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Kansas State Board of Education September highlights: Commissioner shares details on new statewide recognition program

Posted: Sep 12, 2019
Author: Ann Bush

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson kicked off the September 2019 Kansas State Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Sept. 10, with discussion on the Kansans Can Star Recognition program, which will recognize districts excelling in outcomes established around the vision for education in Kansas.

Recognition levels include Copper, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Diamond. Quantitative measures, which will be rolled out first, are graduation rate, postsecondary success, prepared for high school graduation (academic) and Commissioner’s Award.

Qualitative measures, which will be discussed more in depth at a later date, are social-emotional growth, kindergarten readiness, Individual Plan of Study (IPS) and civic engagement.

These are district awards, not school building awards, Watson said. The awards program also includes private, accredited systems.

The graduation measure is based on a four-year graduation cohort. Districts must be at or above the local postsecondary predictive rate (allowing for a -.4 variance) to be considered for this award. Graduation rates at or above 95% will qualify for gold status; silver is 93% to 94.9%; bronze is 90% to 92.9%; and copper is the state average of 89.9%.

This year, 108 districts will be recognized for graduation.

The postsecondary success measure is based on the district’s five-year average postsecondary effective rate with the same precondition that the district must be at or above the predictive rate (allowing for a -.4 variance). Postsecondary effective rates at or above 70% will qualify for gold status. Silver is 60% to 60.9%. Bronze is 50% to 59.9%. Copper is the state average of 49.9%.

This year, 126 districts will be recognized for postsecondary success.

Prepared for high school graduation recognizes academic preparedness. This year’s awards will be based on the percent of students scoring at levels 3 and 4 on the state assessments in math, English language arts and science. It is the combination of all grades in all three assessed subjects. To be eligible for this award, districts must have a 95% participation rate in all three assessments. Districts with 75% or more of its students scoring at levels 3 and 4 on state assessments will qualify for gold status. Silver is 60% to 74.9%, and bronze is 50% to 59.9%. Copper is the state average of 49.9%.

This year, 95 districts will be recognized for prepared for high school graduation.

The Commissioner’s Award recognizes districts that are exceeding their postsecondary predictive rate. Districts exceeding their postsecondary predictive rate by .4-.9 standard deviation will receive the Commissioner’s Award. Districts exceeding their postsecondary predictive rate by 1-1.9 standard deviation will receive the Commissioner’s Award with Honors. Districts exceeding by more than 2 standard deviations will receive the Commissioner’s Award with Distinction.

Seventy-seven districts this year will be recognized with a Commissioner’s Award.

When the qualitative measures are rolled out next year, districts will have the opportunity to apply for these awards, Watson said.

Mark Thompson, an education program consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education, gave board members an overview of the Kansans Can Annual Conference – Kansans Can Ignite. The conference will take place Oct. 28-30 at the Hyatt Regency and Century II in Wichita. The conference has been structured around 12 strands based on the board’s outcomes, Thompson said.

Amanda Petersen, director of KSDE’s Early Childhood team, presented an overview of the 2019 Kansas Early Childhood Needs Assessment.

Earlier this year, Kansas had the opportunity and new federal grant funding to engage in a collaborative effort to shape the state’s future direction for early childhood. The Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, KSDE and other childhood partners are engaging in five activities, Petersen said. Those are:

  • Develop comprehensive statewide early childhood needs assessment.
  • Develop comprehensive statewide early childhood strategic plan.
  • Maximize parental choice and knowledge.
  • Share best practices.
  • Improve overall quality.

Funding for these activities is provided by a one-year planning grant authorized by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Melissa Rooker, executive director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, also presented with Petersen.

Kansas has concluded the information-gathering phase of the work, Rooker said. This has included reviewing 45 existing needs assessment reports and information; conducting more than 50 community-engagement sessions in 33 communities; collecting more than 2,000 stories from individual Kansans; disseminating surveys to early childhood professionals and school districts; conducting an environmental scan of early childhood facilities; and hosting focus groups with parents and early childhood stakeholders.

