Sonya Schifferdecker

Top 15 Blogs Reflect High-Quality Professional Learning Priorities

Learning Forward Blog
•December, 2022•

At Learning Forward, our blog posts tend to feel more like lively conversations with our colleagues, partners, and clients. The blog is a space where Learning Forward staff members and guest authors endeavor to share timely and highly relevant insights for the benefit of our readers to keep them connected to resources and tools that can help them in their schools and districts.

Throughout the year, our blog covers a range of professional learning topics as well as news about our own organization. We strive to keep readers connected to important work, committed as professional learning advocates, and inspired by the dedicated educators and school professionals who make sure all kids have access to meaningful learning that helps them achieve their potential. We hope you enjoy this review of our top 15 stories of 2022.

15. Learning Forward CEO | President Denise Glyn Borders will retire in June 2022 Borders joined Learning Forward in 2019 as Executive Director after serving as president of SRI Education. She led the organization during its pivot to virtual and hybrid learning models.

14. Inspiration to lean into the important work of professional learning Learning Forward’s 2021 Annual Conference featured remarks by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

13. How states embed Standards for Professional Learning State leaders share how they implement standards and what it looks like when policy guides practice.

12. Effective leadership: Webinar teases out findings from principal preparation, professional learning studies Frederick Brown, Learning Forward President and CEO, facilitated a webinar in June featuring two studies supported by The Wallace Foundation reflecting decades of research and study on what kind of preparation and professional learning principals need to help them be effective, support teachers, and contribute to student achievement.

11. Announcing a new website: Powered by Title II Learning Forward launched its Title II advocacy resource website in January 2022. The site aims to provide an introduction to Title II funding and valuable data and tools.

10. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona’s speech outlining the Department of Education’s priorities and vision for education In January, Secretary Cardona named the most-urgent school reopening needs – increased access to mental health resources; expanded parent and family engagement; and interventions for students who felt disproportionate impacts from the pandemic.

9. Leaders voice how revised professional learning standards are transformative Members of Learning Forward’s standards advisory council, research partners, district leaders, and principals describe how revised Standards for Professional Learning address the challenges educators and students face as they struggle to recover from the setbacks of the pandemic.

8. Frederick Brown named Learning Forward President & CEO Brown hit the ground running, publishing key priorities for Learning Forward during his first week serving as the organization’s new leader.

7. Why now is exactly the time you should be hiring instructional coaches Building and district leaders have had many open teaching spots to fill. Filling coaching roles also must be a priority.

6. Standards for Professional Learning evolve to drive progress Revised professional learning standards are resonating with educators and leaders eager to dig into what’s new.

5. The Learning Professional‘s top 10 articles of 2022 Learning Forward’s flagship publication revealed its 2022 articles that resonated most with readers.

4. Here’s what The Learning Professional will focus on in 2023 The Learning Professional 2023 themes speak to urgent issues facing the education field at large, homing in on how professional learning can help educators at every level meet those big challenges.

3. What professional learning leaders can learn from Disney Disney staffers are renown for creating a fun culture that helps people thrive.

2. Learning teams that really improve student outcomes Learning teams can be a part of a holistic, proactive approach to accelerating learning.

1. Coaching with compassion starts with relationships The best way to make progress in any coaching relationship is by dialing into the personal first.

This Blog Post was published on Learning

Gail Paul

Gail Paul is Learning Forward’s content marketing specialist, where she helps learning Forward expand our outreach and supports our growing communications needs. Before joining Learning Forward, Gail was a communications consultant and freelance journalist, committed to helping organizations and their leadership teams create and measure clear communication that informs, persuades, and inspires action, advocacy, and alignment. She previously served as vice president of communications & marketing for the port authority in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has led several teams in communications strategy, editorial voice and storytelling, and production of high-quality content across various channels and platforms. Gail holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from The Ohio State University, with focused study in Economics.



What Should SEL Look Like This Fall?

The Learning Professional
•September, 2021•

The COVID 19 Pandemic has caused enormous stress and trauma for students and educators, exacerbating existing needs for mental health support and underscoring the importance of social and emotional learning. With the new school year on the horizon, it is vital for educators to consider the social and emotional needs of students and staff as some of them return to school buildings for the first time in more than a year, some continue to cope with trauma, and many experience anxiety and uncertainty.

The Learning Professional asked teachers, students, administrators, SEL leaders and our online community: How should schools address students’ social and emotional needs and foster resilience in the coming school year? Here are their responses, which have been edited for length. Click here to continue reading

From The Learning Professional August 2021

This is just one of the articles that can be found in The Learning Professional published by Learning Forward. To read additional articles, CLICK HERE.

Learning Forward Colorado Invites You….

Frederick Brown

Spring Learning Institute
•April 2, 2020•

Learning Forward Colorado’s upcoming institute features Fred Brown, Deputy Executive Director of Learning Forward. Teacher leaders, coaches, district leaders, principals, and system leaders will benefit from attending. The event is titled “Becoming a Learning System.”  Click here to learn more about this opportunity being held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. 


Let’s Make the Most of Teachers’ Time Together

Stephanie Hirsh

Stephanie Hirsh
•May, 2018•

Research has shown that effective collaboration results in higher levels of learning and performance by educators and students. Yet we also know that merely setting aside time and room for teams to work together does not guarantee these benefits.

So what are the essential elements of effective collaboration? Many of the answers lie in the culture of the organization responsible for supporting collective learning. Here are five things I have seen consistently in cultures that support effective collaboration.

  1. Clarity of purpose. Leaders support collaboration because they believe it is a key component of the vision for the school and/or school system. In many cases, that vision emphasizes a commitment to great teaching and learning for every student. As a result, these leaders are invested in collaborative professionalism to ensure learning for all adults and children. When leaders commit to authentic collaboration, they can promise all parents that the teacher responsible for their child is just one of many who are committed to the success of their children.
  2. Norms of collaboration. Norms describe the rules that a group is committed to following to ensure a respectful and productive working environment. Norms of school teams typically will address respect for the schedule (starting and ending on time); the speaker (respectful listening; no interrupting); and the agenda (limited birdwalking and hijacking).  Other norms may address roles and responsibilities of leaders as well as confidentiality, respect, and trust.
  3. Resource allocation. Teams need adequate time to accomplish the tasks they undertake and comfortable, safe spaces in which to do them. They need to trust that they will be able to get additional help if they require external expertise or other resources. Not having to worry about fighting for resources enables teams to focus on what is most important to them.
  4. Facilitation and support. Skillful facilitation can accelerate progress within teams. Knowledgeable facilitators and team members ensure that members engage in work that will lead to desired outcomes. Such facilitation ensures that teams have the data and evidence required to inform their decisions, the designs essential to guide their learning, and the support required to implement changes in practice.
  5. Accountability for results. A commitment to better outcomes is a foundation for collaboration. In education, when few decisions have exact answers, having multiple perspectives and areas of expertise contributes to the best decisions and best outcomes. Teachers are advocates for collaboration because, no matter what accountability system guides their states and school systems, they are accountable to their students and their families.

To what degree do you see these elements represented in your teams, PLCs, school leadership councils, or task forces? If your groups are floundering, are any of these elements missing? If they are successful, which are most present and what else have you seen contributing to their impact?

If you are familiar with Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning, I challenge you to find all seven standards represented in the five elements, once again highlighting that better outcomes for students and staff require attention to standards-based professional learning.

This column appears in the December 2017 issue of The Learning Professional.

Stephanie Hirsh is executive director of Learning Forward.

Learning Forward Nebraska Plants Seeds of Learning

Jill Lachenmayr
•March, 2018•

Spring. A time of transformation and growth. It renews our spirit with the anticipation of spring flowers and new possibilities. It’s a time when many eagerly look forward to planting gardens, knowing that with a little care and attention, the fruits of their labor will emerge. Beautiful, bountiful and satisfying.

Learning Forward Nebraska, a state affiliate of Learning Forward, can relate well to the excitement and anticipation of planting something new, nurturing it and watching it grow. As the recipient of the Learning Forward Foundation Affiliate Grant, the affiliate is at the midway point of a three-year plan to grow the capacity of professional learning within the state. Learning Forward Nebraska has focused attention in three key areas: expanding the Learning Forward Executive Leadership Program across the state, developing the website to support rigorous education designs of professional learning, and building the capacity within the board for advocating and supporting high-quality professional learning.

