Thursday, October 31, 2013

Video- KOAM and the Common Core whitewash

The second of KOAM education reporter Lisa Olliges' series on local school districts and passing the tests aired during the 10 p.m. newscast this evening and focused on Common Core Standards.

Ms. Olliges, as always, provided a fair look at both sides of the issue, interviewing local school officials, including Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff, state officials, including former Webb City Superintendent Ron Lankford, and Joplin teachers Brian Neugebauer and Brandi Landis, all of whom spoke positively about Common Core Standards.

On the other side of the issue, they talked with Melissa Braun of Joplin and Jill Carter of Stark City, who are vocal opponents of Common Core.

Both sides of the issue were represented, but unfortunately, the story that emerged did not come anywhere near the truth.

For that, you cannot blame Ms. Olliges or KOAM.

Plenty of teachers in the Joplin R-8 School District who have researched the issue are opposed to Common Core, but you are not going to hear one word from them about it on the record. When the recent informational meeting was held at Missouri Southern State University, the message was sent to the teachers loud and clear- you are not to attend the meeting.

Not one teacher or administrator from Joplin attended the meeting.

Concerns about data collection and curriculum were swept under the rug by local and state officials, even though the Race to the Top funding, which has been sought so fervently by the state of Missouri and the Joplin School District requires an adoption of Common Core Standards, the Joplin application asks for hundreds of thousands to collect data, and in recent testimony before a House interim commitee, Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said that districts will still make their own curriculum, but if it is not centered around Common Core Standards, the districts will not to well during testing. That would indicate our local school boards' hands are tied when it comes to curriculum as well as standards.

Watch the video and feel free to leave comments.

Besendorfer, Huff: Why's everybody always picking on us?

The Joplin R-8 School District, if you recall, was considerably below nearly every other area school district in the recent MSIP scores. Part one of this sweeps month package from KOAM education reporter Lisa Olliges features Superintendent C. J. Huff and Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer continuing the same line of reasoning they used at a recent board of education meeting- you can't judge Joplin using the same methods you use for every other school district.

In  2013 Joplin's academic achievement score was 39 of 56 possible points. Surrounding districts scored lower 50's except Carthage at 45. 

Joplin assistant superintendent Angie Besendorfer says, "I  disagree with the fact that that is a valid way to look at it,  cause its not.  Its not um, its not considering  lots of different components."

 The superintendent, CJ Huff says of  the new state system,  "A frustration seems to be the target continually seems to move around  in terms of what they expect us to hit."

Correct me if I am wrong, but don't all of the other school districts get judged on exactly the same criteria?


Public hearings scheduled on Normandy School District accreditation issues

(From the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

State education officials will hold hearings November 11 and December 11 to discuss the accreditation status and options for the future regarding the Normandy School District.
The hearings will be open to the public and will take place from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Vikings Hall Auditorium, 6701 St. Charles Rock Road, St. Louis.

The hearings will provide an opportunity to hear from Normandy School District officials regarding efforts to return the district to accredited status and determine what community resources may be useful or necessary in supporting that effort. Public input into a long-range plan for the support of and possible intervention in unaccredited schools will be heard.

In addition, state officials will receive information relating to district compliance with the statutory student transfer process that allows Normandy students to transfer to an accredited school district.
Persons wishing to make public comments will be asked to provide their names and addresses and limit their remarks to five minutes.

Flags to fly at half-staff Monday for Ike Skelton

(From Gov. Jay Nixon)

Gov. Jay Nixon today ordered that the U.S. and Missouri flags at state buildings in all 114 counties and the City of St. Louis be flown at half-staff on Monday, Nov. 4, to honor longtime Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton, who passed away on Oct. 28. Cong. Skelton's funeral will take place in his hometown of Lexington on Monday.
"From his earliest days as Lafayette County prosecuting attorney, during his 17 terms in Congress where he dedicated himself in a bi-partisan way to serving Missouri and those in our nation's military, and through his final work on public commissions to honor our veterans, Ike Skelton's life embodied service done not for self, but for the greater good," Gov. Nixon said. "I was honored to present him with Missouri's highest military honor, the Conspicuous Service Medal, and even more honored to call him my longtime friend.
"Our country is more secure because of what Ike Skelton accomplished in Congress in a manner that was intelligent, humble and dignified," the Governor said. "By lowering the flags, we remember his legacy and pay our respects to this great American. The First Lady and I offer our thoughts and prayers to his family as they are joined by Ike's many friends in mourning his passing."

