Highlights of the May State Board of Education Meeting
Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
TOPEKA – Members of the Kansas State Board of Education were updated on the status of the state’s request for a waiver from some of the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation when they met May 8 and 9 in Topeka.
Last month, the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) received comments and concerns from the peer reviewers charged with evaluating the state’s waiver request. While the list was extensive, KSDE officials say the majority of concerns can be addressed simply by providing additional clarification about aspects of the waiver request.
There are two areas in which the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) is seeking changes to the state’s plan that are potentially troublesome. The first has to do with how the state will set and determine performance toward Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs). The state accountability plan outlined in the waiver request relies on an Assessment Performance Index (API) in which a defined number of points are assigned for each performance level on the state assessments. Schools and districts are awarded that number of points for each student scoring in the performance level. The total points are then divided by the total number of students to determine the API.
The USDOE expressed a concern that under that formula, higher performance results will mask lower performance results. The federal agency would like to collapse the top three levels (exemplary, exceeds standards, meets standards), assigning the same number of points for each of those performance levels. Judi Miller, assistant director for Title Programs and Services at KSDE, said work is underway to build business rules around the API that will prevent the masking of lower results. Those rules would be similar to the formula currently used in Kansas to identify Standard of Excellence schools. Under those rules, schools must have at least a certain percentage of students scoring in the exemplary and exceeds standards performance levels, and a minimum number of students at the approaches standards and academic warning performance levels. Miller said she is hopeful the business rules will alleviate the concerns expressed by the USDOE and allow Kansas to maintain the API as originally submitted.
The other concern expressed by USDOE was related to how the state would tie student achievement to teacher evaluations. The waiver criteria requires that student achievement be a component of teacher evaluations and that guidelines related to that be in place by the end of the current school year. While the state is piloting a model teacher/leader evaluation method, it has not yet determined how student achievement will be tied to those evaluations. The state’s waiver request indicates that it will have guidelines in place by the end of the current school year that indicate student achievement will be a primary component of teacher evaluation, however the specifics of what that will look like will not be available until a later date, and the evaluation process will not be fully implemented until 2014. Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker has said she is committed to the process of involving stakeholders in determining how student achievement will be tied to the evaluation process and will not rush the process.
KSDE must submit its response to the reviewers’ comments by May 14. A final determination on the waiver request is expected by early June.
Also in May, the State Board voted to submit draft Emergency Safety Intervention regulations to the Department of Administration and the Attorney General for review, but not before directing that some revisions be made to the draft. The draft regulations shared with Board members were based on recommendations made by the Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) which emphasized regulations that would apply to all students and not just students with disabilities. Included in the proposed regulations is terminology which describes incidents of seclusion and restraint under the umbrella of emergency safety interventions, which would reflect the intent of the current guidelines on emergency safety interventions that seclusion and restraint be used only for emergency or safety reasons and not as a behavior modification technique.
Board members voted to modify the draft regulations before sending them for review to include wording that had been suggested by the Disability Rights Center of Kansas. That wording would require that school districts’ written policies for Emergency Safety Interventions conform, at a minimum, to the standards, definitions and requirements of the regulation, including that seclusion and restraint can only be used when it meets the standard and definition of being an emergency safety intervention. In addition, the Board added a requirement that the district policy with regard to emergency safety interventions be posted to the district website where it would be easily accessible.
Board members also dealt with two matters related to professional teaching licenses. Board members voted unanimously to approve a petition from Donna L. Ford to set aside its final order issued the previous month which revoked Ford’s teaching license. The revocation occurred after Ford sent a letter to KSDE voluntarily surrendering her license for revocation. With the Board’s action in May, Ford’s license is restored.
In another matter, the Board voted to accept the recommendations of the Professional Practices Commission (PPC) to deny the application of Terrance D. Vick for a new professional teaching license. Vick’s teaching license was revoked in 1998 following his conviction on a drug-related offense. Vick had applied for a new teaching license on five separate occasions following his conviction. In the first four cases, the PPC had recommended to the State Board that the application be denied, and the Board had adopted the commission’s recommendation. In the fifth case, the PPC had recommended granting the license, but the State Board voted to deny the application. Vick appealed that final order to Shawnee County District Court, which sent the case back to the State Board for further proceedings. Following a full evidentiary hearing before the PPC in March, the PPC forwarded a recommendation to the State Board to deny Vick’s application. That was the recommendation adopted by the State Board in May.
In other business, Board members learned that the first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) would be available on the NGSS website (www.nextgenscience.org) the afternoon of May 11. Kansas is one of 26 states working with Achieve, an education reform non-profit organization, to develop new science standards that will clearly define and integrate the content and practices students will need to learn from kindergarten through high school graduation. The public review period will last through June 1.
State Board members also heard recommendations for how KSDE will provide technical assistance to Title I schools on improvement in the next school year. Technical assistance for such schools is provided by the Kansas Learning Network (KLN). Currently, KSDE uses a contracted entity - Cross & Joftus - to operate the KLN. In the current school year, the model has shifted so that more of the work of KLN is being done through KSDE and educational service centers. For the 2012-13 school year, KSDE is recommending hiring a school improvement coordinator at the agency and allowing service centers to present proposals for how they would provide more of the network services required for KLN. Cross & Joftus would still serve in a consulting role to the network. The goal for the technical assistance process is to build leadership within KSDE and the network service provider for helping priority and focus schools and to build upon that process to assist all Kansas schools.
In other action, the State Board authorized the commissioner to form a subcommittee to study problems with accessibility to services for visually and hearing impaired children in the state. The action sprang from a discussion Board members had while visiting the Kansas State School for the Deaf and the Kansas State School for the Blind in April. Board members would like to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to identify hearing and visually impaired children in Kansas and ensure they can benefit from the services offered through the schools. The subcommittee is to report its findings to the Board within 90 days.
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for June 12 and 13 in Topeka.