Learning Forward Nebraska has had many successes along the journey. Relationships have been nurtured, programs expanded, and the impact of the work is growing. It’s exciting to see transformation in action! Any successful initiative begins with creating a strong plan. The affiliate was able to utilize grant funds to hold a retreat to gather ideas and create a strategic plan for accomplishing the goals. The impact of this planning has been demonstrated in the expansion of the Executive Leadership Program from one site to four, with a total of 60 participants across two cohorts. The affiliate has fine-tuned its approach by shortening webinars, improving the quality of materials and synthesizing the highlights to ensure that the program is broadly accessible. Success in advocacy is also evident as affiliate leaders work to get the professional learning standards adopted in Nebraska.

“From a small seed, a mighty trunk may grow.” (Aeschylus) We all know that change takes time. Starting something new is exciting when you think about the possibilities that await you at the end of the journey. You plant the idea, nurture it, protect it from weeds.

Satisfaction comes when progress towards goals are made. Plans don’t always go as anticipated and that’s okay. It’s the learning journey that matters. Time, attention and continuous progress transforms a budding idea into a strong, mature tree.

Congratulations to Learning Forward Nebraska as they build the capacity of professional learning within their state. The Learning Forward Foundation grant has “energized the passion” for professional learning in Nebraska. May your own personal learning journey be rewarding and satisfying as you make progress towards your goals. The Foundation can be a source of financial support and a thinking partner.

Please visit our website for more information about the Learning Forward Foundation or to Apply for Scholarships and Grants. Want to learn more? Check out our past Learning Forward Foundation Blogs.

Jill Lachenmayr serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Academic Affairs for Andover Public Schools. She is treasurer of the Learning Forward Kansas Affiliate and a board member of the Learning Forward Foundation.


The Learning Professional’s Debut Issue: Professional Learning for STEM

The Learning Professional Is Here
•February, 2016•
We have great news to share. Learning Forward’s journal, JSD, has changed its name to The Learning Professional. The bimonthly magazine is still the same well-respected journal of professional learning, but with an updated look and member focus.

We’re excited to help you explore the February issue. Previously, each issue was devoted to one theme. In The Learning Professional, we still take a deep dive into one topic (within our section “Focus”), and this time it’s professional learning in STEM. At Learning Forward, we believe that remarkable professional learning begins with ambitious goals for students, and such rigor is often part of STEM instruction.

Here you’ll read about:

* Teachers teaming with scientists to enrich STEM content and instruction;
* How underwater robotics brought STEM to life for teachers in Guam; and
* New Mexico teachers collaborating to explore student learning in math.

In The Learning Professional, we have a wider range of feature-length articles in our new “Ideas” section, as well as a greater focus on telling members’ stories in our new “Voices” section. All that, plus the same great research reviews and practitioner tools you’ve come to expect in Learning Forward’s journal.

A few highlights we thought you, with your perspective as an independent or external provider, might enjoy:

* Professional learning in Canada: Learning Forward releases a landmark study and call to action, making the case for a culture of collaborative professionalism for educators. (This article is available upon joining Learning Forward)
* Training the trainers: Learning to be a principal supervisor

We look forward to hearing your feedback on the new magazine. You can read it online now at

This full online archive is an exclusive benefit of membership in Learning Forward.

Kansas Learning First Alliance Brings Membership Together for a Day of Professional Learning

News Release from KLFA
•April 8, 2021•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance (KLFA) held the final meeting of the academic year on April 8, 2021 at 4:00PM via Zoom. Laurie Curtis, KLFA Chair, welcomed attendees in support of strong public education in our state.

Members shared how their organization or community promoted Public Schools Week February 22-26.  Many organizations utilized the social media tools provided by the Learning First Alliance, our national affiliation.

Membership was honored to have the National Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Tabatha Rosproy, as our keynote. She shared the experience of her term and highlighted what she had been able to accomplish during this challenging and unique academic year. Much of her advocacy work was done virtually and her experience will extend a while longer to allow her to complete some experiences and opportunities missed due to the pandemic. She shared that she felt staying positive during these challenges is a choice that she worked to bring a positive voice during this difficult season for educators. During her presentation she noted:

  • Connections are critical- with colleagues, community members as well as students
  • Self-regulation is a key to increasing academic skills
  • Intergenerational schools help increase academic skills
  • A video of the work she did developing an intergenerational preschool program in Winfield, Kansas, prior to her NTOY recognition can be found here
  • 5 million 4-year-old children get NO early childhood programming
  • Pre-K is often not part of the conversation in education and Kansas is falling behind in serving this population
  • We all need to advocate for high quality early childhood programs and educate others on the value of children learning content through age-appropriate activities such as play
  • Pre-K programs can offer an excellent foundation for social-emotional learning
  • “From tiny seeds grow mighty trees”

What can we do? Leadership is an activity, not only a position…we can all help!

  • Shift our vocabulary to PreK-12, rather than K-12
  • Advocate for early childhood education for every child and community
  • Include the voices of early childhood educators in educational discussions and decisions

What surprised her during her term?

She knew Kansas was a great place to teach, but that thought was solidified as she found that other teachers are not as supported by their state agencies or others within the state. She was proud to represent Kansas!

Legislative Update: There are many legislative decisions being made at this time in Topeka. It is important that all educators remain informed and communicate with their members regarding how we can advocate for strong funding and equitable educational opportunities. (funding/voucher competition for funding; transgender sport/ discrimination, micromanagement of curriculum-civics assessment, etc.).

The mission of KLFA is “to unite the education community to improve our outstanding public education system, pre-K through higher education, to empower each Kansan to succeed in the diverse, interdependent world of the 21st century”, More information can be found at the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.  Please contact Laurie Curtis, KLFA Chair, for more information on how you can be a part of KLFA. (

KLFA meetings have been scheduled for the 2021-2022 academic year with time and format still being determined. Please mark your calendars for:  August 26, 2021; October 14, 2021; January 27, 2022; April 7, 2022


News Release from KLFA
•October 15, 2020•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance (KLFA) held the second meeting of the academic year on October 15, 2020 virtually, due to restrictions on gatherings in Topeka. Laurie Curtis, KLFA Chair, welcomed representatives of over 25 educational organizations in support of strong public education in our state.

A panel of educators provided KLFA members with guidance and resources they find helpful to address Social-Emotional Learning during this challenging time of educating our students during COVID-19. Members of the panel included: Casi Wetzel, Counselor, Olathe USD 233; Kristin Wright, Counselor, Clay Center USD 379; Mallory Jacobs, Counselor, Topeka USD501; Darcy Keeffe, Counselor, Osage City USD 420; Jo McFadden, Principal, Inman USD 448; Marcia Weseman, KASB. Several questions were posed to each panelist. Many resources were shared by the panelists.

A legislative update was provided by Mark Desetti, KNEA with others providing input. It was noted that there were multiple pro-public education Republicans that were defeated in the primary, but there are many other pro-public education candidates running.  Due to these losses, the 2021 legislative session will be challenging.  Getting out the vote is extremely important for the November election.

The Kansas Learning First Alliance is a coalition of over 35 educational organizations in Kansas representing school boards, administrators, teachers, teacher educator programs, parents, the Kansas State Board of Education, and the Kansas State Department Education. The mission of KLFA is “to unite the education community to improve our outstanding public education system, pre-K through higher education, while empowering each Kansan to succeed in the diverse, interdependent world of the 21st century”. For more information about KLFA, visit the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.  Please contact Laurie Curtis, KLFA Chair, for more information on how you can be a part of KLFA. (

Future KLFA meetings scheduled for the 2020-2021 academic year are:
Tuesday, January 21, 2021 9:30 am
Thursday, April 8, 2021, 9:30 am


News Release from KLFA
•August 27, 2020•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance (KLFA) held its first meeting of the academic year on August 27, 2020 virtually due to restrictions on gatherings in Topeka. Laurie Curtis, KLFA Chair, welcomed representatives of over 25 educational organizations in support of strong public education in our state.

Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education, provided an update on Kansas education initiatives.  He began with the KS Board of Education Vision, “Kansas leads the world in the success of each student.” Currently, the greatest challenge is some students have not been in a face-to-face classroom since March, which is especially challenging for some of our most at-risk students.  Metrics used by the state to measure “success” of our education system include a five-year graduation rate, the five-year success average (determined as a high school graduate receiving a license or certificate to be used in the workplace or enrolling in a post-secondary institution program within five years of graduation), averaged to achieve the five-year effectiveness average. This data is then partnered with a predictability range that considers three factors shown to have the most impact on success rates: cumulative poverty, student mobility and chronic absenteeism. Current data show improvement is occurring, but Dr. Watson cautioned that the current pandemic will slow down the postsecondary progress.

Dr. Watson also gave an update regarding COVID-19 and Kansas schools.  Almost 1,000 educators, health care officials, physicians, school board members and KSDE staff volunteered their time to create a living document, Navigating Change: Kansas’ Guide to Learning and School Safety Operations. This document provides guidance to local school districts and communities and is updated regularly.  There are goals for all stages to maintain a strong learning environment while keeping students and staff safe.  Included are grade banded instructional competencies focusing on continuous learning with social-emotion learning embedded.  These competencies are flexible and were created to support educators throughout the state with our new normal of various options of instruction.  There are three learning models; on-site, hybrid and remote.  Within Navigating Change, there is gating criteria developed by KDHE, University of Kansas Medical Center – Wichita Pediatrics, Kansas Academy of Family Physicians and Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A legislative update was provided by Mark Desetti, KNEA and Leah Fliter, KASB. They noted that there were multiple pro-public education Republicans that were defeated in the primary, but there are many other pro-public education candidates running in these areas.  Due to these losses, the 2021 legislative session will be challenging.  Getting out the vote is extremely important for the November election.

The US Census is in full swing and will continue until September 30.  Kansas receives federal funding, including federal education funding, based on the census so it’s extremely important to promote completing the 2020 Census.  ALL people residing in Kansas should complete the census.

Jeanette Nobo, Assistant Director for Teacher Licensure and Accreditation, provided an update on the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) work. She noted that during this challenging time of COVID-19 there needs to be regular communication between district leadership teams building leadership teams, educators, staff, students, community and families on expectations.  KSDE has extended the deadline to complete the 2019-2020 KESA visits and these visits can be either in-person, with social distancing, or virtual.  Schools need to continue to examine data and explain what the data shows for the system.  KSDE has also made numerous enhancements and updates to KESA.  There has also been an appeal process developed and implemented.  KSDE will continue to offer monthly KESA updates via zoom for the 2020-2021 school year.

The Kansas Learning First Alliance is a coalition of over 35 educational organizations in Kansas representing school boards, administrators, teachers, teacher educator programs, parent organizations, the Kansas State Board of Education, and the Kansas State Department Education. The mission of KLFA is “to unite the education community to improve our outstanding public education system, pre-K through higher education, to empower each Kansan to succeed in the diverse, interdependent world of the 21st century.” For more information about KLFA, visit the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.  Please contact Laurie Curtis, KLFA Chair, for more information on how you can be a part of KLFA. (

Future KLFA meetings scheduled for the 2020-2021 academic year are:
Thursday, October 15, 2020 9:30 am, held via Zoom
Tuesday, January 21, 2021 9:30 am
Thursday, April 8, 2021, 9:30 am

News Release from KLFA
•January 23, 2020•

 The Kansas Learning First Alliance met on Thursday, January 23, 2020 at the KNEA building in Topeka.

Leah Fliter of KASB briefed the group on national and state preparations for Public Schools Week 2020 (Feb. 24-28). She stated KLFA is among the statewide organizations participating in observances at the Kansas State Capitol on Feb. 26. Activities will include the display of a proclamation by Governor Laura Kelly; House and Senate proclamations honoring Public Schools Week, and displays and demonstrations by KLFA members including KASB, KNEA, the Kansas State Department of Education, and other public education advocates. The group discussed how the attending organizations can utilize the online toolkit found at this link to support local Public Schools Week activities in their communities.

Carol Strickland of the National Teachers Hall of Fame in Emporia gave a presentation on the Hall’s Memorial to Fallen Educators, located on a plaza near the National Teacher Hall of Fame. Strickland described how the organization raised funds and did research to collect the names of educators (teachers, administrators, bus drivers, aides and others) who have given their lives in service of education. You can read more about the Memorial here: https://nthfmemorial.

Patty Jurich of Kansas PTA provided information regarding the history of PTA and shared the free resources for school/family collaboration available through their organization.  Cort Buffington of KanREN gave a presentation related to the challenge of providing technology infrastructure for teaching and learning across the state and collaborative efforts striving to overcome those challenges.

Leah Fliter of KASB and Mark Desetti of KNEA gave a legislative update.

Dayna Richardson of Learning Forward Kansas facilitated a panel discussion on Teacher Leadership featuring educators from the Oskaloosa (#341), Topeka (#501), and Inman (USD#448) school districts as well as other teacher leaders who shared via video-clips. Administrators and teachers discussed how teacher leadership empowers them to do their work and discussed how teacher leadership can look different depending on variables such as district size, location, faculty, staff and community support. The discussion included video clips from LFKS’s Inspired to Learn video series, which can be found here:

The next meeting of the Kansas Learning First Alliance will be Thursday, April 9, 2020 at the KNEA building (715 SW 10th Ave. in Topeka, KS).

News Release from KLFA
•October 17, 2019•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance met October 17, 2019 at KNEA. Attendees were welcomed by KLFA Chair Dr. Laurie Curtis. Presentations included supporting public schools, Kansas teacher retention, safety in an electronic environment, and efforts to fight vaping. The KLFA Member Spotlight featured the Jones Institute for Educational Excellence and the Kansas Association for Gifted, Talented and Creative. KLFA members also discussed the importance of voter turnout in 2019 and 2020 and how to increase student engagement in elections.

Learning Forward Kansas Executive Director, Dayna Richardson, briefed attendees on the numerous online resources available to celebrate Public Schools Week, Feb. 24-28, 2020. The resources include sample social media content and suggested legislative resolutions honoring public schools. KASB Advocacy and Outreach Specialist, Leah Fliter, asked the group to consider creating a substantial and visible Public Schools Week event in the Kansas Statehouse in 2020 and attendees agreed.

The Dean of Kansas State University’s College of Education, Dr.  Debbie Mercer, presented on retaining Kansas teachers in the profession. “Recruitment alone will not work,” Mercer said; state and school district leaders must also provide support to keep teachers in the profession and in Kansas. Mercer said research shows that quality preparation through teacher preparation coursework and professional feedback lead to higher teacher retention rates. She noted teacher turnover is greater in smaller, rural, economically disadvantaged school districts.

Dr. Roger Caswell, NBCT, updated attendees on the numerous resources and supports available to educators through the Jones Institute for Educational Excellence at Emporia State University.

Robyn Aeschliman spotlighted the work of the Kansas Association for Gifted, Talented and Creative.

A panel discussion on Safety in an Electronic Age featured Dr. Mike Ribble of the Mid-America Association for Computers in Education (MACE). Dr. Kent Reed of the Kansas Department of Education; and Kansas Association of School Boards attorney Angie Stallbaumer.

Dr. Ribble emphasized the importance of educating students and society about digital citizenship and how to use technology responsibly and effectively.

Dr. Reed reviewed the work of the state’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying, which will make policy or legislative recommendations to the State Board of Education in January. The task force met across the state throughout the spring and summer to gather public testimony and receive the latest research and information about the impact of bullying on students and their education.

Ms. Stallbaumer’s remarks focused on the legal and emotional impacts of unwise social media posts; sexting, bullying and cyber bullying; free speech rights of students and staff; and school districts’ rights and responsibilities around student and staff speech in a digital age.

Mark Thompson (Kansas State Department of Education), then updated KLFA members on the state’s efforts to fight vaping, particularly in schools. The State Board of Education established a task force that makes monthly recommendations the board. Resources include a Vape-Free Schools toolkit available here. Thompson said the State Board is considering requiring schools to have “vape-free” policies in order to achieve accreditation. He said the Board is generally reluctant to impose mandates on local school districts but considers vaping a public health crisis.

