May 16, 2014

For Immediate Release

 

Denise Kahler, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876

Highlights of the May Kansas State Board of Education Meeting

 

TOPEKA – The Kansas State Board of Education tackled a full agenda at its recent May meeting as a result of recent legislative action and the departure of Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker, who last month announced she would be leaving the agency.

 

In her final report as Education Commissioner, Dr. DeBacker presented the board with a review of the progress made by KSDE towards the board’s goals and objectives established in March 2013. Overall, Commissioner DeBacker reported that KSDE has made substantial progress towards each of the board’s five goals, but identified four areas where more focus is needed. Those areas include reviewing graduation requirements and improving graduation rates; supporting and encouraging the use of technology in education delivery systems; continuing to develop strategies for teacher and leader recruitment, support and retention; and collaboration between KSBE and the Kansas Board of Regents to review and revise leader preparation programs to respond to the diverse educational needs in Kansas. Board Chairwoman Jana Shaver offered high praise to Commissioner DeBacker for her focus on moving the board’s goals forward and for her communication with the legislature and the field.

 

During its April meeting, as a result of HB 2319, the board asked KSDE staff to review the Innovative District applications submitted by the McPherson and Concordia school districts to determine they followed the technical requirements of the law and to determine whether the exemptions being requested can be approved by law.  KSDE presented to the board that both applications meet the technical requirements, however there are areas where either the exemption is too vaguely worded to know what is being requested or the board does not have the authority to waive the requested exemption. In the case of the latter, McPherson school district is requesting exemption from using the state assessment and instead proposes to use an alternate assessment. However, the use of the state assessment for grades 3-8 and one grade in high school is a requirement set by the US Department of Education and therefore the KSBE does not have the authority to grant this exemption. While the board is supportive of innovation in schools and collaborating with the districts, they are proceeding carefully in order to ensure they preserve the board’s current and future constitutional authority and how it oversees the Kansas education system.  HB 2319 requires the State Board to “adopt rules and regulations as deemed necessary to implement the Act.”  KSBE is in the process of developing this document. In the meantime, the board voted to form a committee to meet with the two Innovative Districts prior to the June board meeting to develop a proposal for how best to work together in order to help these districts achieve their goals.

 

Director of Child Nutrition and Wellness Cheryl Johnson requested board action to set a policy as required by the USDA’s Interim Final Rule: Nutrition Standards for All Food Sold in School regarding the frequency with which fundraising activities that do not meet the nutrition standards may take place during the school day on school grounds. The Interim Rule specifies that if the state agency does not set a policy, the fundraising exemption will be set at zero.

 

Johnson and her staff solicited input from various stakeholders including the Council of Superintendents, School Nutrition Professionals, administrators, school nurses, physical educators, Family & Consumer Science teachers, classroom teachers and community members to determine their preferred number of exempt “non-nutritional” fundraisers. Based on this feedback, KSDE recommended that the Kansas State Board of Education approve a fundraising exemption policy that allows one exempt food fundraiser per school organization per semester that does not meet the Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School during the school day. Based on a review of other state policies, KSDE believes this policy to be as liberal as USDE will allow and reminded the board that fundraisers with non-food items or with food items that meet the nutrition standards are not limited in any way. Fundraisers with foods that do not meet the nutrition standards are not impacted if they are sold on weekends or 30 minutes after the end of the school day. The board voted to adopt the policy as recommended.

 

The board voted to move forward with the required adoption process for proposed licensure regulation changes that impact the areas of special education, career and technical education and out-of-state applicants. The proposed changes also formalize into regulation the Board policy on mentoring. While these regulation changes have been in the works for some time, they come on the heels of the legislature’s recent approval of HB 2506, which does not require an individual applying for a Kansas teaching license as a secondary level teacher who has a commitment for hire from a district to complete a teacher preparation program if they fit into one of the following situations:

1.     The individual has an out-of-state license and a passing score on the tests required by the State Board, or

2.     The individual has at least a bachelor’s degree in the subject matter area of science, technology, engineering, math, finance or accounting and have at least five years of work experience in the subject matter, or

3.     The individual holds an industry-recognized certificate in a technical profession and has at least five years of work experience in the technical profession.

