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