Highlights of the October State Board of Education meeting
Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
State Board of Education members voted in October to present state-level assessment results on the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) State Report Card that reflect only scores from students who took state-administered assessments during the 2011-2012 school year. That will exclude results from students in grade 8 and high school in three Kansas school districts that were granted waivers to use ACT assessments in place of state assessments in those grades. The Board’s decision came during their monthly meeting Oct. 16 and 17 in Topeka.
In making the decision, the Board indicated its desire to provide the greatest degree of accuracy possible in the comparison of student performance on state assessments from year to year. Because students taking the ACT assessment are measured against a different standard than those taking the state assessment, Board members believed combining the results created a false picture of the progress of Kansas students.
The Board first received state level assessment results in September. At that time, results for all tested students were included in the report. Significant declines in the performance of certain subgroups were noted, as well as a significant widening of the achievement gap between white students and African American and Hispanic students, and between students paying full price for school lunches and those receiving free school lunches. It was later discovered that the ACT assessment scores accounted for much of those differences. While students taking state assessments are measured against a grade level proficiency standard, those taking the ACT assessments are measured against a higher college and career-ready standard.
The three districts granted waivers to use the ACT assessments for grade 8 and high school were the McPherson School District, the Clifton-Clyde School District and the Kansas City Kansas School District. The McPherson district was in the second year of its waiver, while Clifton-Clyde and Kansas City Kansas were in the first year of their waivers. Because of the size of the Kansas City Kansas School District, and the significant population of minority and lower-income students in the district, a larger impact to state level results as a consequence of the waivers was realized.
State level results on the State Report Card will include a notation that the results reflect scores only from students taking state-administered assessments, and will provide links to review the scores of the districts that used ACT assessments for grade 8 and high school.
In other business, Board members received a report on the implementation of the new meal pattern implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the National School Lunch Program. The new meal pattern, part of the federal Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act passed in 2010, establishes healthy food requirements for school meals and represents the first major change in meal requirements in the past 15 years.
Cheryl Johnson, director of the Child Nutrition and Wellness team at KSDE, told Board members that meal requirements for the National School Lunch Program are supposed to be updated every five years, as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated. Ideally, these changes would have occurred gradually over the past 15 years, but because Congress has been unable to pass changes in previous years, schools are now faced with implementing many changes all at once.
Johnson said the changes in the meal pattern are all based on science and what research has shown are optimal calorie levels for children in different age groups. Previously, schools had to meet a minimum calorie level in their meals, but did not have a maximum calorie limit. The new requirements set a calorie range with minimums and maximums for three different age/grade groups – K-5 students, 6th -8th grade students and 9th-12th grade students. The calorie levels are set at one-third of the total recommended calorie intake for students in those groups.
Additional changes include separating fruits and vegetables into their own food groups and setting daily and weekly requirements for each, and setting weekly ranges for whole-grain rich foods and for proteins.
Board members expressed concerns they had heard from constituents and some schools or districts, including that kids are going home hungry and that student athletes are not receiving enough calories to see them through after-school practices. Johnson repeated that the calories for school lunches are intended to be just one-third of what is required for a full day – lunch should not be providing the full calories students need for the day. Given that, it is not surprising that students would be hungry at the end of the school day. She said an After School Care Snack Program is available for all grade levels, and would provide free or reduced price snacks for children who qualify for those programs. She also said it was important that the students receive breakfast each morning, and many Kansas schools offer breakfast programs, as well. It is also important to know whether students are taking all the food that is offered to them at lunch.
Johnson said schools have the option to offer or to serve during school lunch. In the “offer” option, students are offered appropriate portions of all five components of the lunch. Students must accept at least three components and one of them has to be a half cup of fruits or vegetables. In the “serve” option, students are simply served all five components of the lunch. In both options, students are able to have all the fruits and vegetables they like, at no additional cost.
Johnson conceded that the calories are probably not enough for athletes, but that those students do have the option of filling up on fruits and vegetables, and they can purchase additional servings at lunch, or can bring snacks from home for later in the day.
In addition to reviewing the new meal pattern, Johnson and her staff also shared information about a number of programs designed to help keep students, both in K-12 schools and in child care and home daycare centers, physically fit and healthy.
Also in October, Board members received a report on the development of the Kansas Educator Evaluation Protocol (KEEP). KEEP is a model teacher and principal evaluation system developed by KSDE with the help of representatives from higher education, the Kansas National Education Association and the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The system was first piloted in the 2011-2012 school year by 16 school districts; the second pilot is taking place this school year with the participation of 22 school districts.
