Topeka — A new group - the At-Risk Educational Council - met for the first time Wednesday and discussed goals and strategies for better educating students who may be having trouble making the grade.
Council Chairman Andy Tompkins, a Kansas University professor and former state education commissioner, said he was optimistic after the meeting.
"What I loved about it was that everybody came with some ideas and they're ready to discuss the issues and they already have a perspective so it's really helpful. I thought it was healthy," Tompkins said.
He also noted that he expected the council to make quick progress over the next couple of meetings.
"This thing will start funneling itself pretty quick. I bet that we have a pretty good indication by the time we give our first report, which is by October. I would guess we'll have no problem meeting the deadlines they've given us," he said.
The council is a temporary body created by the 2005 Legislature in a special session to recommend services that will focus on improving education for students deemed high risk and to evaluate the effectiveness of at-risk programs in Kansas.
One of the main topics the group focused on Wednesday was at-risk programs for 4-year-old preschoolers. Douglas County has two of them, one in Baldwin and one in Lawrence. Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis said the programs are worthy investments that save the state money in the long run.
"The savings would come about in a reduced need for special education as well as increasing the chances of a student's success," Dennis said during his presentation to the council.
The council consists of five appointed members, as well as Kansas Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, who spoke in favor of charter schools as a possible option for students in the high-risk category.
"I think there were a lot of good ideas on the table. I'm especially intrigued by the opportunity for public charter schools that are specially tailored for at-risk students and how we can promote their expansion," he said after the meeting.
The council meets again Feb. 27. The group is expected to issue a report to the 2010 Commission and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in October 2006, with a final report due in October 2007.