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USD 428 examines common core standards
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The USD 428 School Board meeting began with a hearing for the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget, which the board approved as written.  Then, the board learned the details about the new Common Core Standards that are going to change the face of how kids receive their education in the district and throughout Kansas, starting this year.  
“Children will be required to think and solve a problem,” USD 428 Curriculum Director John Popp said.  “They won’t be able to just memorize an answer.  The focus is going to be more on thinking and realizing why they got the answer.”
Superintendent Dr. Tom Vernon explained why the new educational standards are being adopted.  In the year 2000, when then President George Bush signed into legislation the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), provisions were made to reauthorize the act in 2007.  Congress did not reauthorize the plan, which left the door open to states to request waivers from the program.  Kansas and several other states collaborated on the Common Core Standards (CCSS) and asked for a waiver from the NCLB program.  They were granted the waiver, and will pilot aspects of the program this year, with full implementation scheduled for the 2014-2015 school year, Vernon said.
One of the key aspects of the program will be the development of depth of knowledge in students.  No longer will testing be centered around multiple choice questions, and gone will be the accusations that teachers simply “teach to the test” with the new program, Popp said.  Now, they will engage students at high levels, and work together to do it.  
Popp went on to explain that this is the last year that students will take the Kansas State Assessments as we know them.  Next year, they will begin blending traditional KSA questions with piloted test questions using a new model, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium(SBAC) test.  The test is ultimately moving towards an ACT test model, Vernon said, where there will be more than one right answer to the question.  Students will need to think through the problem to come up with the best answer.  
Another change, Vernon said, is the number of disciplines the schools will have to demonstrate they are meeting standards in when students are tested.  
“Right now, our standards are wide, but shallow,” he said.  “We are moving to a system in which our standards will be very deep, but not very wide.”  When students begin testing using the SBAC model, instead of multiple choice questions at the same level of depth, students will answer a question, and if correct, the next question will go to a deeper level of knowledge.  If they answer incorrectly, the next will be at a lighter level of knowledge so teachers will be able to pinpoint exactly where the depth of the student’s knowledge is.
Popp said some teachers are nervous and some are excited.  
“Many are excited because it opens up the door to teach again,” he said.  “It will allow them to help children sort and process information and go deeper into subjects.”
Students are going to need to learn more logic and critical thinking skills, which Popp points out will be tough for some.
“Students will find this is harder, because they will need to think more,” he said, adding that they may complain more at first.  Teams of teachers will be working on how each building will support and implement the new program over the next couple of months.  Currently, English and language arts teachers are already on board and beginning to use the principles, and math and science teachers are studying how to best implement the program, Vernon said.   
Assistant Superintendent Dan Brungardt reported that the middle school carpet project has been completed.  The Board approved a request for a change order for additional carpeting in the library and bench seating area outside the library.  In addition, they approved a change order for asbestos related expenses for the project in the amount of $34,700, and the walk-off matt for $2,550.
Vernon told the Board about two donations made to the district.  The first from Lana Dietz, who donated a trumpet with a value of $375 to the GBHS band.  The second, from Coach Bo Black, who donated $3,000 in carpeting in the men’s football locker room.  The floor was scheduled for replacement, and with his contribution, a higher grade of carpet and a Panther floor graphic will be installed.  The board accepted both donations.
Vernon also updated the Board on the Pioneer League Request.  On Aug, 7, representatives from the district asked the League to include Great Bend Middle School, as both Salina and McPherson have requested to be included in the league.  If they are, that will leave Great Bend and Hays with no league. Vernon said they were receptive to the presentation, but cautioned about getting any hopes up at this point.  Vernon said USD 428 stressed that they were not a package deal with Hays, who also made a presentation following Great Bend.  
“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said. The Pioneer League has said they will make a decision on September 26.  Both Salina and McPherson schools have also made presentations, and will have to wait to find out if they have been accepted also, Vernon said.  
Other items discussed included:
•The board approved the administration’s request to make allocations for state and federal programs for the 2012-2013 school year.  Programs included Title 1A, Improving Basic Programs for $811,938; Title 1C, Migrant Education for $240,000; Title 2A, Teacher quality for $154,116; and Title 3, English Language Acquisition for $58,022.
•The Board received quotes for two options for graphics on the GBHS Press Box from Mark’s Custom Signs.  The first, a banner process, which would last three to five years before needing to reprint the graphics was estimated at $4,951.30.  The second, aluminum panels and graphics which would last eight to 10 years before needing to reprint, was estimated at $6,962.00  The board approved the second estimate.
•The Board accepted the resignation of Mrs. Stephanie Muth, third grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School.  She will pay a $1,000 late resignation fee, according to the negotiated agreement.  They also approved the appointment of Mrs. Amie Kreis as Muth’s replacement, and Mrs. Leah Mawhirter, a Special Education Interrelated Adaptive at Great Bend Middle School.
The first day of school for elementary, middle school and freshmen students is Wednesday, Aug. 15.  They will attend a full day.  Grades 10-12 will begin on Thursday, Aug. 16.
The USD 428 BOE will meet again on Sept.  10 at 5 p.m. at the district office.