To date, about 6,000 Kansans have engaged to shape the future direction of early childhood in Kansas.

Overall, there were two key understandings, Petersen said. The experiences of families with young children in Kansas are shaped by where they live, and young children are growing up in families where basic needs aren’t being met.

The statewide needs assessment key findings and themes were:

  • Accessibility: Families with young children experience inequitable access to high-quality programs and services across the broader early childhood system.
  • Availability: Families with young children experience a gap between the services that are available and their actual needs, especially among underserved populations.
  • Navigation: Families must adopt a “connect the dots” approach to navigate services across sectors; disruptors are frequent and common.
  • Collaboration and integration: Early childhood providers and stakeholders share a desire for collaboration and cooperation, but these are often disconnected and uncoordinated.
  • Workforce: Early childhood workforce needs at the leadership and direct-service levels include preparation, compensation and financial relief, ongoing training support and recruitment and retention.
  • Facilities: Needs exist related to the physical conditions and environments of early childhood facilities across the state.
  • Systems alignment: Greater systems alignment is needed in order fully realize an efficient and robust early childhood care and education infrastructure.
  • Bright spots: Efficient, innovative, responsive efforts are occurring amongst early childhood care and education system partners in communities throughout the state.

KSDE’s Thompson and Jordan Roberts, with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, who serve on the E-Cigarette-Vaping Task Force, presented examples of revamped signage that includes images and wording specific to vaping. They also shared an update on Tobacco-21 legislation for the upcoming legislative session and plans to help schools with cessation and discipline related to student vaping.

Thompson announced that Goddard Unified School District 265 at its Sept. 9, 2019, meeting adopted a resolution authorizing litigation against manufacturers, distributors and sellers of electronic cigarettes and vaping products.

Kansas health officials also confirmed the first death in the state associated with an outbreak of serious lung disease related to vaping or using e-cigarettes. Since September, there have been six deaths, including the one in Kansas, and 450 possible cases of severe lung injury in 33 states and one jurisdiction. There have been six reports associated with the outbreak in Kansas, according to KDHE.

The board voted to suspend the rules and allow for a vote on the tobacco free signage. The board approved the signage, which can be used in schools across the state.

Myron Melton, an education program consultant for KSDE, provided the State Board of Education with an update on school mental health.

Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis, Diane Gjerstad and Veryl Peter talked about the second year of the Mental Health Intervention Team Pilot. There were nine districts that took part in the pilot during the first year, and all agreed to take part again for a second year. Other districts joined the pilot, bringing the total number of districts participating during the second year to 32. Eighty-two buildings were impacted the first year of the pilot, and 180 buildings will be impacted during the second year.

Melton also talked about the second year of the School Mental Health Professional Development and Coaching system. One of the goals is by the end of the fifth year, all districts and communities in Kansas will have access to evidence-based resources, protocols, processes and professional learning that are effective in meeting the mental health needs of students.

Keith Lawing, with Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, Emelie Knobloch, of Textron Aviation, and Lauren Howell, a student intern with Textron, gave State Board of Education members an overview of Wichita’s support for the Youth Employment Project (YEP) and student internships.

The Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas is a workforce development board in Wichita serving a six-county region, Lawing said.

The Alliance’s YEP program is an initiative to assist young adults in finding a first job or work experience opportunity. Services through YEP include assistance in resume creation, job search, preparing for interviews, as well as education on soft skills, customer service and financial literacy.

The Alliance initiated a youth employment strategy in 2009, Lawing said, because it recognized there was a declining teen employment rate. Research of best practices included two key elements – engagement of business community and connecting summer jobs to academic interest and programs.

In 2019, Helping Youth Prepare for Employment (HYPE), a youth employment network, was established through collaboration of the Alliance, city of Wichita, Greater Wichita YMCA, Wichita USD 259 and Wichita State University.

