Coalition of Innovative School Districts updates State Board

The Kansas State Board of Education received its bi-annual report from the Coalition of Innovative School Districts during its regular April meeting Tuesday in Topeka.

Marysville USD 364 Superintendent Bill Mullins represented the group of six districts sharing the work that has been their focus over the past few months.

First up was sharing the Vision and Mission of the group:

Vision: Act as purposeful risk takers to meet the needs of our diverse learners, by challenging the status quo.

Mission: Challenge traditional thinking, construct brighter futures, through collegiality, with a focus on research based practice.

Mullins also reported on the work of two sub-committees. The first committee is working on graduation rates and Individual Plans of Study.  One area of focus is to explore alternative methods for students earning credit. The coalition is looking at states like New Hampshire, Oregon and Wisconsin for some ideas. Board Chairman Jim Porter applauded this effort, noting the traditional model of classroom credit may not work best for all students.

The second committee has been tasked with Social Emotional Learning models and how they can be integrated into core classrooms like Math, Science and Language Arts.  Both committees will continue their work through the summer.

Board member Ann Mah asked what the top issues were for the Innovative Districts, beyond the teacher licensure exemption.  Mullins replied their focus now is on developing ideas of innovation, some of which have been adopted by the board for all districts.  Instead of seeing what barriers the districts can be exempted from, they want to focus on what new ideas they can develop and be allowed to do.

The board then moved on to the renewal of the one year specialized certificates for teachers in the Kansas City USD 500 district. Superintendent Cindy Lane reported they had seen positive results over the last year and were asking all but two of the special certificate teachers to return in the fall.  In addition, they will have 17 new positions and a new partnership with Teach for America to help fill some important roles.

Board member Sally Cauble asked about the difference between the certificate program and a licensure program; Lane said it was mainly a matter of money. The certificate program teachers take the same college curriculum program as the licensure program through Pittsburg State University but without paying the tuition/fees; however, they do not earn the credit hours and degree.

One factor noted by Board Member Cauble was a limited availability of scholarship dollars to help offset that expense.  Lane agreed, and noted the licensees were doing the same work, just not gaining the advantage of earning the degree.

Following the discussion, the board unanimously approved the renewals of the one year specialized certificates, and will most likely receive the new applications for next fall in June once they have been approved by the Kansas City USD 500 Board of Education.

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