The KEEP system provides four constructs, or big ideas, for each level of evaluation and also outlines additional components within each construct. The components are developed from research-based practices that have a demonstrated impact on student achievement. Each component includes a rubric that helps educators reflect on their practice, and guides evaluators in assessing the educator’s practice.
Board members were given a demonstration of the electronic repository developed for KEEP. The repository is guided work space where educators can identify their personal goals, conduct a self-assessment and store artifacts or evidence of effective practice. Evaluators can also use the site to record evaluations and observation comments.
As part of the waiver the state received from portions of the requirements in the No Child Left Behind legislation, a component that ties student achievement to the evaluation must be added to KEEP. A special commission, the Teaching in Kansas Commission II, is working to develop that component and is expected to make recommendations to the State Board by the end of this year. Kansas school districts will not be required to use the KEEP model, but will be required to use an evaluation system that has all of the components outlined in the state’s waiver request, as KEEP does. By March 2013, school district will need to indicate which evaluation system they will be using.
Board members also received a demonstration on the new Kansas Writing Instruction and Evaluation Tool (KWIET). The tool, developed for KSDE by the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas, provides an online environment where students can compose pieces of writing in response to a prompt created by their instructor. The tool includes a space for students to create an outline and first draft, show edits and even a place to collaborate with other students and receive feedback. When students submit their final draft, the instructor can evaluate the student’s work and provide feedback within the KWIET tool. Teachers also have space on the tool to write and store prompts, and create and store scoring rubrics.
In addition to being used for writing assignments, KWIET can also be used to administer the state writing assessment. Once a student logs in to the tool for the purpose of taking the assessment, the student’s computer is locked out of any other programs, to prevent the student from accessing another site where they could copy and paste information or writing passages. Schools do not have to use the KWIET tool for administering the writing assessment, but it is now an option available for them.
In other business in October, Board members received an update on the progress of the Next Generation Science Standards. Kansas is one of 26 states working with Achieve, an education reform non-profit organization, to develop science standards that will clearly define and integrate the content and practices students need to learn from kindergarten through high school graduation. The standards are based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education, developed by a committee representing expertise in science, teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment and education policy. The Framework was released by the National Research Council in July 2011.
John Popp, assistant superintendent for the Great Bend School District and a member of the Kansas leadership committee working with the Next Generation Science Standards, shared with Board members that he is excited by the potential in the standards to provide engaging opportunities for students to practice science in the classroom. He said rather than attempting to cover the vast content areas of science, the new standards dig deeply into core concepts in science and force students to think deeply about them. In addition, he said he likes that the science standards integrate well with the Common Core Standards for English language arts and mathematics.
During the public comment portion of the Board meeting, an Emporia University professor shared his concerns that the Next Generation Science Standards do not include topics such as human anatomy, botany or zoology. Popp and KSDE Program Consultant for Science Matt Krehbiel told Board members that those topics are not ignored by the standards, but it is an issue of depth versus breadth. Krehbiel said the standards attempt to ensure students understand the core ideas of science, which means some content may not be covered as deeply, but that essential science topics are not omitted.
A second public draft of the standards is expected in late November, with the final draft due in the spring of 2013.
Also in October, Board members received a report from Dr. Robert Harrington, professor of psychology and research in education at the University of Kansas, on his research on bullying programs in schools. Harrington conducted a year-long study to compare bullying prevention programs in Kansas schools with recommended practices in bullying prevention. He told Board members that his research indicated that 50 percent or more of Kansas school districts do not have a bullying prevention plan, although audits conducted by KSDE indicate all school districts have bullying prevention plans in place. Harrington explained that while some districts may believe they have plans in place, the plans they refer to do not meet the requirements for a policy.
Harrington said good bullying policies must be comprehensive and based on research and current theory. According to his research, too many bullying programs in Kansas do not meet that standard. Harrington shared with Board members that he believed bullying prevention should be part of a teacher certification program, and proposed an online model for granting certificates in the subject area. Board members directed the KSDE staff to address the issues raised by Harrington and share at a future Board meeting any things related to bullying prevention programs that may need to be addressed in Kansas schools.
Board members also heard a presentation on Agriculture in the Classroom. Cathy Musick, executive director of the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (KFAC), shared with Board members a number of programs and initiatives undertaken by KFAC, including programs that are brought into school classrooms to help students of all ages learn about agriculture. In addition to bringing programs to the classroom, KFAC provides training to teachers to help them learn about creative ways to include agriculture in their classroom.
The next meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education will be Nov. 13 and 14 in Topeka.