State first needs a guarantee that USD 480 has the capacity to implement programs and required changes
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
The USD No. 480 Board of Education voted Monday to begin restructure on South Middle School and to use 2010-2011 as a planning year for Liberal High School.
Kansas Director of Title Program Services Dr. Julie Ford said the state has new resources connected with school improvement. Guidelines on improvement were released in December, but in January, as education officials were starting to work toward those, the guidelines were changed again, creating a new tier of schools in addition to Tier I for schools which are identified as the lowest achieving and Tier II, which is lowest achieving secondary schools.
Ford said the Kansas State Department of Education does a good job with schools on improvement. This year, 18 of the state’s school districts, with a total of 33 schools, are on improvement.
“We have worked with those schools through the Kansas Learning Network, ” she said. “With our resources that we have at the state department, we truly feel like we have a good place in supporting those schools.”
The regulations which came out in January required KSDE to identify the persistently lowest achieving schools in the state.
“In Kansas, we have kind of stayed away from persistently low,” Ford said. “We’ve always had a school improvement list, but we haven’t purposely gone in and said these are the lowest or this is where we’re at even though we probably had some general ideas on how to do that.”
Ford added KSDE officials have come up with a new formula to apply to these schools.
“Basically, in order to get on the list, you will have to not have made AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) for two years either in math or reading,” she said. “You have to make improvements for two years before you go off the list.”
Ford said the new formula takes the percentage of students at or above proficient in both reading and math combined over a three-year average.
“That was even a challenge for the state department to come out and figure out how to run,” she said. “We did that in December. In January, it comes out that now they are freeing up the resources to work with high schools.”
Ford said under current regulations, very little money goes to high schools because the money is geared around Title I resources, meaning it usually goes to elementary schools, with some being used for middle schools.
“That’s usually a district decision on how they spend that money,” she said. “We have a few schools in Kansas that use their money for high schools, but for the most part, it’s mostly elementaries and middle schools.”
Ford said KSDE is getting about $24 million from the federal government which could be used for the state’s 270 high schools as Title I money in those districts if it was applied at the high school level.
In order to receive some of that money, Tier I and Tier II schools would be required to adopt a model to aid on such a substantial level, according to Ford.
“There are four identified models, which included the turnaround model, transformational model, the charter school model and the closing school,” she said. “We know it’s probably not an option to close either one of these schools, so you really had three different models and different requirements for each model as you think about what you’re going to adopt.”
Whichever model is adopted would need to be up and going for the next school year, Ford said.
“It takes a lot of planning,” she said. “It takes a lot of coordination of resources. There is no wiggle room in that. You’re actually ahead of the ball game with your Tier I school because South has been in the restructuring plan all year.”
Ford said the first thing KSDE needs to do with USD 480 as they work through the process is to make sure the district has gone through a thorough needs assessment.
“When we talk about a needs assessment, we really talk about four types of data,” she said. “One would be your academic data, which includes your AYP, your formative assessments and how you have been performing on the state assessments. We also look at perception data, and that would be your surveys that you’ve done with your staff, with your students, with your parents. We also look at contextual data. That would be things like what programs do you have in that school, how are you using the resources toward the programs, what opportunities are available. Finally, data about the students and the parents that attend that.”
Ford said the next step would be a root cause analysis.
“This is really getting down to what is causing that school to be on improvement,” she said.
LHS could receive as much as $2 million of the $24 million the state could receive from the federal government, and Ford said KSDE needs a guarantee that USD 480 has the capacity to implement programs and required changes.
“The capacity determining is part of what we have sent in to D.C.,” she said. “We have several ideas on how that will happen.”
Ford said with a needs assessment, the state has to determine whether the district has capacity to implement it, and a written plan would need to be in place.
“We have on our timeline that this plan would have to be written by May 1,” she said. “It’s very quickly, but you have to remember they’re expecting you to implement it by August. We would need to approve the plan by May so that the district could be freed up with the resources to start the planning process.”
Ford described some of the models USD 480 could implement to help with restructuring, including the turnaround model. New guidelines for that model require a school to replace at least 50 percent of the staff which caused the school not to make AYP and likewise replace the principal.
“You can see that requirement on the turnaround model has really changed considerably from when they started the process,” Ford said. “They were kind of leaning toward the turnaround, but they didn’t have a number of staff.”
Ford said the transformational model, which the board approved Monday for use at South, lets a facility keep its principal, and it does not require replacing a certain amount of staff.
“What it says is you will guarantee that there is an evaluation system in place that will address the staff members that are causing you not to make AYP or consistently make it,” she said.
Ford said KSDE has no plans on taking over any schools in the state.
“We don’t have the authority to, and we believe in local control,” she said. “What we have said though is we will make sure that if these resources go out to the districts to be put out into the schools, we will monitor the implementation of the model and what they’re putting in.”