Kansas also gathered information for a 5-year adjusted cohort graduation rate of 74.87 percent. DeBacker explained that the 2009-2010 graduation rates are baseline data. Because they’re calculated differently than previous graduation rates no comparisons can be made between previous graduation data and the 2009-2010 graduation rates.
Board members also received the Licensed Personnel Report in June. Lori Adams, education program consultant for the Teacher Education and Licensure team at the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) presented the 2010-2011 report, which provides self-reported data on gender, ethnicity, age, experience and salary information for Kansas educators. Information is collected annually from October through February and is used for a variety of purposes, including teacher retention and professional development programs. Board members expressed concern over a trend in the data that shows an increasing loss of teachers over the past few years.
By a unanimous roll-call vote, Board members approved a number of changes to the teacher licensure regulations. But in a separate vote, Board members rejected a proposed requirement for all licensed teachers to submit to a fingerprint/criminal background check. Since 2003, all teachers receiving a new license from college or upon moving to the state have been required to provide a fingerprint for a criminal background check, but teachers licensed prior to 2003 have no fingerprint requirement. At an April public hearing, objections were voiced to an original proposal to require the fingerprint/background check upon license renewal. In response, KSDE staff recommended participation in the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s (KBI) Rap Back program, which would provide daily matches from arrest reports for licensed educators who had fingerprints on file. Participation would require that the approximately 43,000 Kansas educators licensed prior to 2003 provide fingerprints to the KBI within one year of the effective date of the regulation.
Several members of the Board expressed concerns over how veteran teachers would respond to the new fingerprint requirement. In addition, some Board members felt the focus should be on ensuring compliance with existing statute and regulation that requires county attorneys to notify KSDE whenever a licensed educator has been convicted of an offense that could result in license renovation, and requires superintendents to notify KSDE when an educator has been arrested or convicted of such offenses. Based on those concerns, the motion failed 4-6 with Board members Kathy Martin, Ken Willard, John Bacon, Carolyn Wims-Campbell, Sue Storm and Walt Chappell in opposition. The Board did agree to draft a letter to the Attorney General to stress the importance of enforcing the current law among counties to help alleviate the concerns over convicted teachers not being reported.
Also in June, Board members participated in a Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) training session led by State Board Attorney Mark Ferguson. The training was in response to a Shawnee County District Attorney’s ruling that a technical violation of KOMA occurred in December 2010 when a Board member replied all to an e-mail communication Ferguson had sent to all Board members. Board members will also be required to attend additional training through the Attorney General’s office at a later date.
A panel of representatives from the new Kansas Educator Evaluation Protocol (KEEP) workgroups came to discuss the progress made toward developing an educator evaluation instrument that will by piloted by select school districts for one year. This initiative is a direct response to the Board’s goal of providing an effective educator in every classroom and effective, visionary leaders in every school.
Workgroups began meeting in September 2010 to develop the evaluation instruments for teachers, building leaders and district leaders. The panel presentation reviewed the evaluation instrument elements that will be piloted by districts receiving School Improvement Grants. KSDE staff will offer training for the implementation of the evaluation instrument and after the one-year pilot will review the effectiveness of the instrument.
Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis brought the Board up to date on recent legislative bills impacting education from both the House and Senate. Of particular interest was Senate Bill 111 which allows school districts to expend a portion of their unencumbered balances held in particular funds. A summary of the 2012 budget and 2013 budget options were also reviewed.
Representatives from the Liberal Public School District gave a presentation on their turnaround achievement results, accomplished with help from the implementation of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) and programs such as Learning First. Liberal is currently in its fifth year of being on improvement and is in the corrective action phase for both reading and math. The presentation highlighted South Middle School which has been on improvement for five years and through redesigned strategies and systems achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) last year.
Board Members also received an evaluation overview of the Kansas Learning Network (KLN). KLN works with schools and districts on improvement to identify and help implement changes to improve school performance. Results of the first cohort were shared to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program thus far, showing student progress in all five of the pilot districts. This year the network serves 26 districts and 37 schools. Among the challenges KSDE is facing in the coming year is redesigning the required technical support for districts and schools to meet the expected increased demand as more districts and schools are placed on improvement, at the same time the agency will have fewer resources and more federal requirements.
In other business, the Board unanimously moved to approve the appointment recommendations to the Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) as presented by Colleen Riley, director of Special Education Services at KSDE. All of the appointments will fulfill vacated positions beginning July 2011 through June 2014.
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for June 14 and 15 in Topeka.