Terry Forsyth (KNEA) and Leah Fliter (KASB) led a discussion on the importance of voting and civic engagement in 2019 and 2020. School board and city commission elections are in 2019 and the 2020 elections will feature numerous state and federal races.

KASB, KNEA, USA-Kansas and the Kansas High School Activities Association are working with Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab to promote the “Students Serve” initiative that encourages high school students to work at polling places.

For more information about KLFA, visit the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.

Future KLFA meetings scheduled for the 2019-2020 academic year are:
Tuesday, January 23, 2020 9:30 am, at KNEA Building, 715 SW 10th St., Topeka
Thursday, April 9, 2020, 9:30 am, at KNEA Building, 715 SW 10th St., Topeka

News Release from KLFA
•August 29, 2019•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance (KLFA) held its first meeting of the academic year on August 29, 2019 at the KNEA building in Topeka, Kansas. Laurie Curtis, KLFA Chair, welcomed representatives of 25 educational organizations in support of strong public education in our state.

The Kansas Commissioner of Education, Dr. Randy Watson, provided an update on Kansas education initiatives. Expectations in the workforce call for students to achieve more than a high school diploma, whether that be a job-related certification, license or advanced degree. Employers are focused on hiring individuals with dispositional skills, such as perseverance, not just strong academic preparation. Metrics used by the state to measure “success” of our education system include a five-year graduation rate, the five-year success average (determined as a high school graduate receiving a license or certificate to be used in the workplace or enrolling in a post-secondary institution program within five years of graduation), averaged to achieve the five-year effectiveness average. This data is then partnered with a predictability range that considers three factors shown to have the most impact on success rates: cumulative poverty, student mobility and chronic absenteeism. Current data show improvement is occurring, while more improvement is needed.

Dr. Deborah Hamm, Superintendent of USD 373 (Newton, KS) shared information regarding the Kansas School Superintendent Association (KSSA) which has 232 members representing all sizes of districts throughout the state and is linked to the national (ASSA) organization. They collaborate with other agencies, including KSDE, to provide meaningful professional learning for both new and established superintendents.

Dr. Janet Stramel provided information about two organizations, the Kansas Association of Teachers of Mathematics (KATM) and the Kansas Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (KACTE). KATM represents 30,000 elementary and secondary math teachers to advance effective practices in teaching and learning math in Kansas. They provide scholarships to improve math instruction and will be holding regional math training throughout the state during the upcoming year. KACTE is affiliated with the national organization ACTE to support those who are preparing teachers. Members represent all Regents Institutions of Higher Education as well as many private institutions across the state.

A brief legislative update was provided by Mark Desetti of KNEA. He noted that there may be some older proposed issues resurfacing for discussion during the upcoming session and it is being discussed to raise the legal age for cigarettes and vaping to 21. He encouraged everyone to go to candidate forums as they are announced.

Melinda Stanley facilitated a presentation on Human Trafficking in the state. Presenters included Barry Feaker, Executive Director of Freedom Now and Topeka Rescue Mission; Sarah Shipman, General Counsel for Freedom Now, USA and Dorothy Stucky Halley, Director of the Victim Services Division at the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. Trafficking is “recruiting, harboring, and/or transporting people solely for the purpose of exploitation”. It often includes the use of force, fraud or coercion and preys on the vulnerabilities of those trafficked. It is important that while we strive to identify who might be trafficked, we must also be vigilant to identify those who are traffickers and consumers. Vulnerabilities often include immigration status, recruitment debt, isolation, lack of education and poverty. During the presentation, information regarding “red flags” were provided and indicators of sexual exploitation were provided. Presenters described this tragedy as a “river of human trafficking” and educators are “upstream” and can aid in prevention and detection by recognizing the vulnerabilities causing individuals to enter the “river”.
It is suggested that every school system:
• Train all personnel on HT and indicators of exploitation
• Have policies and procedures acknowledging that YOUR student body is likely to have HT victims, traffickers and buyers
• Implement and enforce a policy for reporting child exploitation
• Expect social work and counseling staff to be competent in recognizing interwoven dynamics between human trafficking and other kinds of victimization
• Assign a social worker/ case manager with HT knowledge if exploitation is suspected and empower the worker within the agency structure
• Create a culture in your school that does not tolerate objectification of women/girls
• Offer comprehensive, developmentally appropriate prevention information for students that include awareness information to help students not be vulnerable. It should also include information that addresses demand. Without demand, there is NO trafficking.
• Be an active member of a local human trafficking task force, engaging the community in prevention and intervention.

For more information about KLFA, visit the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.
Future KLFA meetings scheduled for the 2019-2020 academic year are:
Thursday, October 17, 2019 9:30 am, at KNEA Building
Tuesday, January 23, 2020 9:30 am, at KNEA Building
Thursday, April 9, 2020, 9:30 am, at KNEA Building

News Release from KLFA
•April 11, 2019•

Seventeen organizations were represented at the April KLFA meeting in Topeka.

KSDE Assistant Director of K12 Accreditation, Jeannette Nobo, presented, “KESA: Present and Future.” KESA (Kansas Education Systems Accreditation) seeks to focus accreditation efforts on a school system (district) rather than individual buildings. The district doesn’t exist without its schools and teachers, therefore, involving the whole system is critical to the success of the process. Jeanette noted there has been a learning curve for many regarding the complexity of the KESA process. “It’s a process that should be seamless with what else is going on in a district,” Nobo said. She updated attendees on the extensive training that continues to be provided across the state and asked organization representatives for their feedback on the process. KESA focuses on a Continuous Improvement Cycle for System Redesign that involves data collection, determination of goals, implementation and analysis of results followed by a new cycle of data collection/examination. Nobo also discussed the KSDE school redesign process. 

Leah Fliter ( Kansas Association of School Boards) and Mark Desetti (Kansas National Education Association) summarized the passage of SB 16, the Gannon school finance fix legislation. Governor Laura Kelly signed the bill into law. If the Court approves the roughly $360 million of inflationary adjustments in SB 16, the Gannon case could be resolved, although most observers expect the Court to retain jurisdiction until the final proposed payout in Fiscal Year 2023.

Kansas Children’s Service League (KCSL) President/CEO, Dona Booe, highlighted her organization’s work to support healthy families. KCSL has its roots in the Kansas Children’s Home Society (KCHS) and The Christian Service League (CSL). KCSL developed a broader range of services to meet the changing needs of children and families. Booe said that although society’s instinct is to rescue individual children from negative family situations and child abuse, more impact can be made through strengthening families in order to prevent the circumstances that lead to child abuse and neglect. She likened KCSL’s efforts to immunization against disease. “Child maltreatment is a public health issue, not a social class issue,” Booe said. Protective factors include resilience to stress, social connections, child development knowledge, concrete supports in crisis and parent/child attachment. KCSL’s newest focus is on family-friendly work policy that benefits not only employees but employers.

Kansas Lieutenant Governor, Lynn Rogers, briefed the group on the bipartisan successes of the first part of the 2019 legislative session. He lauded the passage of the school finance law and the possibility of Medicaid expansion in Kansas. The lieutenant governor urged attendees to encourage public servants to run for office and stressed allegiance to Kansas rather than a political party.

Kathleen Mercer, Individual Plans of Study Coordinator for the Kansas Department of Education, reviewed the IPS process. She stressed that individual plans of study are not intended to “pigeonhole” students but rather to help them be intentional in planning for post-secondary success.

Meetings for next year will be held at the KNEA building on August 29th, October 17th, January 23rd, and April 9th. All organizations are encouraged to have their representative present at each meeting.

News Release from KLFA
•January 10, 2019•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance met on Jan. 10, 2019 in Topeka. There were 19 membership organizations represented.

Kansas Department of Education Deputy Commissioner, Dr. Brad Neuenswander, offered an update on the state ESSA (federal law) implementation plan, the KSEA statewide accreditation framework and school redesign and how they dovetail with the State Board of Education’s Vision for student success.

Neuenswander said the new Kansas building report cards under ESSA focus on academic preparation and graduation rates, the only two measures that meet the law’s requirements for clean data reporting. Kansas’ 95 percent graduation rate goal is the highest in the nation, set to meet the State Board’s goal. Most state goals are 85 percent; Kansas’ graduation rate is currently at 87 percent, Neuenswander said, so the State Board and KSDE decided to set an aspirational goal. You can access Dr. Neuenswander’s presentation here.

