Kansas House passes needs assessment, other education reforms

(The Sentinel) – For years many school districts across Kansas have likely ignored a state law requiring an annual building needs assessment designed to improve student achievement.  If it…

(The Sentinel) – For years many school districts across Kansas have likely ignored a state law requiring an annual building needs assessment designed to improve student achievement.  If it becomes law, a bill recently passed by the Kansas House of Representatives would put teeth into the law and force school boards to post the annual assessments for parents to see.

House Bill 2512 would require school boards to annually review state academic assessments and utilize those and the district’s building needs assessment when reviewing and approving the school district’s budget. School boards would be required to include in their minutes during the approval of the budget that the board received the district’s needs assessment, how the board evaluated the assessment, and how the assessment was utilized in the district’s budget.

The bill would also require a board to conduct an annual review of state assessment results for its district and that the reviews document:

  • Barriers that must be overcome for all students to achieve above level 2 proficiency on state assessments;
  • Budget actions that should be taken to address and remove barriers; and
  • The amount of time the board estimates it will take for all students to achieve at or above level 2 on state assessments if budget actions are implemented.

Each district would also be required to ensure all building needs assessment and state assessment documentation are available on the district’s website.

In November of 2021, the Sentinel found a sampling of 25 of the largest districts in Kansas showed only two districts arguably complied with current law, which says, “Each year the board of education of a school district shall conduct an assessment of the educational needs of each attendance center in the district. Information obtained from such needs assessment shall be used by the board when preparing the budget of the school district.”

Building needs assessment part of a package of reforms

The building needs assessment changes are part of a larger package of reforms passed by the house this week, including changes to how virtual school is conducted, and including  the “Every Child Can Read Act.”

The Every Child Can Read Act is designed to promote third-grade literacy initiatives and would require districts to provide opportunities for students to participate in targeted educational interventions.

The bill would require literacy to be attained through the “science of reading, evidence-based reading instruction, and necessary competencies to attain proficiency.”  Schools would also be required to follow and use the framework of KSDE’s Dyslexia Handbook.

The bill would also force districts in which students are struggling with math to provide additional instruction.

The Kansas State Board of Education would be required to establish a fee for service to be paid by districts, not to exceed $4.0 million, to require school districts and attendance centers where half or more of students in grades 7-12 scoring level 1 or level 2 on state math assessments to implement a virtual math program.

The program would be “customized to Kansas curriculum standards, be evidence-based, not impose any fee upon students, provide tutoring in multiple languages, provide professional development for the implementation of the program, and have been implemented in other states over the previous eight fiscal years,” with fees based on the number of students who scored poorly on the previous year’s assessments.

HB 2512 also amends the Virtual School Act to prohibit any virtual school from offering or providing any financial incentive for a student to enroll in a virtual school.

The bill — which also included part of the FY 2023 school appropriations — passed 76-46and now must go to the Kansas Senate for passage or reconciliation.

Rep. Kristey Williams, who chairs the House Education Budget Committee, said she believes the House and Senate can come to an agreement.

“I’m optimistic that the House and Senate can work together and put forth the best education package of funding and policy,” she said “We are meeting our constitutional obligation while adding more accountability, more transparency, and more student opportunity.”