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Kansas State Board of Education October highlights: Commissioner of Education gives annual report

Posted: Oct 13, 2022
Author: Ann Bush

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson presented his annual report to the Kansas State Board of Education on Oct. 11 during the State Board’s monthly meeting in Topeka.

Kansas state assessment results for math have rebounded to prepandemic performance levels while English language arts have not, Watson said.

The Kansas State Department of Education has been able to use longitudinal data to link Kansas assessments to graduation rates, postsecondary success and ACT scores. The agency is now able to correlate performance levels with graduation, postsecondary effective rates and mean ACT scores (rounded up) because there is finally enough longitudinal data to complete calculations.

This data emphasizes that Kansas students who have a performance level of 2 on Kansas assessment aren’t failing, Watson told the board. However, there are still too many students in the Level 1 performance area.

“We must move students out of Level 1,” Watson said. “But we should never call students in Level 2 failing”

KSDE staff members were able to take assessment data from 10th graders in 2017 – who graduated in 2019 – and correlate it with graduation, postsecondary effectiveness rates and mean ACT scores (rounded up). Next, for greater accuracy, the four performance levels were separated into Level 1 (Bottom); Level 1 (Top); Level 2 (Bottom); Level 2 (Top); Level 3 (Bottom); Level 3 (Top); Level 4 (Bottom); and Level 4 (Top).

There were about 35,000 students involved in the new data.

Data shows that students who scored in the Level 2 (Top) category in ELA had a 94% graduation rate, and students who scored in the Level 2 (Top) category in math had a 92% graduation rate. Further, students who scored in Level 2 (Top) in ELA received an ACT mean score of 20.8 and those scoring in Level 2 (Top) in math received an ACT mean score of 21.5.

Chronic absenteeism has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, Watson told the Board. In 2018, 13.2% of students were chronically absent. By 2022, that had grown to 25.7%.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or greater of the total number of days enrolled during the school year. It includes both excused, unexcused, out-of-school suspensions and in-school suspensions that last more than one-half of the school day.

Children who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten and first grade are much less likely to read at grade level by the third grade.

Also, during the Commissioner’s report, he announced the winners of the Kansans Can Star Recognition Program. School districts can be recognized in eight categories with a copper, bronze, silver, gold or diamond star.

The Kansans Can Star Recognition Program recognizes districts across the state for excelling in outcomes established around the vision for education in Kansas, which is Kansas leads the world in the success of each student.

The program recognizes district success in:

  • Social-emotional growth.
  • Kindergarten readiness.
  • Individual Plan of Study (IPS).
  • Civic engagement.
  • Academically prepared for postsecondary success.
  • High school graduation.
  • Postsecondary effectiveness.

Outcomes are categorized as either quantitative or qualitative measures. Quantitative measures, academically prepared for postsecondary success, high school graduation and postsecondary success, are automatically calculated by KSDE based on collected district data.

Districts must apply to be recognized in the qualitative measures – social-emotional growth, kindergarten readiness, IPS and civic engagement.

Districts also can receive the Commissioner’s Award, which recognizes districts that outperform their predicted postsecondary effectiveness rate above a .40 standard deviation. A district’s postsecondary effectiveness rate factors in the degree to which identified risk factors known to depress effectiveness rates, such as poverty, chronic absenteeism and student mobility, are present in a district’s student population.

There are three categories for the Commissioner’s Award:

  • Commissioner’s Award: .4-.99 standard deviations
  • Commissioner’s Award with Honors: 1-1.99 standard deviations
  • Commissioner’s Award with Highest Distinction: 2 or more standard deviations

Watson announced that Southern Lyon County USD 252 is the only school district in the state to be recognized in all eight categories. This is the second year the district has been recognized in all eight areas.

To close out his annual report to the State Board, Watson outlined action items for Kansas schools.

For pre-K through elementary schools, Watson asked them to:

  • Lower chronic absenteeism immediately.
  • Move students academically out of Level 1.
  • Help students develop self-regulation skills.