Mark Desetti of KNEA and Leah Fliter of KASB gave a brief update on the outlook for the legislative session that begins January 14. The K-12 education community will be advocating for the inflationary increase to the state funding formula ordered by the state Supreme Court in June 2018. Desetti and Fliter cautioned attendees against attempts to pit K-12 education against social services and highway funding.

Rachel Cronn from the Kansas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (KACRAO) updated the group on Apply Kansas, which encourages Kansas students to apply to technical schools and four-year colleges. The initiative encourages schools to allow high school students time during the school day to work on their applications with the assistance of peers, teachers and guidance counselors. It’s particularly helpful for students who will be the first in their families to attend postsecondary institutions.

Dr. Melissa Reed discussed the Kansas Masonic Literacy Center (housed at Emporia State) and Emporia State University’s Master of Science in Elementary Education. The KMLC provides service and support to learners from birth through adulthood throughout the state of Kansas in the area of literacy. The Master of Science in Elementary Education program is designed for career-changers who are interested in becoming elementary school teachers. Upon completion, graduates are eligible for an elementary education teaching license.

Dr. Judy Hughey, Kansas State University Department of Special Education, Counseling and Student AffairsAlicia Jackson of Olathe West HS (Kansas School Counselor of the Year) and St. George Elementary School counselor Kris Bailey discussed teen suicide, mental health challenges facing students and distributed a packet of information on resources and recommendations. To meet the state board’s vision, they advocated for more counselors in schools. You can view the presentation here.

The next KLFA meeting will be on Thursday, April 11, 2019 at the KNEA building in Topeka.

News Release from KLFA
•October 11, 2018•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance meeting convened on October 11, 2018 at KNEA headquarters in Topeka with a welcome from Laurie Curtis. Eighteen organizations were represented.

Sherri Schwanz of KNEA presented, “Our Association in Action: Creating Change Through Social Justice.
Objectives of the presentation were to help attendees demonstrate openness to new ideas about social justice and social oppression; identify forms of social oppression in public education; discover that social oppression is systemic and systematic; and be able to describe how social justice principles are relevant and useful personally and in the workplace.

Idalia Shuman, KNEA, led the group through a discussion of racial justice centering on her journey as a Mexican-American from GED diplomate to young mother>school volunteer>teacher>NEA advocate. Many of her positive experiences were because someone “tapped her on the shoulder” and encouraged her to take the next step. The group agreed on the need to have conversations about how privilege and “ismsaffect students. Educators, administrators, staff, and community must all be involved.

Leah Fliter, KASB and Terry Forsyth, KNEA, gave an update on the 2018 general election. Dayna Richardson, Learning Forward Kansas, conducted a “scavenger hunt” through the KLFA website to familiarize attendees with KLFA online resources. She also asked organizations to add their upcoming learning events to the KLFA home page. The website is

A panel discussion/presentation featuring Brandon Hutton, Kansas Enrichment Network; Nancy Bether, Boys and Girls Clubs/EPIC Skillz/Hutchinson; Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas; Cathy Musick, Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and Steve Willis, 5th Judicial District Community
Corrections/Spartan Explorers Emporia High School after-school program for juvenile offenders featured a discussion of the resources each organization can offer to PK-12 public schools, making connections to the KSDE vision and four principles: Student Success Skills, Personalized Learning, Community Partnerships, and Real-World Applications.

News Release from KLFA
•April 12, 2018•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance (KLFA) held the final meeting for the 2017-2018 academic year on April 12, 2018 at the KNEA building in Topeka, Kansas. KLFA Chair, Mark Farr, welcomed 15 representatives of 13 educational organizations committed to the KLFA vision of partnering to keep learning first.

KSDE Deputy Commissioner, Brad Neuenswander, provided an informative update on the Kansans Can School Redesign Project. Those schools identified as Mercury and Gemini schools are re-imagining what successful schools can look like. Tuesday, April 17th additional schools were identified resulting in 100 schools in 47 districts being involved in the redesign process. Schools working on redesign are focusing on two goals, while engaging families and communities in the effort and identifying innovative ways to reallocate their resources to accomplish their plans. A Kansas “Flight Manual” is being developed to assist others who will be involved in the future.

Susan Helbert, Assistant Director for Teacher Licensure provided information to participants regarding the multiple routes for becoming an educator in Kansas. She provided a regulations summary of what was currently in process at KSDE and reviewed the work of the Teacher Vacancy Supply Committee, including information about the new Limited Elementary Pilot and the new High Incidence Special Education pilot. She also explained the Kansas Educator Continuum and the concept of individual plans of study for the professional learning of teachers, which in the future may more effectively tie professional learning for teachers with license renewal.

Mark Desetti, KNEA Director of Legislative and Political Advocacy and Leah Fliter, KASB Advocacy and Outreach Specialist provided an informational summary related to the over 500 million dollar (over five years) school funding legislation that recently passed. While there was an 80 million dollar error discovered, it is hoped that correction of the error will be attended to swiftly when the session resumes April 26th.

Jeannette Nobo, Assistant Director for KESA, provided an update on the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) work. She noted there will be seven schools completing the accreditation cycle this coming month. To date, 323 individuals have been trained as Outside Visitation Team (OVT) chairs and 1,079 individuals trained as OVT team members. Surveys have recently been sent out related to KESA training, and she requested feedback for participants on the process. For more information on KESA, click here.

The Kansas Learning First Alliance is a coalition of 36 educational organizations in Kansas representing school boards, administrators, teachers, teacher educators, parents, the Kansas Board of Education, and the Kansas State Department Education. For more information about KLFA, visit the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.

Future KLFA meetings scheduled for the 2018-2019 academic year are:
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Thursday, April 11, 2019

News Release from KLFA
•January 9, 2018•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance (KLFA) held an informative meeting on January 9, 2018 at the KNEA building in Topeka, Kansas.  KLFA Chair, Mark Farr, welcomed more than 15 representatives of 12 educational organizations who are committed to the mission of KLFA.

KSDE Program Consultant Myron Melton provided information regarding the Social Emotional Character Development (SECD), which is one of the Kansas State Board of Education goals. He shared information about the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Pyramid study. The study of Kansas children suggested 55% had at least one ACE, 34% have 1-2, and 21% have 3 or more. Twenty percent (20%) of our students need mental health services, but only 7% actually get it. That has a big impact on education as those students spend more time in survival than cognition. Schools addressing this provide professional learning opportunities to help staff create trauma sensitive learning environments, help facilitate mental health services, collaborate with the family and community partners, help students develop coping skills, and adopt policies/procedures to enhance these practices.

Don Gifford, the KSDE Program Consultant for Civic Engagement, spoke about moving citizens from involved to engaged, which requires commitment and selflessness.  Engaged students are less likely to participate in high-risk behaviors, smoke, be anxious/depressed, etc.  To move toward self-efficacy, one must be confident their actions can make a difference, and there is little formalized civic curriculum. With the State Board emphasis on civic engagement, they’re promoting it via a new awards structure based on identified criteria, as well as hosting the Civic Engagement Conference on Feb. 19th.

The Kansas Learning First Alliance is a coalition of 36 educational organizations in Kansas representing school boards, administrators, teachers, teacher educators, parents, the Kansas Board of Education, and the Kansas State Department Education.

Future KLFA meetings scheduled for the 2017-2018 academic year are:
Thursday, April 12 9:30am, 2018 at KNEA Building

News Release from KLFA
•October 19, 2017•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance (KLFA) held an informative meeting on October 19, 2017 at the KNEA building in Topeka, Kansas.  KLFA President/Chair, Mark Farr, welcomed representatives of 13 various educational organizations for a day of collaborative conversation.

