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Archive for Monday, October 22, 2012

First Bell: Willard named to national board; teacher preparation standards; bus driver appreciation; after-school programs;

October 22, 2012

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• Kansas State Board of Education member Ken Willard has been elected to the board of directors of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

NASBE’s directors help set organizational direction and policy positions while also representing their region’s concerns to state boards nationwide.

Willard, a Hutchinson Republican, has served on the state board since 2003. His seat is not up for election in November. He did, however, try unsuccessfully to run for the Kansas House seat being vacated by Speaker Mike O'Neal, but he was defeated in the Aug. 2 primary.

His two-year term as director from NASBE's Central region begins in January. Willard previously served on the national board from 2004-2010, including a year as board president in 2009.

• Two national organizations are expected to issue recommendations next month to change the requirements in teacher preparation programs. But officials are being tight-lipped about what those recommendations will include.

Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker told the State Board of Education this week that the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers plan to issue the joint recommendations in December. DeBacker is a member of CCSSO, but she said the contents of the recommendations are strictly embargoed until their official release.

The changes would deal with the basic requirements for receiving a teacher's license. States generally require at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university school of education, including a minimum number of credits in the subject area as well as specific training, or "pedagogy," in how to teach that subject.

But there has been a push in many states, including Kansas, to offer more alternative routes to certification to make it easier for private sector professionals to go into teaching. Some view that as a way to relieve teacher shortages in areas like science and math.

There have also been calls from certain corners to require all teachers to have more training in teaching reading - essentially making all teachers reading specialists. Part of that is due to demographic shifts and the influx of non-English speaking students due to immigration. It's also due in part to increased awareness of learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

DeBacker said she doesn't expect to see a call for increased training in reader education, but said she is not at liberty to discuss other issues that may be in the report.

• My apologies for not making a mention earlier about a couple of occasions that deserved mention. Both were the subject of proclamations this week by Gov. Sam Brownback.

The first was recognition of School Bus Driver's Appreciation Day. And while the official day was Wednesday, Oct. 17, it's never too late to show your appreciation to the men and women entrusted to get kids to and from school safely, often under difficult conditions.

The second was recognized Thursday, Oct. 18, as "Lights On Afterschool Day," a national celebration of afterschool programs. Again, it's never too late to recognize the importance of programs that enrich children's education, especially for those children who might otherwise have no structured activity or adult supervision in the afternoon, weekends and summer.

• Do you have news or information about school-related activity you'd like to share with the community? Call me at 832-7259, or email phancock@ljworld.com.

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