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Kansas

Kansas Report Card

(Click on the table names to see the 50-state tables; click on grades to see the data behind them.)

Student Achievement
(NAEP exams)

4th graders "proficient"
in reading (1998)

34%

8th graders "proficient"
in reading (1998)

35%

8th graders "proficient"
in writing (1998)

?

4th graders "proficient"
in math (1996)

?

8th graders "proficient"
in math (1996)

?

Standards and Accountability

A-

Improving
Teacher Quality
*

D

School Climate

C

Resources

Adequacy

C+

Allocation

D-

Equity

D

Comment: Kansas reviewed its curriculum standards last year and made national headlines when it adopted science standards that virtually eliminated all references to evolution. Districts are free to teach the topic, but it won't be included on statewide tests. The state now has English and math tests aligned with its standards. And it made major strides on the teacher-quality front. A wide-ranging plan, expected to be approved in final form this spring, includes tests for prospective teachers, a mentoring program, and the completion of a portfolio to earn a professional license.

* NOTE: State grades for "improving teacher quality" declined this year because of changes to the indicators.

? indicates the state did not participate in national assessment or survey.

The state's seven-year effort to redesign the way teachers are licensed took a big step forward last year with the Kansas school board's approval of a wide-ranging plan to change teacher certification.

In 1992, the Kansas board of education charged the Teaching and School Administration Professional Standards Board with crafting a plan for reforming educator preparation and licensing "consistent with the spirit and intent of the Kansas quality- performance-accreditation system." That accreditation system provides guidelines for school-improvement plans that every district must have in place in order to receive state accreditation.

Last September, in a 7-2 vote, state board members endorsed a plan that calls for a more performance-based approach to teacher licensing than the state now employs.

The board is expected to take final action on the plan by this spring. In the meantime, the plan will undergo compliance reviews by the Kansas Department of Administration and the state attorney general's office. School districts will also be allowed to comment on the plan before the board's final action.

Under the plan, prospective teachers would be required to attend a teacher- preparation program for four or five years and, upon completion, be tested on academic content and pedagogy. Teacher-candidates would then be given conditional licenses for two years.

During that time, those provisional teachers would each be assigned a mentor, be observed by administrators, and be required to create portfolios documenting their teaching performance. Currently, teachers can obtain unrestricted or professional licenses after passing basic- skills and professional-knowledge tests, along with completing three years of teaching.

"We want to keep standards high by updating teacher assessment," says Dale M. Dennis, the state's deputy commissioner of education.

Upgrading teacher licensing seemed to be a natural extension of the state's quality-performance-accreditation program, says Martha Gage, the coordinator of teacher education for the state education department.

"The program has been so long in the making, but it is a good thing for the profession and the kids in our state," adds Gene Neely, the president of the Kansas National Education Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association.

Those who are now teaching in Kansas will continue to be required to keep their skills up to date. One way districts have been trying to do that is by collaborating with local universities on professional development.

Practicing teachers will have to link the new standards to their professional-development activities, Neely says.

In another effort to improve teacher quality, the state last year provided funding for 22 teachers seeking certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. It paid 75 percent of the $2,000-per-teacher cost.

Evolution Flap

Vital Statistics
304 Public school districts
1,453 Public schools
470,000 K-12 enrollment
19% Minority students
15% Children in poverty
15% Students with disabilities
$2.7 billion Annual K-12 expenditures (all revenue sources)
(See "Sources.")
On the student-achievement front, Kansas last year completed a revision of its curriculum standards for reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies.

That process thrust Kansas into the national spotlight when the state board of education voted 6-4 last August to adopt science standards that eliminated virtually all references to evolution. Though districts are still free to teach the topic, it will not be included on new statewide science tests.

The narrow vote on the highly contentious issue renewed debate over the structure, and even the existence, of the 10- member state board. The board has deadlocked on a succession of important issues, such as school funding and teacher licensing.

Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican, is expected to push for changes to the board in the legislature this year. Possible proposals include adding an appointed member to the elected board or scrapping it entirely and appointing an education secretary.

"The way the board is set up limits what the governor can do for public education," argues Mike Matson, a spokesman for the governor.

Harold Voth, the board's vice chairman and a retired district superintendent, dismisses long-standing suggestions that the board's structure should be changed. "Just because we don't sometimes agree doesn't mean that we can't come together at another time," he says.

Finance Dispute

Meanwhile, the state's school finance system was challenged last spring in federal court by the midsize Salina and Dodge City school districts, which argue that the state formula discriminates against the districts' minority, limited- English-proficient, and disabled students. The districts contend that small and large districts with more homogeneous enrollments receive more than their fair share of state money.

Salina and Dodge City are supported by 14 other midsize school systems. The state expects the current funding formula to be upheld.

Legislators last year passed a measure to increase state per-pupil spending by $50, to $3,770 per student, in the current school year. The law also locked in an additional per-pupil increase of $50 for the 2000-01 school year.

—Adrienne D. Coles

 

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© 2000 Editorial Projects in Education Vol. 19, number 18, page 117