Billy Long: How my bill will make up for President Obama's broken health care promises

In his latest newsletter, Seventh District Congressman Billy Long explains his Fairness of Lost Coverage Act.

President Obama made a lot of promises to the American people in an effort to get the health care law passed.
He promised that premiums would decrease and families would save $2,500 a year.  Sadly many people are finding out this is simply not true when they see their premiums increasing because of the health care law.
The president also promised many times that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, and if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.  This is yet another broken promise when it comes to the law. 
Across the country hundreds of thousands of people are beginning to receive notices from their health insurance carriers that the coverage they currently enjoy will be terminated at the end of their current plan year because of the president’s health care law.  These same people will be penalized if they do not find new coverage. 
This is simply not fair and I have introduced legislation which would give individuals and families whose health insurance is being terminated a one-year break from the law’s individual mandate.  My Fairness for Lost Coverage Act would simply grant a one-year exemption from the law’s individual mandate to those whose individual or employer-sponsored coverage is being terminated.
It is becoming clear that portions of the president’s health care law are harming consumers nationwide.  My legislation is about providing fairness for individuals and families, giving them the same break the Obama administration gave to big business. Americans who believed in the promises the president made about their health insurance should not be penalized by his administration for not keeping his word to the American people.   

Brave New World: Data stored on all children except those whose parents are setting up the system

One of the most clueless speeches I have ever seen given on education was delivered a couple of years ago by President Barack Obama when he decried teaching to the test and said that kind of thing did not happen at the school where he sends his daughters.

Of course, it doesn't. As is his right, he sends his children to a private school.

If we examined the backgrounds of the people who have been pushing Common Core Standards and standardized tests, I am sure we would find that most, if not all, of them do not send their children to the schools that will be affected by their policies.

In a blog post today, Diane Ravitch, one of the leading advocates of public schools and classroom teachers, writes about the incredible amount of data that will be collected on our students, but that data will not be coming from the children of those who are changing the face of American education:

Parents and school districts are beginning to understand that student information will no longer be private.
The Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation created something called the Shared Learning Collsborative, now called inBloom. They have a contract to Wireless Generation, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, to create the software to collect massive amounts of data. InBloom will collect confidential data about students. It will be stored on a “cloud” managed by Amazon. There is no guarantee that the data cannot be hacked.

Technology and the devaluation of teachers

The first clue that something is terribly wrong with Common Core Standards is the lack of teachers' involvement in creating them.

Logic would dictate that if you are going to create standards that every school in the United States has to go by, you would involve teachers in the process. For the most part, that has not been done.

Instead, the people who were brought to the table were not those who are on the front lines teaching children every day, but those who are making money from education and constructing a system designed to rake in even more.

The table was big enough for representatives of the technology companies, who made absolutely sure that the new tests had to be taken online and that schools would need a never-ending supply of tablets, laptops, and accessories.

There was also room for those who write the textbooks and create the standardized tests. Plenty of space was left to squeeze in those in the business of milking money from education through the creation of charter schools.

When the table was filled, the only ones left on the outside, still manning the trenches in schools across the nation were those who should have received the first invitations- the classroom teachers.

So for the most part, with little or no input from state legislatures and local boards of education, the people who stand to make the most from education have created a nationwide system that will keep the cash flowing.

The news is full of stories about school officials who claim to have solved everything that is wrong with education by providing their students with laptops or tablets. While no evidence is available to support those proclamations, more and more districts are spending millions of dollars in a high-tech version of keeping up with the Joneses...and while the companies that created Common Core Standards are reaping the benefits, it is the taxpayers who are footing the bill.

The most dangerous idea being promoted by these educational charlatans is that teachers are unnecessary for schools to succeed- the true role of the teacher in their perfect classroom is someone who facilitates instead of teaches, while the students, using the technology at their disposal, magically forget about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and every other distraction, and become their own teachers.

An article in the latest Education World features balanced coverage of the recent phenomenon of school districts falling all over themselves to give their students their own personal computers or tablets.