Camp HYPE was a pilot project launched to target 14- 15-year-old students. Few employers were willing to hire someone under the age of 16, Lawing said. Camp HYPE was designed to combine the desire to work with a career exploration strategy. Participants attended workshops in the morning on various employment skills. In the afternoon, participants visited and toured a number of employers to learn about career paths and learn about future opportunities.

Knobloch explained Textron’s program. It started in 2017. During the summer of 2019, Textron had 57 high school interns from 24 Kansas high schools. The interns make $12 per hour and work 20 hours (8 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday) per week. This past summer, interns began working June 3 and ended July 12.

Howell shared information about her K-12 engagement internship at Textron. She coordinated all college intern discovery flights at Textron Aviation Employee Flying Club. She graduated in May and is currently a freshman at Wichita State University majoring in international business.

Melissa Fast, an education program consultant for KSDE, discussed standards/competency-based instructional and grading practices in K-12 and higher education. Those presenting with Fast were Dr. Julie, Thiele, Kansas State University; Jolene Goodheart Peterson, Salina USD 305; Luke Henke, a teacher from Columbus USD 493; and Christina O’Toole, Wichita USD 259.

KSDE and K-State partnered to offer an online graduate course that examined the historical and philosophical perspectives of grading practices and the impact that various policies and practices have on instructional strategies and reporting of learning.

There were three main reasons for transitioning to learning oriented instructional and grading practices:

  • To establish a purpose around their grading practices and how it aligns to their school vision.
  • To develop grading policies that align to values.
  • To transition to standards/competency-based grading practices.

The course focused on how to effectively implement change utilizing practices of Change Management Theory; how to engage colleagues/schools/districts in grading conversations; and the steps to encourage learning oriented instructional and grading practices in the classroom and at the building/district level. More specifically, this course examined the implementation of standards-based grading and the impacts it can have on student success.

Through the KSDE partnership, K-State was able to offer a 43% tuition discount and waive all enrollment fees for course enrollees.

Goodheart Peterson and O’Toole shared why their districts decided to shift to standards-referenced grading and reporting.

Henke talked about how Columbus USD 493 is transitioning to standards-referenced grading. Columbus is a redesign district and is working toward implementing standards-referenced grading as it moves forward.

KSDE’s Fast discussed the differences between grade orientation and learning orientation. Learning orientation is working to learn. Grade orientation makes students work for a grade and focuses on grades only – A, B, C, D and F.

For example, learning orientation shifts control of learning from the teacher to the student, Fast said. It also shifts a teacher’s focus to learning rather than grades.

Luanne Barron, superintendent for the Kansas School for the Deaf, and Jon Harding, superintendent for the Kansas State School for the Blind, gave quarterly updates on their schools.

There are a lot of changes occurring at the School for the Deaf, Barron said. The new vision for the school is: Every student, who is deaf or hard of hearing in Kansas, will achieve personal success and become a responsible and productive citizen. The new mission is: To ensure that all students we serve achieve their full potential in a language rich environment. The new diversity statement is: The Kansas School for the Deaf values the diversity of the students we serve. We believe all students must be able to understand, appreciate, work with and learn from people with cultures and backgrounds different from their own.

There are 13 new staff members at the school, she said, and the numbers of students also is increasing. There were 146 students at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. The anticipated number for the end of the 2019-2020 school year is set at 151 students. The number of collaborative ventures and partnerships within the community is increasing, too, Barron said.

Harding described how the State School for the Blind has worked to have a greater visibility in the state. The school recently released a “Viewbook” that has updated photographs and information. The school also has a vision symposium scheduled for Nov. 8 in Salina, Harding said. The State School for the blind also is engaging parents with more face-to-face parent-teacher conferences, too. There are more students enrolled in the school this year than in previous years.

The school will be implementing a campus wayfinding system later this school year. It will use blue tooth beacons to help visitors and students navigate the campus inside and outside.

The next State Board of Education meeting will take place Oct. 15-16 in Topeka. However, board members will have a joint meeting with the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday, Sept. 19, and will tour western Kansas – including Liberal, Garden City and Dighton – from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2.

 

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