KSDE Deputy Commissioner, Brad Neuenswander, noted the KSDE School Redesign project is unique to Kansas, founded on feedback from a wide-range of stakeholders throughout the state and grounded in the Kansas State School Board’s vision of leading the world in the success of each student. He shared that estimates are by 2020, 71% of jobs will require education beyond a high school diploma. Approximately 36% of those positions will need to be filled with someone who has a bachelor degree and nearly the same percentage will be required to hold a certificate or associate degree. Currently, we are very short in meeting these employment needs. School redesign efforts will allow districts to pilot innovative ways of preparing students for the future.  Efforts will focus on all areas of preparation (academic preparation, cognitive preparation, technical skills, employability skills and civic engagement.)

Melinda Stanley, representing KanREN shared information about the Future Ready Schools initiative which provides a structured framework to support school district efforts toward continual improvement and accreditation. The initiative focuses on assisting K-12 school districts to utilize digital learning opportunities to optimize every student’s chance for success.  The Future Ready Schools framework is aligned to the basic tenets of the state’s new accreditation model, Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) and the available Future Ready School resources can help guide important conversations regarding establishment of district priorities.

The Kansas Learning First Alliance is a coalition of educational organizations in Kansas representing school boards, administrators, teachers, teacher educators, parents, the Kansas Board of Education, and the Kansas State Department Education. Please check the KLFA website to learn of upcoming opportunities for professional learning throughout the state and to share what your organization is doing. For more information about KLFA, visit the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.

Future KLFA meetings scheduled for the 2017-2018 academic year are:
Tuesday, January 9, 2018 9:30 am at KNEA Building
Thursday, April 12, 2018 9:30 am at KNEA Building

News Release from KLFA
•August 25, 2017•

The Kansas Learning First Alliance (KLFA) held an informative meeting on August 25, 2017 at the KNEA building in Topeka, Kansas.  KLFA Chair, Mark Farr, welcomed more than 25 representatives of 17 various educational organizations who care deeply about the quality of education in Kansas. Member organizations highlighted at this meeting included AdvancED and the Kansas Gifted, Talented, Creative Organization, both sharing ways their organizations support the vision and mission of KLFA.

KSDE Commissioner Randy Watson provided an update on the Kansans Can School Redesign initiative. The initiative is based on outcomes set forth by the Kansas State Board of Education, emphasizing social-emotional factors measured locally, kindergarten readiness, individual plans of study, high school graduation and postsecondary success.  This initiative empowers districts to respond to the recent feedback gained from a wide range of community stakeholders throughout Kansas. Seven schools have been selected to pilot the initiative. For more information see School Redesign.

Dr. Rick Doll and Dayna Richardson shared information regarding both the training of Outside Visitation Team members and chairs for the new Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) model that will begin this year. This 5-year accreditation cycle will be co-facilitated by the district’s leadership team and an Outside Visitation Team (OVT) that has undergone training. Additional chairs are needed. Those interested in more information on serving as an OVT Chair should contact Dr. Rick Doll at

The Kansas Learning First Alliance is a coalition of 36 educational organizations in Kansas representing school boards, administrators, teachers, teacher educators, parents, the Kansas Board of Education, and the Kansas State Department Education. The mission of KLFA is “to unite the education community to improve our outstanding public education system, pre-K through higher education, to empower each Kansan to succeed in the diverse, interdependent world of the 21st century”. For more information about KLFA, visit the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.

News Release from KLFA
•April 11, 2017•

Collaborative initiatives to meet the needs of students in Kansas was the key focus at the recent Kansas Learning First Alliance meeting held April 11, 2017 in Topeka, KS.

Two member organizations shared the spotlight by providing an overview of the mission and vision of their organizations. Betsy Wiens, representing Kansas Teachers of Mathematics, shared the essential work of her organization and highlighted scholarship opportunities available to practicing math teachers in Kansas. More information may be found at the KATM website.  Kelly Stanford, representing Communities in Schools, provided an overview of her organization, which provides increasing levels of support  to assist students in overcoming barriers faced due to poverty, trauma, and factors that impede optimum student engagement and learning.

Richard Long, Executive Director of Learning First Alliance shared what LFA is doing at the national level to engage in the discussion for strong public schools. He shared that a compendium of writings and research related to characteristics of successful schools is being developed. He also reported that LFA is working to identify what positive collaboration might look like within the business community creating a “culture of coalitions” to lead reform efforts.

Cort Buffington and Melinda Stanley of KanREN shared information regarding Prairie Line Express, a project designed to establish strong Internet capability to schools across the state. Originally designed to support the technology infrastructure of Kansas Board of Regents’ Institutions, it has expanded to areas where community entities are partnering with K-16 schools. Their goal is to change the mindset of educational districts from “do I have enough” to “what can I do” to encourage innovation.

Nancy Crato, Director of Psychosocial Rehabilitation at Topeka’s Family Service and Guidance Center and Julie Ward, Coordinator of social workers for the Topeka School District (#501) shared their collaborative efforts to support mental health professionals working in schools as they support PK-12 students. Establishing a “trauma informed” system takes collaboration: sharing resources and tools to provide additional professional learning that helps meet the challenges many students in our schools face.

Dates for the 2017-2018 KLFA meetings were set:
Tuesday August 29 9:30 a.m., at KNEA Building; 715 SW 10th Ave., Topeks, KS
Thursday, October 19 9:30 a.m., at KNEA Building: 715 SW 10th Ave., Topeks, KS
Tuesday, January 9, 9:30 a.m., at KNEA Building: 715 SW 10th Ave., Topeks, KS
Thursday, April 12 9:30 a.m., at KNEA Building: 715 SW 10th Ave., Topeks, KS
For more information about KLFA, visit the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.

News Release from KLFA
•January 5, 2017•

Representatives from Kansas Learning First Alliance member organizations met to gain information on new accreditation protocol and tax reform initiatives during a recent meeting held January 5, 2017 in Topeka, KS.

Dr. Bill Bagshaw, KSDE Assistant Director of Teacher Licensure & Accreditation shared information on the Kansas Educational Systems Accreditation (KESA) model, specifically the Outside Visitation Teams (OVT). He explained the training manual for chairs of these teams is being created to deliver strong preparation for team leaders. Different from the earlier accreditation process, KESA will accredit systems (usually districts) rather than individual buildings. An integral piece of the process is the active engagement that building and district level teams of educational professionals and community members will have in the process. He also provided information on the five-year cycle roll-out.

Heidi Holliday, Executive Director of Kansas Center for Economic Growth, and Haley Pollock, Director of Communication and Outreach for Kansas Action for Children, provided information about the tax reform initiative developed by the Rise Up Kansas Coalition which provides a solution to the current and growing crisis impacting education programs and resources. They explained why comprehensive tax reform is critical and simply addressing a piece (such as closing the LLC loophole) will not bring about the changes needed.

The Kansas Educational Leadership Institute (KELI) was welcomed as a new member organization. Dr. Rick Doll, Executive Director of KELI shared with meeting participants the KELI’s mission to provide excellent professional learning and resources for educational leaders across Kansas. KELI is a collaborative body formed by Kansas School Superintendents Association, United School Administrators, Kansas Association of School Boards, Kansas State Department of Education and Kansas State University.

Mark Desetti, Leah Fliter, and Tom Krebs provided a legislative update highlighting the changes from the recent election. Committee chairs appear to be more moderate, and several of the new legislators have experience in the work of schools.  It was noted there is a significant increase of new legislators in both House and Senate who ran on the platform of being supportive of public schools. The critically important work on the new school finance formula will be starting with the new session.

The next (and final) meeting for KLFA for the 2016-2017 academic year will be held on April 11, 2017 at the KNEA Building (715 SW 10th Ave. Topeka, KS)

For more information about KLFA, visit the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.

News Release from KLFA
•October 20, 2016•

Representatives from Kansas Learning First Alliance member organizations met to gain information on new initiatives and impending changes during the a recent meeting held October 20, 2016 in Topeka, KS.

Kansas Reading Association and the Jones Institute for Educational Excellence were asked to provide an organizational “spotlight” moment to highlight the work and constituency of their organizations.

Dr. Scott Meyers, KSDE Director of Teacher Licensure & Accreditation shared information related to KESA, more specifically the Outside Visitation Teams (OVT) that will be an integral part of the accreditation process in the future. OVT members will represent various stakeholders and work regionally to assist in accreditation of each system. These teams will not be appointed by KSDE, but will be determined by the system being accredited with approval from KSDE. Team members will receive training to fulfill the role prior to being asked to assist and commit to a five-year period of service.