Included in that article is a quote from the technology coordinator of the Coachella Valley Unified School District near Los Angeles:

The district has set up headquarters in a trailer to coordinate the massive distribution of nearly 20,000 iPads and accompanying training, security, curriculum changes, parental consent forms, and more. Inspirational quotes dot the walls- not from famous educators, but from Apple's late founder, Steve Jobs.

Matt Hamilton, the district's educational technology coordinator, says educators and students are learning from each other. "No one is the expert anymore," he says. "The whole paradigm has really shifted. Teachers are no longer possessors of knowledge. They're more the facilitators of learning."

It is easy to see where this is going. If the teachers are no longer experts, but are merely facilitators- then why do school districts need to pay them so much money? Why should teachers be allowed to continue to be a drain on school finances?

Just hire a facilitator for every classroom- that will leave more money for laptops, iPads, tests and practice tests.

And this is a Race to the Top?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Religious Christmas songs banned at New Jersey school

It is another educational issue that comes up year after year- what type of music is appropriate for a Christmas program at a public school?

And for that matter, is it appropriate to have a Christmas program at a public school?

We live in an era where we have many schools referring to the programs as "holiday" or "winter" concerts no matter what type of songs are performed.

A New Jersey school has taken the stance that no religious songs can be allowed:

The conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom is battling the Bordentown district’s choice, though. It fired off a letter asserting that district official misunderstood the court ruling.
“We write to explain that every federal court to examine the issue has determined that including Christmas carols and other religious music in school choir programs fully complies with the First Amendment and to urge you to immediately rescind the new policy instituted by administrative officials.”
The letter went on to say that in 1993 a federal court in New Jersey upheld the Cherry Hill (N.J.) school district’s “policy of including religious symbols and objects in calendars and displays that the district produced for Christmas and other seasonal events.”
While I risk offending some of my friends at ACLU, I have to wonder why school officials made such an aggressive mood to get rid of the songs when previous court decisions have said they are OK and it does not appear that anyone was challenging the inclusion of the songs in concerts.

It sounds like a case of political correctness gone wild.

Video- Showdown: Billy Long vs. Kathleen Sebelius

Goode: I didn't kill Jeffrey Slama

Dennis Goode, the burglary suspect who is awaiting charges for shooting at a Jasper County deputy, says he is not responsible for the home invasion murder of Jeffrey Slama, 58, Joplin, last week.

In the accompanying video, KODE's Gretchen Bolander reviews Goode's extensive criminal background, and gets a few choice quotes from Goode, who says he did not kill Slama, because that is something that a coward would do.

Ashcroft discusses spying on foreign leaders

An interview with KOLR of Springfield

Bond denied for accused Joplin mosque arsonist

In a ruling issued Tuesday, U. S. District Court Judge James C. England denied bond to Jedediah Stout, Joplin, the man who admitted to investigators that he was responsible for burning down the Joplin Islamic Community Mosque.

Though he has yet to be charged for that crime, Stout has been charged with two arson attempts at the Joplin Planned Parenthood building.

The evidence at the hearing established that the defendant caused a fire at a Mosque in the Joplin area. Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, there are no conditions the Court can impose that would reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance at all scheduled hearings and the safety of other persons or the community.

The defendant has a history of mental health issues. While he argues that cure for this condition is a basis for release, his providers report that he does not recognize his condition and does not consistently take his medication. He has, demonstrated by this case, shown a willingness to act of his belief systems which may be related to his mental health condition. The nature and seriousness posed by his release is substantial. Based on all the foregoing, the Courts finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is a risk of flight, and finds by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is a danger to the community.

Speaker of the House: We will continue to look at Common Core Standards

Part of the latest newsletter from Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-Eureka, is about the recent hearings held by the House Interim Committee on Education, including one held at Missouri Southern State University.

