Highlights of the September State Board of Education meeting
Denise Kahler, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
Kansas State Board of Education members bid farewell to its home of more than 50 years as it hosted its final board meeting in the Scott Building on September 17-18. KSDE will relocate its offices to the Landon Building as of October 28. Commissioner Diane DeBacker explained that the lease on the Scott Building is up at the end of the year resulting in a need for the agency to relocate. Long time KSDE employees Lue Ann Snider and Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis provided the board with a historical perspective of the building since the agency located there in 1966. Because the agency will be in transition throughout the month of October, Commissioner DeBacker reminded the board that its October meeting will take place in the State House.
In response to discussions during the August board meeting concerning KSA 72-1329 relative to the issuance and/or renewal of teaching licenses of individuals convicted of crimes provided in the statute, the board approved implementing new measures that would strengthen the law or require changes in rules and regulations. KSA 72-1397 specifically provides that the State Board of Education shall not knowingly issue a license to or renew the license of any person who is convicted of numerous crimes outlined in the statute. The law further provides in Section (e) that the district or county attorney shall file a report with the State Board of Education indicating the name, address, and social security number of any person who has been determined to have committed any offense or act outlined in the statute or entered into a criminal diversion agreement after having been charged with any of the crimes outlined in the law. Such reports shall be filed within 30 days of the date of the determination that the person has committed any such act or entering into a diversion agreement.
As of 2002, all teacher license applicants are required to submit fingerprints but those already licensed were grandfathered from this requirement. Currently, it is estimated that 35,000 licensed teachers do not have fingerprints on file. The board voted 9-1, with Steve Roberts voting no, to pursue implementing the following options: 1.) Phase in a requirement that all renewals for licenses would require a fingerprint check. Within five years, all teachers licensed in Kansas would have fingerprints on file. 2.) Develop an electronic form that would be sent to each county and district attorney specifically requesting a monthly report. 3.) Request the Kansas Supreme Court education liaison to include this provision in the law in future education meetings with county and district attorneys. 4.) Request the Attorney General send a letter to all county and district attorneys calling their attention to the law and the importance of ensuring the reports are filed in a timely manner; and requesting assistance from the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association in implementing the provisions of KSA 72-1397.
Commissioner Dr. Diane DeBacker presented Kansas’ 2013 ACT results, which were not released in time to present at the board’s August meeting. Overall, Kansas’ composite score remained steady, decreasing only by one-tenth of a point but still tracking well ahead of the average national composite score. Dr. DeBacker also shared that while the number of Kansas high school graduating seniors participating in the 2013 ACT test set an all-time record high, they represented just 75 percent of Kansas high school graduating seniors. DeBacker said the increased interest in career and tech education (Senate Bill No. 155) may have impacted this number.
Several factors including the low number of charter schools in Kansas led to the Charter Advisory Council and Virtual Advisory Council merging into the Charter and Virtual Education Advisory Council, according to KSDE Education Program Consultant Jessica Noble. Noble, who headed both councils also pointed to the overlapping interests of the councils as being a reason for the merger. The new council will consist of 21 members each serving a three year term and will meet quarterly to advise KSDE staff on best practices, challenges, advantages of charter and virtual schools and programs, act as charter and virtual school and program advocates in the field and as liaisons to other groups and provide recommendations and information to the State Board of Education regarding policy and requirements. Kansas currently has a total of 93 virtual schools and programs: Three charter-virtual schools, two charter schools with a virtual program, 11 virtual schools, 69 virtual programs and eight service center programs. A virtual school is defined as having a separate building number and typically has its own administrative staff whereas a virtual program follows regulations to be accredited and completes required
KSDE building-level reports. For the 2012-2013 school year, there were 6,170 students on the audited ENRL records.
Dr. Scott Smith, director of Career, Standards and Assessment Services, reported that the SMARTER Balance field assessment will be issued to approximately 10 percent of students this spring. The remaining 90 percent of students will take the transitional assessment being developed by CETE. Dr. Smith reminded the board of the Kansas College and Career Ready Assessment Advisory Committee’s recommendation to offer a hybrid approach to state assessments. Schools will be able to choose whether to use the state-developed assessment or another that has been approved. The board will be presented with a demonstration of the four assessment options prior to voting on a vendor in December.
Board members heard from KSDE staff about two new transportation programs in the works. Working in collaboration with the Kansas Department of Transportation, KSDE will be implementing Web-based software to assist districts with bidding school buses. Much like online car shopping, districts will be able to spec a bus online and identify state approved vendors, drastically reducing the amount of time currently required to complete the process. Additionally, KSDE is researching more economical opportunities for districts to purchase fuel.
Denise Kahler, director of communications, presented the board with a newly developed Kansas College and Career Ready Standards Communications Toolkit, which provides talking points, fact sheets, community outreach and social media strategies, and other communications tools to assist with communicating information about Common Core State Standards. Recent polls published by PDK/Gallup and AP/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research revealed a lack of awareness and understanding of Common Core among the general public as well as parents of K-12 students. KSDE has distributed items from the toolkit to school leaders and is making the toolkit available on its website. Kahler shared that KSDE is using Twitter to push out one fact about Common Core a day. Additionally, KSDE will submit a letter to the Kansas Republican Party in response to its adopted resolution to reject Common Core.
The next meeting of the State Board of Education will be October 15-16 at the State House in Topeka.