Schools in Kansas are in a transition year, changing to new College and Career Readiness standards, that USD 382 curriculum director David Schmidt referred to numerous times at Monday's Board of Education meeting as being more rigorous.
Teachers are teaching to the new standards, but standardized assessment tests given next semester will be based on the old standards.
To ease the transition, the Board adopted the plan for implementation, but removed the 2013 Kansas Assessment results as a measurement to evaluate district progress.
"The waiver allows us time to complete the transition to the College and Career Readiness standards as adopted by the State Board of Education," Schmidt said.
In short, "being college and career ready means that an individual has the academic/cognitive preparation, technical skills, employability skills and career interest development to be successful in postsecondary institutions without remediation, and/or the attainment of a technical credential or industry recognized certification," according to information provided at the meeting.
Nationally, about 34 percent of students enrolled in public colleges or universities are enrolled in at least one remedial course, and at community colleges, 43 percent are required to take pre-college courses for which they do not receive credit, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The district plans to hold a meeting for parents in January to help them understand that the new standards are more rigorous and give them information about what assessments will look like in 2014.
Schmidt gave some previews: old standards prepared students to take multiple choice tests; the new ones will require more writing. Old assessment questions were short; new ones may include several paragraphs of text that require students to analyze the information. Math problems not only require students to get the right answer, but explain the process.
"It's good stuff, but a lot more challenging," Tony Helfrich, Liberty Middle School principal, commented.
Board member Kim Stivers, the mother of two USD 382 students, addressed administrators: "You have to evaluate the teachers in our buildings and make sure they have the skills they need to teach our children."
Her remarks were in reference to another area of transition: changing the way in which teachers are evaluated. The Kansas Association of School Boards favors changes in legislation that not only make student progress a part of teacher evaluation, but also remove evaluation as an item that must be collectively bargained with teachers.
By the 2014-2015 school year, Kansas districts must meet a set of federal requirements tied to the state's No Child Left Behind waiver granted earlier this year.
In other business:
• Superintendent Suzan Patton updated the board on advertising at Zerger Field. The district initially hired Foxwood Marketing Company to sell sponsorship ads to provide another source of revenue to pay for the artificial turf, but has now completed negotiations with Foxwood for the district to be the sole owner of remaining payments.
Page 2 of 2 - Patton and athletic director Curtis Nightingale are working with about 11 or 12 sponsors to finalize artwork that will be cut into the turf bordering the playing field.
• Renewed the district's property insurance policy, with a premium increase from $127,302 to $145,385. Fewer companies offer insurance for school districts, Patton said, noting losses for wind and hail coverage "across the board." She praised Jeremy Doggett and Strongs Insurance for working very hard to keep coverage competitive and within reason for the district, even as they increased coverage for more technology and new band instruments.
• Approved personnel changes, including the resignation of Brandy Riney as district payroll clerk and Lucas Wiegert as assistant football coach, the reassignment of LMS secretary Socorro Acosta to payroll, and the retirement of LMS science teacher Pat Klassen.