Kansas approved for one-year extension of No Child Left Behind waiver

08/28/2014 4:17 PM

08/28/2014 4:25 PM

Kansas education officials have another year to figure out how to use test scores and other student achievement data as part of teacher evaluations.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday that it approved the state’s request for a one-year extension of its waiver from the No Child Left Behind law and removed the “high risk” status placed on Kansas about a year ago.

Brad Neuenswander, interim education commissioner, said he was glad the federal agency approved the extension.

“We’re even more pleased that we have been able to gain their support for the unique approach Kansas is taking to using student growth in teacher and leader evaluations,” Neuenswander said in a news release.

Kansas was put on notice last August that it was at “high risk” of losing its waiver. Federal education officials said Kansas had not taken enough steps to use student growth data – test scores or other measures – as part of teacher evaluations.

This year, the state’s education evaluation systems will include student growth measures as a “significant” factor, but those measures will not be used to inform personnel decisions until the 2017-18 school year, state officials said.

Earlier this year, the state filed for an extension of its waiver – another year of wiggle room as officials develop new teacher evaluations.

Former education commissioner Diane DeBacker said at the time that the state didn’t want to make student achievement a set portion, such as 25 percent or more, of evaluations. “It needs to be a component, but we don’t believe that a weighting is fair,” she said.

In Wichita, teachers with fewer than five years’ experience are evaluated using the Charlotte Danielson framework. Peer coaches or principals look at teachers’ performance in four domains – planning and preparation, classroom environment, professionalism and instruction – and rate them from unsatisfactory to distinguished. After the fifth year, teachers set annual goals based on the same framework.

Currently, student growth or achievement is not included in evaluations.

State officials said Thursday that a new accreditation process for Kansas districts will move away from looking solely at test scores and “examine a district’s holistic approach to serving the entire student.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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