape was collected at the property in fire-resistant locked bags. It was then picked up by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment staff and separated for recycling. In January, February and March 2020, with just three pickups before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 7.9 pounds of nicotine were recycled, along with metals, plastic and batteries.

Rachel Phillips, project manager at Greenbush Education Service Center, presented on the Kansas Communities That Care (KCTC) Student Survey. The Greenbush Education Service Center is contracted by the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) Behavioral Health Commission to administer the KCTC Survey, provide analysis and publish results to inform prevention planning and guide policy decisions.

The student survey has been collecting data annually from sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students since 1995. This year, 49 percent of eligible Kansas students participated in the survey, submitting nearly 71,000 surveys from 251 districts and private schools. The survey is funded by KDADS. It asks students questions about topics like substance abuse, school climate, bullying, depression and suicide.

In order to shorten the survey length and improve the survey experience for students, the survey was modified, Phillips said. Those included:

  • The removal of 35 questions.
  • The addition of 12 questions.
  • Modified language for readability and inclusion.
  • Online administration.

During the pandemic, students were able to complete the survey remotely. Thirty-five percent of students completed the survey remotely in 2020-2021. Instructions were embedded in videos, and there also was a new survey platform, Phillips said.

It takes, on average, 27 minutes for a student to complete the survey.

Next year’s survey already has been published online for schools and families to view. Sexual orientation and gender identity demographics questions were added. These questions are optional for districts. The social skills scale was replaced with social and emotional learning items.

The 2021 results show that the top three substances being used by Kansas students are alcohol, vaping and marijuana.

Survey results also show the number of Kansas students who report feelings of depression has been steadily increasing since the survey began asking about it in 2016. The average percentage point increase from year to year has been 2.5. This increased by 5 percentage points from 2020 to 2021.

Among students surveyed this school year (2021), 30% reported they have seriously thought about killing themselves. Of students surveyed, 2,600 reported they have tried to kill themselves during the past year.

Kathy Busch, chair of the School Mental Health Advisory Council, along with KSDE’s Kent Reed, school counseling consultant for the CSAS team, and Shanna Bigler, a mental health education program consultant for the Special Education and Title Services (SETS) team, gave an update on the Bullying Task Force recommendations and implementation plans.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson in April 2019 appointed a Blue Ribbon Task Force to look at issues of bullying and report recommendations to the State Board of Education.

One of the recommendations included training, professional development and teacher preparation. Currently, there is collaboration with the KSDE Teacher Licensure and Accreditation (TLA) team to identify standards in which bullying and suicide prevention are addressed through preservice teacher prep programs. There also has been a training video disseminated to the field and statewide integrated bullying prevention programs are being put in place.

State Board of Education members reappointed Jennifer Holt and Aaron Edwards to a second term on the Professional Practices Commission (PPC). The board appointed Jamie Wetig, Dr. Christy Ziegler and Darrin San Romani to their first terms on the PPC. Charrica Osborne was appointed to a first term on the PPC representing middle level public school teachers. Terms are effective July 1, 2021, through June 20, 2024.

Ruth Schneider was reappointed to a second term on the Licensure Review Committee, and Tricia Schechter was appointed to the committee, filling a vacancy for a middle level classroom teacher. Terms are effective July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2024.

The board acted to suspend the current Education System Coordinating Council while the Advantage Kansas Coordinating Council is active.

The Education System Coordinating Council was created by the approval of the State Board of Education in September 2012 as a vehicle for sustained cooperation between higher education and K-12 upon the dissolution of the P-20 Education Council. The Coordinating Council consists of two State Board members, two Kansas Board of Regents members, the Kansas Commissioner of Education and the president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents.

Gov. Laura Kelly on March 22, 2021, signed an executive order establishing the Advantage Kansas Coordinating Council to address workforce development, talent recruitment and retention challenges in the state. To do this, Advantage Kansas will coordinate across state agencies and the private sector to align education and workforce training systems with the talent needs of businesses across Kansas.

Since this work overlaps with the work of the Education System Coordinating Council, it was recommended to suspend the current Education System Coordinating Council to avoid duplication of objectives.

The State Board accepted recommendations of the Commissioner’s Task Force on Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and Emergency Assistance for Nonpublic Schools (EANS) Funds and approved the EANS I reconsideration requests as presented for COVID-19 relief.

Board members also accepted the recommendations of the Commissioner’s Task Force on ESSER II, ESSER III and EANS Funds and approved the current submission of school district expenditure plans.

Board members on Wednesday, May 12, traveled to Olathe and Kansas City to tour the Kansas State School for the Blind and the Kansas School for the Deaf.

The State Board of Education will meet next on June 8-9 in Topeka.

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