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State board supports science standards, raising dropout age to 18

Karen Kidwell, left, director of Program Standards for the Kentucky Department of Education, speaks to the Kentucky Board of Education reguarding the new science standards during their April meeting. Photo by Amy Wallot, April 10, 2013

Karen Kidwell, left, director of Program Standards for the Kentucky Department of Education, and Office of Next-Generation Learners Associate Commissioner Felicia Cumings Smith address the Kentucky Board of Education regarding the new science standards. 
Photo by Amy Wallot, April 10, 2013

By Matthew Tungate
matthew.tungate@education.ky.gov

The Kentucky Board of Education reviewed  at its meeting last week  proposed  Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) one day after they were released.

Kentucky was one of 26 states that partnered in developing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as part of a collaborative state-led process. About 40 Kentuckians, including P-12 science teachers, state science and policy staff, higher education faculty, scientists and engineers were involved. Two drafts of the standards were released for public comment.

Karen Kidwell, director of the Kentucky Department of Education’s Division of Program Standards, said the Kentucky team gave detailed and descriptive feedback on the early drafts.

“Our feedback was very well received, and much of our feedback was incorporated in the standards,” she said.

The new standards, which have been in development for two years, meet the mandate for new standards in Senate Bill 1 (2009). They are internationally benchmarked, rigorous, research-based and aligned with expectations for college and careers; and they provide for deeper understanding of content and application.

The new science standards integrate core ideas, key practices and concepts that apply to many areas of science. For example, the disciplinary core ideas of science and engineering are integrated rather than taught separately. However, the engineering design process has distinct performance expectations. Overall, the standards reflect the interconnected nature of science as it is practiced and experienced.

There have been shifts of specific concepts to new grade levels and not all concepts are taught at all grade levels in a continuous progression, but concepts build coherently. They do not define a particular curriculum — that will be up to schools and districts to develop based on guidance from the Kentucky Department of Education.

The standards are aligned with and explicitly make connections to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for mathematics and English/language arts. If approved, they will be implemented in the 2014-15 school year.

Board member Mary Gwen Wheeler said she is excited to see science teaching changed to be more inquiry based, but she wondered how state assessments could be changed to measure that.

Associate Commissioner Ken Draut said Senate Bill 1 (2009) calls for students to be tested in science in 4th and 7th grades. Pearson, a testing vendor, will develop a blueprint for the tests over the summer, and write items for about the next nine months. Then the new items would be field tested before ultimately being used in the spring of 2015, he said.

The second reading is scheduled for the board’s June meeting after which the standards will move through the regulatory process.

The board also heard the progress of new social studies standards, which are also mandated by Senate Bill 1 (2009). Kidwell told the board she expects them to be implemented for the 2014-15 school year as well.

Kentucky is part of a consortium of 14 states convened by the Council of Chief State School Officers that is working to publish a framework from which each state can build its own standards, Kidwell said.

She said she hopes to have the framework by the end of the month. A team of experts, including teachers, will write the standards in June. Those standards will be open for public comment and revision in August and September, she said. The board will then vote on the standards in August and October, Kidwell said.

Grants available for districts raising dropout age

During the meeting, Commissioner Terry Holiday announced a program to award $10,000 planning grants to the first 57 districts to approve a policy raising the dropout age prior to the 2015-16 school year. Local school boards are reminded that SB 97 does not take effect until June 25, so any policy passed before then may be challenged on its validity, due to the lack of statutory basis for the policy prior to the legislation’s effective date. A local board could have a first and second reading of a proposed policy prior to the effective date of the legislation, but final action and formal adoption of the policy by the board should not occur prior to the effective date of the legislation, “the first moment of Tuesday, June 25, 2013,” according to an opinion from the Attorney General.

The money can be used to develop a required plan for implementation that would include integration of alternative programs, career and technical education, engagement of the community and the use of community resources.

Legislation passed in the most recent General Assembly includes a provision that once 55 percent of districts (96 of Kentucky’s 174 districts) adopt a policy requiring students to stay in school until they are 18, the remainder of districts must do so within four years. Early adoption of the policy would allow districts to inform students beginning with the Class of 2019 of the change and give school and district staffs time to plan for its successful implementation.

“I think this is a strategic approach to not just be happy about a law, but to actually be successful in raising the graduation rate and dropping the incarceration rate,” Holiday said.

The board adopted a resolution encouraging local boards of education to “be courageous” and adopt a policy to raise the compulsory school attendance age to 18 effective in the 2015-16 school year.

Board member Brigitte Ramsey said the resolution sends a clear message to students: “We are not giving up on you.”

Two new members also joined the board last week: Trevor Bonnstetter of Mayfield and Grayson Boyd of Williamsport. Bonnstetter is chief executive officer of West Kentucky Rural Telephone and Boyd is a retired principal and educator. Both were sworn in at the beginning of the meeting.

Representatives of AdvanceKentucky, an initiative designed to increase the number of minority and low-income students taking and passing Advanced Placement (AP) classes, announced the program is now working with an additional 10 high schools, bringing the total to 88 in Kentucky. The schools are:

  • Bullitt Central (Bullitt County)
  • East Carter (Carter County)
  • Fern Creek  (Jefferson County)
  • Holmes      (Covington Independent)
  • Madison Central (Madison County)
  • Madison South (Madison County)
  • McCracken County
  • North Bullitt (Bullitt County)
  • Seneca (Jefferson County)
  • Southern (Jefferson County)

That brings total participation to about 42 percent of the high schools in the state.

AdvanceKentucky involves content-rich teacher training and extensive support and incentives for students and teachers for achieving qualifying scores (3 or higher) on AP exams in mathematics, science and English.

AdvanceKentucky is funded by a $13.2 million grant from the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), which is supported by ExxonMobil, Dell and Gates foundations, Lockheed and others, and the Kentucky Department of Education. The NMSI grant ends in October.

In other business, the board:

  • gave final approval to a regulation designating the Kentucky High School Athletics Association (KHSAA) as the agent to manage both high school and middle school athletics in the      state
  • heard first reading of 702 KAR 1:115, annual in-service training of district board members that adds requirements for annual training in ethics and school finance
  • heard first reading of 704  KAR 3:035, to move toward a comprehensive system of professional      learning
  • heard an update on the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES) (for additional Kentucky Teacher stories on PGES,      go here)
  • heard state Gallup Student Poll results
  • heard an update on national efforts to transform  educator-preparation programs
  • heard and update on state management of the Breathitt County and Monticello Independent school districts, including a proposed merger between Monticello and the Wayne County school  district
  • adopted a resolution recognizing Barrett Block, a senior at Henry Clay High School (Fayette County),  for placing second in the Jeopardy!  National Teen Tournament
  • approved district facility  plans for Bell,  McCreary,  Mercer,  Montgomery  and Oldham counties school districts and Glasgow      and Walton-Verona  Independent school districts.
  • approved an amendment to the district facility plan for the Pineville Independent school district

The next regularly scheduled Kentucky Board of Education meeting will be held June 5 in Frankfort.

For more information about the board, click on the Kentucky Board of Education link on the Kentucky Department of Education’s homepage.

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