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At-Risk and High-Density At-Risk Weighting

Posted Date: 02/19/2021

At-Risk and High-Density At-Risk Weighting

The Senate Education Committee held hearings this week on SB 173 would extend the expiring high-density weighting factor until June 30, 2023, but also makes changes in the current at-risk weighting system. It was scheduled to  hold a hearing Friday afternoon on SB 144 would simply make the high-density at-risk weighting permanent with no other changes. 

SB 173 is based on legislation that passed the House last year and was modified by the Senate Education Committee before the Legislature shut down early. These changes reflect input from various education organizations, including KASB. Many of these changes were prompted by a Legislative Post Audit from 2019. 

First, section one directs the State Board of Education to require school districts to implement at-risk educational programs and services that provide additional educational opportunities, interventions and evidence-based instruction using the at-risk best practices identified in state law (K.S.A. 72-5153).  It further includes criteria for students to receive at-risk services. These criteria are identical to current guidelines of the State Board for student eligibility except dyslexia is added.  

Second, the bill extends the high-density at-risk weighting to June 30, 2023. (The current high-density weighting expired in 2020 but was extended for two years by a “proviso” in last year’s state budget bill.)  

Third, the bill states that “The purpose of the at-risk student weighting and the high-density at-risk student weighting is to provide students identified as eligible to receive at-risk programs and services with evidence-based educational services in addition to regular instructional services.” It also directs that the “portion of such state foundation aid that is directly attributed to such school district's at-risk student weighting and high-density at-risk student weighting, if any, shall be transferred to the district's at-risk education fund.”  These are current practice. 

Fourth, the bill amends the current law on how at-risk funds may be spent as follows:   

(A) It specifically allows at-risk funds to be used for “support for instructional classroom personnel designed to provide training for evidence-based best practices for at-risk educational programs.”  

(B) It requires the state board to provide a list of approved at-risk educational programs to each school district and publish the list on the department's website, and limits expenditures from a school district's at-risk education fund to any programs or services on the list of approved at-risk educational programs, unless such program is a provisional at-risk educational program. Under current law, the State Board must approve how at-risk funds are spent but may approve programs by reviewing expenditures as part of an annual audit, not in advance.  

(C) It establishes “provisional at-risk programs,” defined as “an evidence based at-risk educational program or service identified or developed by a school district as producing or likely to produce measurable success that has been submitted to the state board for review,” and limited to a three-year period prior. Basically, it allows districts to “experiment” with programs for three-years, after which the State Board determines if it may be an approved program.  

Fifth, the bill adds a reporting requirement that districts “shall track and report the longitudinal performance of students that are continuously receiving at-risk programs and services in the district's approved at-risk program and, if applicable, may include data regarding state assessment scores, Kansas English language proficiency assessment results, four-year graduation rates, progress monitoring, norm-referenced test results, criterion-based test results, individualized education program goals, attendance and average ACT composite scores.”  

Finally, the bill requires a performance audit of at-risk education to be conducted during 2022, and the final audit report shall be submitted to the legislature on or before January 15, 2023.