Jay Scott, Assistant Director of Career & Technical Education, shared information related to Individual Plans of Study (IPS), providing the rationale behind this initiative as well as the minimum components included in such plans. These programs, best started in grades 6-8, should include a series of career interest surveys, a course builder function, a general post-secondary plan, and provide a portable electronic portfolio to facilitate sharing of information. There are various successful models that can be used for this process (counselor-centered, career advisor, career advocates, hybrid), with the understanding whatever model is in place it should remain flexible and be re-visited regularly.

Leah Fliter and Tom Krebs provided a legislative update and emphasized the importance of the upcoming election. KNEA made available to all present the KNEA Candidate Recommendations & Voting Guide for 2016 which included both Republican and Democrat candidates who are up for election/ re-election whose work and actions consistently support public education.

The Community Engagement, Professional Learning and Student Success workgroups met during the afternoon developing projects to inform others of the positive work schools are accomplishing. Information related to the Kansans CAN initiative was referenced and a new video series being developed by Learning Forward Kansas entitled, Inspired to Learn: Kansas Stories was previewed.

For more information about KLFA, visit the KLFA Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.

News Release from KLFA
•September 13, 2016•

An update on new initiatives for education in the state of Kansas was the key focus of the recent Kansas Learning First Alliance meeting. Mark Farr, KLFA Chair, welcomed more than 20 representatives from the collaborative KLFA member organizations to the meeting held at the KASB building on August 25, 2016.

Commissioner Randy Watson provided updates on the Kansans Can initiative and innovative strategies designed to be responsive to communities and business stakeholders throughout the state. Information shared reflected the Kansas Educational Systems Accreditation (KESA) System, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), School Funding and the work of the Blue Ribbon Task Force which studied teacher vacancies throughout the state. Key points of emphasis were:
 the Kansans Can initiative needs educators promoting education,
 we’re aligned to a local control philosophy on KESA and ESSA implementation,
 state assessments are affordable and the number has been reduced, but there will be clear expectations for the digital delivery to improve.

Utilizing a working lunch and the afternoon, the three work groups (Community Engagement, Professional Learning and Student Success) met to work on developing ways of sharing the positive things happening in our schools. It was determined both social media (Infographics, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and traditional media are important avenues to use in sharing the story about what makes our schools great. Time was provided to create products to share between all organizations.

KLFA was happy to welcome the Kansas Children’s Service League as a new member organization. KLFA is a coalition of 35 educational organizations in Kansas representing school boards, administrators, teachers, teacher educators, parents, the Kansas Board of Education, and the Kansas State Department of Education. The mission of KLFA is “to unite the education community to improve our outstanding public education system, pre-K through higher education, to empower each Kansan to succeed in the diverse, interdependent world of the 21st century.” Future KLFA meetings scheduled for the 2016-2017 academic year include:
 October 20, 2016 KASB 1420 SW Arrowhead Road, Topeka, KS
 January 5, 2017 KNEA 715 SW 10th Ave. Topeks, KS
 April 11, 2017 KNEA 715 SW 10th Ave. Topeks, KS
 June 13, 2017 KNEA 715 SW 10th Ave. Topeks, KS
For more information about KLFA, visit the Website and/or look for “Kansas Learning First Alliance” on Facebook.

By the LFKS Staff
•May 20, 2016•

Kansas_authors_shineThis exciting new post features the wisdom, ideas, and effective strategies of Kansas authors who support the LFKS vision of Excellent Teaching and Learning Every Day. Kansas is blessed to have many quality educators and leaders who believe in the power of effective professional learning and utilize this as the vehicle for improving instructional practice and student results. Many of these educators have been willing to share their knowledge and skills through published works, blogs, workshops, and other venues so that all Kansas educators and their students can benefit. This post celebrates three Kansas authors, Jim Knight, Marceta Reilly and Kelly Gillespie, who have written books that focus on improving our practice through better conversations, coaching conversations, and using data to drive those conversations. A common theme in each of their books is the importance of feedback and conversations to improve our practices and student success.

It is the hope of LFKS that celebrating our Kansas authors and sharing these resources will support Kansas educators in realizing the power to make a difference in a district, building, or classroom.  LFKS is honored to have all three of these educators as part of our LFKS Leadership Conference next February 1-2, 2017.  Mark your calendars!

Better Conversations:  Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to be More Credible, Caring and Connected
By Jim Knight, with a companion Reflection Guide to Better Conversations
Published by Corwin 2016

Jim Knight
Jim Knight

Jim Knight, Kansas University Center for Research on Learning, is known internationally for his work with instructional coaching and has written many books on this topic. He will be the featured keynote speaker on February 1, 2017, at the LFKS Annual Conference.  In his latest work, Knight explores what “better conversations” look like, the beliefs that support better conversations, and what skills and behaviors will lead to better conversations. He encourages educators to begin by being a better listener by focusing on listening with empathy.  This leads to fostering better dialogue, and asking good questions that deepen the emotional connections and allow those involved to explore common ground.  The challenges that prevent better conversations are also addressed as Knight shares ways to control and redirect emotions and toxic words, and build trust.  Learn more

Opening the Door to Coaching Conversations
By Marceta Fleming Reilly and Linda Gross Cheliotes
Published by Corwin 2012

Marceta Reilly

Marceta Reilly is a former Kansas teacher, principal, superintendent, and current leadership coach, consultant, author, and mentor to many Kansas educators. This thoughtful how-to-guide deviates from the traditional “one right way” by sharing the mindsets, skills and strategies required to have effecting coaching conversations supported by a wide range of contributors who share their personal stories of challenges and experiences to illustrate the points made within each chapter. The authors lead the reader through the discovery process of what a coaching conversation is and how one can identify personal strengths and challenge and to develop the skills, attitudes, and actions to become an effective coach. Every educator can be “coach-like” by using these skills and strategies. Several of the contributors are from Kansas, including four with ties to LFKS:  Sandee Crowther, past Executive Director; Sue Kidd, Past President; Dayna Richardson, current Executive Director; and Dave Winans, Past President.   Marceta will share more coaching strategies at the LFKS Annual Conference on February 2, 2017.  Learn more at

#eWalkThrough:  Digital System for Instructional Leadership
By Kelly Gillespie with Sue Jenkins
Published by LuLu 2016

Kelly Gillespie
Kelly Gillespie

One component of achieving the vision of excellent teaching and learning every day is to improve instructional practices that positively impact student results. Data driven dialogue in a collaborative setting is an effective professional learning tool that leads to improved instructional practice. In this new book, Kelly Gillespie, director of Southwest Plains Regional Educational Center, explains how the Digital eWalkThrough Tool can provide the instructional data for educators to engage in continuous improvement. This customizable tool targets specific data collection that will lead to more meaningful conversations around that instructional data. “One size doesn’t fit all” in terms of what individual schools identify as important classroom instructional behaviors, or the knowledge and skills required by individual teachers, grade levels, or content areas to best support the learning needs of teachers and students. The key to this eWalkThrough process is not only to collect important data, but also to follow that with collaborative dialogue within a learning community/team, building, or district, in order to achieve the vision of excellent teaching and learning every day. Kelly will share this walkthrough process at the LFKS Annual Conference on February 2, 2017.  Learn more at

Discover the Possibilities

By Eric Celeste
•April 15, 2016•

Eric Celeste
Eric Celeste

In 2011, Learning Forward revealed its third iteration of Standards for Professional Learning — seven characteristics of professional learning that lead to effective teaching practices, supportive leadership, and improved student results. The 2011 standards (see p. 11), built on those issued in 1994 and revised in 2001, combine decades of research, lessons learned, and input from 40 professional education organizations.

Undergirding all seven standards is this fundamental premise: The purpose of professional learning is for educators to develop the knowledge, skills, practices, and dispositions they need to help students perform at higher levels. The standards are not a prescription for how education leaders and public officials should address all the challenges related to improving the performance of educators and their students. The standards focus on one critical issue — professional learning.

The seven standards focus attention on educator learning that relates to successful student learning, and it is vital that we support all educators in doing the same. Every educator requires professional learning that is interactive, relevant, sustained, and embedded in everyday practice. Only by achieving such a vision for professional learning is equity of access to high-quality education for every student possible. 