He asked middle schools to:

  • Lower chronic absenteeism immediately.
  • Move students academically out of Level 1.
  • Help students develop perseverance skills.
  • Raise the level of rigor and have high expectations for all students.

And Watson asked high schools to:

  • Lower chronic absenteeism immediately.
  • Move students academically out of Level 1.
  • Help students develop a robust IPS.
  • Raise the level of rigor and have high expectations for all students.


Shane Carter, director of Teacher Licensure for KSDE, shared highlights from the 2022 Licensed Personnel Report. The top five vacancy areas from fall 2022 were special education (385); elementary (329); English language arts (93); math (85); and science (95). In total, Kansas schools reported 1,628 vacancies.

In spring 2022, the top five vacancy areas were special education (305); elementary (251); ELA (108); math (94); and science (86). In total, Kansas schools reported 1,381 vacancies.

The top two reasons reported for vacancies in fall 2022 were no applicants and not fully qualified based on endorsement area. In spring 2022, there were 505 vacancies because of no applicants. That number increased to 683 in fall 2022.

In spring 2022, there were 640 vacancies because of not fully qualified based on endorsement area. That number increased to 762 in fall 2022.

During the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, 505 educators left the profession. During the 2021-2022 school year, 732 chose to leave the profession. There were 785 educators who retired during the 2019-2020 school year. During the 2020-2021 school year, there were 915 who retired, and in the 2021-2022 school year, there were 986 retirements.

State Board members continued discussion on graduation requirements. The Graduation Requirements Task Force was created in 2021 and asked to identify courses to add or delete from requirements (if any); review ways to demonstrate mastery of skills and competencies; study the need for value-added asses in addition to a high school diploma; and ensure all students are included and all opportunities for success are studied.

Requirements from the Task Force were shared with State Board members in September. Commissioner Watson gave additional options for consideration at the October meeting.

Under the present system, students need three units of history and government and one unit of fine arts. The task force recommends four units of society and humanities – 2.5 units of social studies (world,US, government), one unit of humanities/arts and one half unit of fine arts.

Miss Kansas Ayanna Hensley, of Dodge City, shared her story of being legally homeless at the age of 17. She attended high school along with attending college and working full time. She then attended Fort Hays State University on a full-ride scholarship.

“Education is so important to me,” she told the State Board. “I remember specific moments and specific teachers that had changed my life at every single phase of it.”

Also on Tuesday, the State Board heard from the Kansas Advisory Council for Indigenous Education Working Group. The group asked the board to support their recommendation that schools with American Indian-themed mascots and branding “retire these practices as soon as possible. They also recommended that when more in-depth community engagement and long-term planning is necessary, that these institutions develop plans to retire these practices within the next three to five years.

Aaric Davis, superintendent of Royal Valley USD 337, said he is in support of the recommendation made by the Kansas Advisory Council for Indigenous Education Working Group to remove Native American mascots and imagery from public school settings.

State Board members plan to act on the recommendation from the Kansas Advisory Council for Indigenous Education Working Group at the November meeting.

Board members also on Tuesday approved the Kansas Purple Star School Designation, recognizing military-friendly schools that meet specific criteria and demonstrate a major commitment to serving students and families connect to the nation’s armed forces. Schools will need to apply for the designation.

Jay Scott, KSDE’s director of Accreditation and Design, presented recommendations of the Accreditation Review Council for Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA). The ARC’s recommendation is to conditionally accredit Healy USD 468, Lawrence Gardner High School and Lakemary Center in Paola. The State Board is scheduled to take action on the recommendations in November.

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, 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 district expenditure plans for ESSER III and change requests for ESSER II.

Doug Boline, assistant director of KSDE’s Special Education and Title Services team, said there were three ESSER II change applications from districts, representing 1,525 students. The plans included 38 budgeted expenditure items with a total value of $1.3 million. Out of $343.5 million allocated for ESSER II, $339.5 million (99%) has been allocated, with $4 million (1%) remaining.

