State ed board looks at defining ‘college and career readiness’

The Kansas State Board of Education will be asked next week to begin thinking about a formal definition of the term “college- and career-ready.”

That’s just one of the issues the state board will discuss during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Topeka.

In recent years, that term has come to dominate discussions about educational standards and policy at all levels: Teachers and principals are told that students graduating high school need to be ready to enter college or the workforce; states are being urged by the federal government to adopt standards throughout their curriculum that are designed to ensure students are college- and career-ready; and the Obama administration has begun tying certain categories of federal funding to the adoption of such standards.

But in Kansas, as in many other states, officials say the term does not yet have a formal definition.

“We believe that it is time for the State Board of Education to officially adopt a Kansas definition of College- and Career-Ready to help guide this agency, and the field, as we move forward over the next several years,” deputy education commissioner Brad Neuenswander wrote in a memo explaining the item on the board’s agenda.

He said several groups representing the agency’s staff, school administrators and local boards of education have spent much of the past year working on a definition for Kansas. They will share their recommendations with the state board Tuesday.

A formal definition could play an important role in shaping the state’s curriculum standards as they come up for periodic review.

In 2010, the board formally adopted the national Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math, which are supposed to prepare students in those subject areas for college and careers. In 2013, the state board is scheduled to adopt new or updated standards for science and social studies.

It’s not yet clear whether the board will act immediately to accept the recommendation or defer action to a later date.

In other business, the state board will:

• Receive an update on progress by a coalition of states to develop new science standards. A public draft of the “Next Generation Science Standards” is scheduled for release on Friday.

• Hear updates from Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker on the development of a new method of evaluating teachers and administrators that includes tying those evaluations to student performance.

• Receive a briefing from DeBacker about a task force she appointed to examine achievement gaps in Kansas.

• Review a marketing campaign the agency was directed to undertake to promote the state’s new career and technical education initiative.

• Hear an update about recent changes at the Kansas Learning Network, a program that provides support and technical assistance to turn around under-performing schools and districts.

• Hear a presentation about the teaching of cursive writing in Kansas.