 

In any of these situations, the person is limited to teaching the specific subject matter and/or the technical education course listed on the license that is issued. KSDE staff and KSBE members are currently reviewing the impact of this new statute on the state’s current licensure regulations to ensure compliance.

 

The board also received a recommendation to increase licensure fees by either $12 or $15. Kansas currently has one of the lowest licensure fees in the country averaging 50% to 60% below other states. However, this fee is not keeping pace with rising costs associated with processing licensure applications. Currently, Kansas teachers pay $45 for an initial license and $54 for a professional license, license renewal (every five years) or out-of-state license. The board will be asked to act on this recommendation at its June meeting.  

 

Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander and Director of Career Standards and Assessments Scott Smith, provided an update on the number of assessments completed to date. Prior to the May 16 close date of the assessment window, the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation recorded 524,346 completed assessments. The Technical Advisory Council will meet May 21-22 to analyze the assessment data to determine what can be reported validly as well as to conduct an item-level analysis to determine how particular test questions perform or “interact” with students. The Kansas Assessment Advisory Council will meet June 3rd to discuss how to map the Kansas Assessments onto a K-12 system – determining at what grade levels to assess social studies, English language arts, science and mathematics, as well as how to score writing portions of the assessment efficiently and validly.

 

KSBE members received a presentation from a team of Erie High School students that represented Kansas in a national competition to build and test shielding designs to block cosmic radiation for NASA’s new Orion spacecraft. The EHS team’s design was selected as one of five finalists to travel to Washington D.C. to compete with other student teams from Illinois, Virginia, Utah and California. The design had to be less than seven inches in scope and weigh less than seven pounds due to flight weight requirements. Team members described the research they conducted and why they chose the materials and design for their entry. While their design was not ultimately selected as a winner, the team has been invited to present their work at several events.

 

The Child Nutrition and Wellness team presented board members with a draft of the Kansas Model Wellness Guidelines they have been developing over the past two years to meet new federal requirements. Additions to section 204 of the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 require local school wellness policies to contain at a minimum: goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote school wellness; and nutrition guidelines for all foods available on each school campus during the school day consistent with USDA’s meal pattern requirements and the nutrition standards for competitive foods, and designed to promote student health and reduce childhood obesity. The guidelines reflect input from school personnel, content experts and stakeholders throughout Kansas. KSDE received a Wellness Policy Implementation grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, which will put wellness coaches in schools to help implement these Model Wellness Guidelines. Board members are asked to email comments and suggestions regarding the guidelines to CNW Director Cheryl Johnson prior to the June board meeting.

 

In commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education Decision, which legally ended segregation in public schools, the board held its Wednesday meeting at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka.  Prior to the start of the meeting, Chairwoman Jana Shaver read the following statement:

 

“Today the Kansas State Board of Education stands on the steps of this national historic site to reflect on the significance of the ideals tied to this former school building – ideals which are a significant part not only of Kansas’ history, but of our nation’s.

 

We remember a landmark decision made 60 years ago this week granting every child an equal right to a quality education – a child’s most basic right. We reflect on the courage of those families who stood up for what was right and just for all children. Today we honor their legacy by continuing efforts to ensure all children have access to high quality public education regardless of socio economic standing, race, creed or color.

 

As educational leaders, we will never forget the sacrifices made throughout history, but rather use them to fuel our commitment to providing the highest educational standards in order to build a brighter future for all Kansas children.”

 

The May Board meeting was Commissioner DeBacker’s final meeting as Kansas State Education Commissioner. Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander officially assumed the position of Interim Commissioner on May 15.

 

The next meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education is scheduled for June 10-11 in Board Room 102 at the Landon State Office Building, 900 SW Jackson Street, Topeka, Kansas.