It is not a simple matter to connect the dots between high quality professional learning and student outcomes. However, the theory of action that drives the standards, and indeed much of Learning Forward’s work, is a continuous model of improvement: Standards-based professional learning leads to greater overall educator expertise, which causes changes in educator practice that results in better student outcomes (see “Relationship between professional learning and student results”). There is much embedded in each of those four circles, and the aim of this issue of JSD is to encourage readers to explore the ideas behind the standards in depth through a range of lenses and consider next actions.

The quality of professional learning that occurs when the Standards for Professional Learning are fully implemented enrolls educators as active partners in determining the focus of their learning, how their learning occurs, and how they evaluate its effectiveness. These educators are part of a team, a school, and a school system that conceive, implement, and evaluate carefully aligned professional learning that responds to individual, team, schoolwide, and systemwide goals for student achievement. The standards give educators the information they need to take leadership roles as advocates for and facilitators of effective professional learning and the conditions required for its success. 

Why is this critical? Placing the emphasis on professional learning reminds all education stakeholders that educators’ continuous improvement affects student learning. Increasing the effectiveness of professional learning is the leverage point with the greatest potential for strengthening and refining the day-to-day performance of educators. 

For most educators working in schools, professional learning is the singular most accessible means they have to develop the new knowledge, skills, and practices necessary to better meet students’ learning needs. If educators are not engaged throughout their careers in new learning experiences that enable them to better serve their students, both educators and students suffer.

And if those educators are not learning collaboratively in the context of a systemwide plan for coherent learning tied to a set of goals aligned from classroom to school to school system, their professional learning is less likely to produce its intended results.

This is not theory: We’ve seen it in practice. In the five years since Learning Forward issued the Standards for Professional Learning, there has been widespread adoption of its core tenets throughout 39 states and several municipalities. (See “Why adoption of standards matters” on p. 60.) Policymakers have used them to help form law and inform conversations about the value of professional learning to teachers, students, districts, and communities. They have proven to be a vital tool, necessary when incorporating high-quality professional learning practices into a school system.

Why then revisit them now, and in such depth? Three reasons: 

Teacher turnover: Although a 2015 comprehensive National Center for Education Statistics study (NCES, 2015) proved that many reports of teacher turnover were overstated, it showed a 30% turnover rate every five years, on average. That means there are nearly one million new full-time teachers, public and private, since 2011, when we first examined the standards at great depth. We know also that Learning Forward’s membership shifts and grows, with many educators taking
on new learning leadership roles in their schools and school districts. 

A new landscape: With the adoption of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we see the continuation of a sea change in public education. As ESSA is interpreted state by state, efforts that revolved around measuring and improving teacher accountability and effectiveness— and tying those measures to student outcomes — will be adjusted and implemented. A discussion about the necessity of effective professional learning to those efforts is crucial. As well, ESSA offers many opportunities to rethink in depth how funds for professional learning are best invested. Absent attention to the standards, those investments are unlikely to bear the returns students, communities, and educators demand. 

Increasing relevance: Five years is a long time in education. It’s vital the standards not be stagnant, but that they are viewed and re-viewed through a critical lens. We felt it important for the continuing examination of these standards to come from experts outside Learning Forward, from researchers and thought leaders also on the front lines of shaping the professional learning conversation. They can help educators more fully understand what the standards are and the myriad ways thought leaders with a range of perspectives consider their meaning and use. They can take their knowledge and relevant research to explain and give examples of how each of these elements function individually and in synergy to enable educators to increase their effectiveness and student learning. 

This is why we created a book series with Corwin — to invite the authors featured in this issue of JSD to explore these standards in depth. The seven-book series — one for each standard— was conceived to deepen learning leaders’ understanding of the standards. Each volume opens with a thought leader essay exploring the themes in the standards. These essays are not identical to what Learning Forward would write — we invited these particular authors because of their expertise. We knew they would approach the standards from a unique angle that would encourage learning and reflection.

Each volume in the Reach the Highest Standard series continues with a section geared toward practitioner implementation of the standards, complete with protocols and educator considerations. Finally, each volume concludes with a case example of a school system that has used the concepts in the standard to improve results. The cases highlight the real-world successes and challenges of improving professional learning through sustained effort, offering context information and inspiration.

We appreciate the partnership with Corwin on the series and their support of this issue of JSD. We hope that this issue helps educators begin to imagine and plan how to reshape the professional learning for which they are responsible — now and in the future.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). Public school teacher attrition and mobility in the first five years: Results from the first through fifth waves of the 2007-08 beginning teacher longitudinal study. Washington, DC: Author.

Eric Celeste ( is Learning Forward’s associate director of publications and editor of JSD.

KLFA Hears KSBE Vision, ESSA and Assessment Update

By the KLFA Staff
•January 6, 2016•

B Neuenswander
Brad Neuenswander

Kansas Learning First Alliance (KLFA) met January 6 at the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) building.  KLFA celebrated the start of its 17th year working toward its vision to unite the education community to improve the outstanding public education system, pre-K through higher education, and to empower each Kansan to succeed in the diverse, interdependent world of the 21st century.   

The Legislative Update included the continued concern with educational funding using the Block Grant system. The Efficiency Report and the State of the State will be important toward determining what will happen next. The upcoming election will play a critical role as to what decision makers are at the table.

Beth Fultz, Kansas State Department of Education, shared the proposed state outcomes aligned to the new vision and strategic plan. The proposal included kindergarten readiness, graduation rates, completing a credential or pursuing post-secondary education, individual plans of study with a career emphasis, social/emotional factors, and civic engagement. State assessment information was shared regarding the testing window, caching parameters, the process for registering students, performance tasks, and reporting procedures.

Brad Neuenswander, Deputy Commissioner KSDE, shared key points from the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  ESSA maintains annual assessments and authorizes innovative assessment pilots and provides states with increased flexibility to design school accountability systems, school interventions, and student supports. Further, it allows states flexibility to work with local stakeholders to develop educator evaluation and support systems and increases state and local flexibility in the use of federal funds.

Members continued working in one of the three focus areas: Professional Learning, Student Success and Community Engagement.  Professional Learning is working with Learning Forward Kansas (LFKS) to develop a videos series that demonstrates professional learning that changes practice, plus creating several resources/tools that focus on the vocabulary of ESSA, KESA, and other state initiatives. Student Success is creating resources/tools to support districts focused on Student Success and Kansans Can, especially Individual Plans of Study.  Community Engagement is also creating resources/tools available for Kansas educators.

The next KLFA meeting is Thursday, April 14, at the Kansas NEA building.  Please visit our website for more information about KLFA and our work. 

Changing One’s Own Practice is a Great First Step!

By Frederick Brown
•February 18, 2016•

Frederick Brown
Frederick Brown

Truly changing one’s own practice takes a focused commitment, and the support of a coach can significantly increase the likelihood of success. That’s one of the big takeaways from Learning Forward’s experience facilitating 33 Academy cohorts. For those who are unaware, the Learning Forward Academy is an extended learning experience that immerses members in a model of inquiry- and problem-based learning. Throughout the experience, participants receive support from an experienced coach who is also an Academy graduate.

As we reviewed the survey data from our most recent graduates, we were pleased to read that close to 90% of them reported their practice becoming more effective as a result of the Academy experience. This number is significant to us for several reasons. Often after a learning experience, participants are asked how much they enjoyed the learning or what did they learn. While these questions can be useful, the more important question is, “what changed as a result of your learning?”

Regardless of the learning experience, it’s crucial to see how participants connect their learning to improvements in student performance. Within the first 2 ½ years, 60% of Academy graduates observed improvements in student performance directly connected to their Academy experience. This is significant because there are many steps in a system’s change process before a participant’s learning impacts students. For example, those who are principals often begin by changing their own practice before they can start creating the conditions that lead to improvements in teaching and learning. For Academy participants in central office positions, there are often even more steps between their practice and results for students. And regardless of position, all this change takes time. We are encouraged by our 60%, but we look forward to seeing even more gains from our participants’ students that might come as a result of their Academy experience.

The infographic below highlights some of the other data we’ve gathered from our survey. For more information about the Learning Forward Academy, please visit our website:


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