Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
Highlights of the July State Board of Education Meeting
TOPEKA – State Board of Education members voted to recommend that the Legislature increase education funding by $604.8 million in fiscal year 2013 to fund all education programs currently in state statute at their statutory levels. At the same time, the Board recommended freezing funding at current levels for non-statutory education programs. The vote came during the Board’s regular monthly meeting July 12 and 13 in Topeka.
The vote to forward the recommendation was not unanimous and came after considerable discussion. While most Board members agreed such a substantial increase in the budget would not be considered, several shared that they believed they were obligated as advocates for children to recommend that current law be funded. For the past several years, a number of education funds and programs, including the Base State Aid per Pupil (BSAPP), have been funded below the amounts set out in state law.
The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) will prepare the budget documents for submission to the Governor in September.
Also in July, State Board members voted 6-4 to have KSDE apply to serve as a lead state in a multi-state effort to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The effort builds on previous common standards developed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the National Academy of Sciences. The conceptual framework for the standards, which will define the essential content, science practices and cross-cutting science themes to be embedded in the standards, is being developed by a committee of experts in research and education within the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council with support from NSTA and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Achieve, Inc. will coordinate the effort to develop standards that integrate the elements of the framework. If selected as a lead state, Kansas would be required to participate in at least four multi-state meetings, form a broad-based committee to consider the drafts as they are made available and provide state-level comments, and give serious consideration to adopting the NGSS once available.
Last October, the State Board voted to adopt Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts. The Common Core Standards effort was led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor’s Association’s Center for Best Practices, and Kansas was among the states able to review and provide feedback on standard drafts. Education Commissioner Dr. Diane DeBacker explained to Board members that as a lead state, Kansas would have a seat at the table as the standards are developed, however the state would be under no obligation to ultimately adopt the standards if Board members were not comfortable with the final draft.
DeBacker also provided Board members with information on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants announced in May by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The $500 million state-level grant competition is for states working to provide better coordination of early learning programs, clearer learning standards and meaningful workforce development. Kansas could qualify for about $50 million from the grant.
DeBacker shared with Board members that she was particularly interested in applying for the grant as a continuation of the state’s efforts over the past few years to create a seamless system of early learning in the state. Currently, early childhood learning programs are coordinated by three different agencies – KSDE, the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The grant application must come from the Governor, and DeBacker said she had had preliminary discussions with the Governor’s staff about coordinating the preparation of the grant, but there has not yet been a commitment from the Governor’s office to apply for the grant.
The grant application is not yet available, but is expected before the end of the summer. Grants will be awarded no later than the end of the year.
Also in July, Board members learned more about a growth model being developed by KSDE staff to measure academic progress for students, schools and districts. Called the Student Growth Percentile model, it imitates a pediatrician’s growth chart. It maps each student’s progress on state assessments over time. The charts allow each student to be compared to two groups: Students with similar score histories; and all students in the same grade taking the general assessment. Using the growth model, a reasonable expectation for future performance can be made.
State Board members had expressed an interest in adopting a growth model measuring academic improvement for accountability purposes, rather than the current accountabilitysystem that requires achievement at a specified performance level each year. During the presentation at the Board meeting, they learned that as long as the current federal requirement to have all students performing at the proficient level by 2014 is in place, integrating the growth model into the state’s accountability system will have little impact on the number of schools and districts making adequate yearly progress (AYP).
State Board Chairman David Dennis said he was still interested in developing and implementing a growth model for Kansas, but did not want it to be tied to AYP. It is anticipated that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as No Child Left Behind, will include a growth model form of accountability, so getting one in place early makes sense. Board members asked KSDE to come back in August with information on how the growth model could be used in the state outside of the AYP accountability plan.
In other business, State Board members received a report on the status of financial literacy in the state. Jim Graham, president of the Kansas Council on Economic Education, shared how the council supports financial literacy in schools across the state. In addition to providing training for teachers to help them become proficient in teaching personal finance and financial literacy, the council also provides curriculum materials to schools at no to low cost. In a recent survey conducted by the council with public and private schools across the state, the majority indicated they were teaching personal finance. Slightly more schools had integrated the instruction into other curricular areas than had a specific personal finance course. Less than 30 percent of those responding to the survey required a personal finance course for graduation.
Graham said schools in the survey that were not providing personal finance education listed a variety of reasons for not doing so, including lack of staff training, limited teaching time and lack of curriculum resources. Graham said the council could help schools easily overcome all of the reasons listed for not providing the instruction.
KSDE staff members shared that the state has identified the Jump $tart National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education as the state’s standards for financial literacy. Financial literacy is integrated into the math and social studies standards in grades K-12, and it is also found in several of the Career Cluster Pathways in the state’s Career and Technical Education program. Board members briefly discussed whether to make personal finance a required course for graduation from Kansas high schools, but most Board members indicated they needed more information before making that decision. KSDE staff was asked to provide information on howmany districts already had a graduation requirement related to personal finance and also to recommend how best to ensure personal finance education was being offered in Kansas schools.
In other action, State Board members voted to continue a contract with Cross & Joftus, LLC to provide assistance, support and guidance to districts and schools on improvement. This will be the fourth year the company has partnered with KSDE to provide federally mandated technical assistance to schools and districts on improvement. The current contract will allow for the transition from the current technical assistance program to a more regional delivery system that uses Kansas providers.
In other business, State Board members reviewed their strategic agenda and the actions KSDE staff plan to take over the next year to help achieve Board goals. Board members also voted to reduce the Board’s non-Board meeting travel budget by 10 percent.
The next State Board of Education meeting is scheduled for August 9 and 10 in Topeka.