Another House Interim Committee has been crisscrossing the state to request input from Missouri citizens on the most pressing issues currently facing the state’s system of education. The first leg of the tour took place in September and included stops in St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff, Branson and Joplin with impressive turnouts at each location. The second leg of the tour began this week and has included stops in Kansas City, Chillicothe, Hannibal, Maryville, Warrensburg and Columbia.
Citizens who attended had questions on issues ranging from the federal Common Core Standards to the school transfer issue that has been the biggest topic of conversation in the St. Louis region in recent months. The Common Core standards have been a topic of conversation in all areas of Missouri as the state education department begins the implementation of the federal standards that are meant to create uniformity in the curriculum. The idea is to put states on the same page with the way they are educating young people in the hope it will better help prepare them for future success. However, the standards have drawn heavy criticism from some groups who believe they violate federal laws that prohibit a national program for education. Other critics of Common Core have taken issue with the fact that the standards actually lower the bar for students in key areas such as math and English. In addition, many have expressed concerns that the program will collect data on young people and share that information with the federal government and outside contractors.
During the 2013 session, the legislature considered a bill to prevent the implementation of Common Core here in Missouri. While that bill did not become law, the discussion on this important topic continues, and my colleagues and I continue to do all we can to gather all the facts on this important change to the way our system of education will operate.
I am eager to hear what the members of committees have to say after they wrap up their series of hearings. Education reform has been, and continues to be, a top priority for me and something I am very passionate about as I work with my colleagues to improve educational outcomes for our young people. As we saw this week when the Kansas City public schools were again denied state accreditation, we have some serious issues with public schools here in Missouri that must be addressed. Our focus in everything we do must be on putting the needs of students at the forefront.
 That sounds like an easy thing to do, but for too long we have seen an education establishment that has made the goal of putting students first far more difficult than it should be. My hope is that our interim education committee will develop policy solutions that will put the emphasis of our education system where it belongs - on preparing our young people for future success.

Billy Long legislation offers one-year exemption from Obamacare individual mandate

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

U.S. Rep. Billy Long is leading the effort to ensure those already hurt by the president’s health care law are given a one year break from the law’s individual mandate.

            “President Obama promised if you like your current health care plan you could keep it, but many people are finding out this is simply not true.  Across the country, hundreds of thousands of people are beginning to receive notices from their health insurance carriers that the coverage they currently enjoy will be terminated at the end of their current plan year because of the president’s health care law. These same people will be penalized if they do not find new coverage.  This is simply not fair, and my legislation would give individuals and families whose health insurance is being terminated a one-year break from the law’s individual mandate.  It is becoming clear that portions of the president’s health care law are harming consumers nationwide.  My legislation is about providing fairness for individuals and families, giving them the same break the Obama administration gave to big business,” Long said.
            Long’s Fairness for Lost Coverage Act would simply grant a one-year exemption from the law’s individual mandate to those whose individual or employer-sponsored coverage is being terminated.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Testing company: This is how we're going to milk more money from Missouri taxpayers

A few years ago, the Joplin R-8 School District, in an effort to game the system on the MAP tests, bought Acuity, a set of practice standardized tests from McGraw-Hill.

The cost was somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 a year and Acuity was a miserable failure from the beginning.

Tests were given in math and communication arts eight times a year, seven times before MAP and once after it. With each test period taking at least two days, and the district at that point spreading out MAP tests over a three-week period, close to 20 percent of teachers' time was devoted to testing.

Unfortunately, it did not stop there. In their zeal for data, R-8 administrators, encouraged teachers to meet and to provide more practice tests, which McGraw-Hill was happy to supply for those who were not meeting expectations, and soon we were setting up our curriculum based on the Acuity tests.

Of course, that slavish devotion to teaching to the test did not raise test scores. 

That was probably good news, even though for some reason, it was never about Acuity, it was always about teachers who were not taking the time to use the data and change their classroom teaching methods to embrace it.

The bad news- we may be headed toward Common Core Standards, but that is not going to stop McGraw-Hill from making a mint through its Acuity program. The company issued the following news release:

CTB/McGraw-Hill, one of the nation's leading educational assessment partners, today announced the launch of more than 1,600 new digital Acuity® Instructional Resources built exclusively for the comprehensive Acuity Common Core K-12 assessment solution. Developed specifically to address the requirements of the Common Core State Standards, these highly interactive instructional resources enable teachers to provide targeted instructional content to each student based on his or her most critical areas of need.
Reflecting the full depth and rigor of the Common Core standards, Acuity's new instructional resources provide students with real-time feedback on their instructional progress, and educators with reports to inform additional instructional decisions. Assignable directly from Acuity assessment reports, educators can use valid and reliable data to select the most appropriate instructional resources to reinforce, remediate, or enrich skills learned in the classroom. Used either by individual students or as classroom activities, these instructional resources can be delivered on all common browsers as well as on iPad®. The new digital Acuity Instructional Resources make a smart addition to a district's instructional improvement toolbox.
"One of the greatest benefits of digital learning tools is that they can truly make students better learners, in part by providing teachers with an efficient way to identify and address the needs of each student individually and promptly," said Holly Bremerkamp, Acuity Product Manager at CTB/McGraw-Hill. "With the introduction of these new Acuity Instructional Resources, teachers will have the flexibility to assess and guide their students' progress toward mastering the Common Core standards, and the skills vital to success in college and careers."
The combination of Acuity's all new Common Core K-12 assessment item banks and instructional resources, created specifically for the Common Core standards, brings a breadth and variety of assessment and instructional tools to education while keeping learning both engaging and personalized for each student.
Acuity Instructional Resources are currently available for Grades K-12 in English Language Arts and Mathematics. To learn more, please visit or view the demo video.
If your school is one that is not currently using Acuity, it is coming your way. The state of Missouri recently purchased McGraw-Hill's tests and practice tests.
The Common Core nightmare continues.