There were nine districts that submitted ESSER III plans, representing 54,221 students. The plans included 601 individual budgeted expenditures totaling $180 million. Seven districts submitted ESSER III change plans, representing 12,120 students. The plans included 211 individual budgeted expenditures totaling $9.7 million.

Out of $768.1 million allocated for ESSER III, $357 million (46%) has been allocated, with $228 (30%) million remaining, $180 million (23%) being reviewed and $3.1 million (less than 1%) in change requests.

Denise Kahler, director of KSDE’s Communications and Recognition Programs team, introduced the 2022 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team.

Team members presented about their year as the 2022 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team. The team visited and presented at 18 colleges across the state and toured 8 school districts. Their presentation was called, "Finding A Place and A Space For All Students in the World."

They also presented at conferences and several other events.

“We rise by lifting others,” said Susanne Stevenson, the 2022 Kansas Teacher of the Year. “If you are in a position to see greatness, call out greatness.”

The 2022 team is composed of Susanne Stevenson (2022 KS Teacher of the Year), Amber Carithers, Amanda Ketterling, Kristin Salazar, Laurie Thisius, Natalie Johnson Berry, Lisa Martinez and Megan O'Neill.

Luanne Barron, superintendent of the Kansas School for the Deaf, gave an update on her school.

The students, faculty and community recently voted on a new logo for the school, Barron told the Board.

In the 2018-2019 school year, the school had an enrollment of 146 students. That number grew to 150 for the 2021-2022 school year. The project enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year is 155.

The school’s dorms can accommodate about 200 students.

One of the challenges the school has faced is staffing.

“We need more staff,” Barron told the State Board members.

The number of students receiving access to deaf-appropriate interventions, programs and resources has continued to grow. In the 2020-2021 school year, 569 students were served. That number grew to 658 in the 2021-2022 school year. The projected number of students served for the 2022-2023 school year is 671.

The programs and the number of students receiving these outreach services during the 2021-2022 school year were:

  1. Hearing Assistance Technology – 290 students
  2. Language Assistance Program – 155 students
  3. Sound START – 147 students
  4. American Sign Language (ASL) Storytelling – 23 students
  5. Deaf Mentor – 17 students
  6. Consult and Assessment Team – 13 students
  7. Family Signs Kansas – 13 students

 

Jon Harding, superintendent of the Kansas State School for the Blind, also shared an update with the State Board.

The school’s goals include growing outreach, expanding professional development, improving transitions and increasing visibility, Harding said.

There are 50 students who attend the Kansas State School for the Blind. About 28 of those students reside on campus, and the other half are day students, according to Harding.

Upcoming areas of focus for the school include:

  1. Taking a larger role in coordinating statewide vision services.
  2. Birth to age 3 – adding staff members, better identification, referral and services.

 

Bill Faflick, executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA), gave an annual report to the Board members. He was accompanied by Fran Martin, KSHSAA assistant executive director who has served the education field for 38 years and will retire in June 2023, and Kyle Doperalski, also a KSHSAA assistant executive director.

The Association awarded 1,461 plaques and 19,169 medals to Kansas students last year. It served 214,577 students.

Faflick announced that Lola M. Wade, a theater instructor at St. Mary’s Colgan High School in Pittsburg was selected by the National Federation of State High School Associations as the 2022 National High School Heart of the Arts Award recipient.

He announced that McPherson High School was named the 2022 Performing Arts School of Excellence. In 2022, there were 18 schools honored, 13 schools commended, four finalists and one winner (McPherson High). The award honors schools with exceptionally high performances in debate, speech, music and theater.

Faflick also discussed KSHSAA’s wheelchair races and a partnership with Special Olympics Kansas (SOKS) to encourage and develop Unified Bowling through school memberships in Kansas.

KSHSAA legislative issues will include transgender, home school, transfer, protecting officials and classification, Faflick told the State Board.

The State Board will meet next Nov. 9-10 in Topeka.

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