Legislators seek changes to continuous learning plans

Some legislators on Tuesday indicated they want to make changes to continuous learning plans if the online instruction practice is needed next year because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee approved a proposal that would require that continuous learning plans include some “direct contact instruction.” The proposal also sets specific amounts of time that teachers must provide reading, math and English instruction and calls for accountability measures to gauge student progress. Here is a link to the proposal.  

The plan, put together by Committee Chair Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, will be sent as a recommendation to the State Board of Education and legislative leaders as part of the committee’s request to have an interim committee work on continuous learning plans. 

The K-12 committee’s action came after Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson provided details on how educators were going  to try to open school on time in August but also prepare for possible further interruptions of the school year. 

Williams said she came up with her proposal after speaking with teachers and other legislators. She and other committee members said they heard a wide range of opinions from parents on the effectiveness of the continuous learning plans that were put in place after Gov. Laura Kelly in mid-March shut down schools for the remainder of the year. 

After the shutdown, school districts across Kansas quickly put together plans to provide online teaching, delivered lesson packets and held small group instruction. Kansas’ continuous learning plans gained national recognition and were used by many other states. 

But Williams and several other committee members said they heard complaints that some students weren’t participating and there was not enough accountability. Many districts reported problems in reaching all students, especially since some don’t have internet access. 

Earlier in the meeting, Commissioner Watson said currently 80 educators are working on standards and assessments; reformatting and prioritizing them in a learning plan to ensure that students are growing socially, emotionally and academically.  

On June 1, Watson said he wants to enlist the aid of hundreds of parents, educators, board members and legislators to work on how to implement the new learning plan and the logistics of opening schools and ensuring safety. 

That guidance plan would then go to Kansas school superintendents on July 10 and then the State Board of Education on July 14-15 for possible approval. 

After his briefing, Williams brought up her plan. She did not ask for comment on her proposal from Watson or other Kansas State Department of Education and State Board of Education members who were part of the online meeting. 

State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, was the only committee member to vote against the Williams proposal, saying he thought the plan was a good place to start a conversation but needed more vetting before the committee voted on it. 

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