Read more here:

Supreme Court will not hear former Southwest City police officer's appeal

The Missouri Supreme Court today announced it will not hear former Southwest City police officer Brian Massa's appeal of his involuntary manslaughter conviction.

Massa was found guilty by a Barry County jury, which heard the case on a change of venue from McDonald County, in 2011. That verdict was upheld in July by the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals.

Massa shot Bobby Stacy, 26, Gravette, Ark., to death March 28, 2010, during a traffic stop. Massa was arrested after a Missouri Highway Patrol investigation revealed that the evidence did not match Massa's version of how the shooting occurred.

He is serving a three-year prison sentence.

As Huff, Besendorfer hopscotch the globe, you can kiss your tax money goodbye

Earlier this year, the Joplin R-8 Board of Education approved a strategic plan which acknowledged that the school's reserve balance would dip as low as eight percent before things start getting better.

 Despite that, district officials have continued to hopscotch the United States, attending seminars, making presentations on how well things are going in Joplin, and almost two and a half years after the Joplin Tornado, offering in-person thank-yous to those that help.

 The spending has also taken place in Joplin, according to Board of Education records, as Superintendent C. J. Huff's August 8 banquet at the Holiday Inn announcing that the district's graduation rates had improved dramatically, resulted in a bill of $2,783.88.

 And tonight, Huff continues his thank-you tour in Weslaco, Texas, where he will thank those in that community who helped Joplin after the tornado and speak on the topic "From the Front: The Joplin Story."

  San Antonio

At least 10 district employees attended the National Career Pathways Network Conference at the Grant Hyatt Hotel in San Antonio where the overriding topic was "Linking Education and Economic Prosperity."

 Topics discussed at the conference included the following:

 "Building a Talent Pipeline That Connects Business with Future Employees"
 "Testing and Common Core Statements vs. the Classroom Environment."
 "Using the Internet and Social Media to Collect Data."

 The district's representatives reportedly made a presentation on career pathways. The cost for registration for the conference (expenses not included) was $5,690.

Next year's conference will be held at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.


Six district officials presented at the National Career Academy Coalition Conference Oct. 24-27 in Phoenix on the subject of "Designing School As Unusual," which reportedly featured another explanation of how the district, to use a phrase that has been used often by Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer, has found a "silver lining in a funnel cloud" and built the kind of schools that they had always dreamed of creating.

 At this point, the records on the cost of that trip do not appear to be in the board documentation.

  Santa Rosa, Calif.

Superintendent C. J. Huff was scheduled to serve as a keynote speaker at the California Emergency Services Association Conference October 17, at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel in Santa Rosa, Calif., according to the organization's website.

 The following description is given of Huff: Leading in Crisis:

 After one of the most devastating tornadoes on record destroyed a third of the town, Dr. C.J. Huff, Superintendent of Schools in Joplin, Missouri, led his community in an amazing effort to rebuild—transforming this disastrous tragedy into the town’s finest hour. Huff’s demonstrated leadership helped Joplin schools and the community literally emerge from the rubble in what has been called “A model for those who study resilience” by U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen. Named one of People magazine’s 2011 heroes.

That is the same description used about Huff when he was the keynote speaker at the first Bright Futures USA Conference held earlier this month at Missouri Southern State University. It is unlikely that taxpayer dollars were used on this trip.


On Dec. 10, Dr. Besendorfer, Sarah Stevens, Jennifer Doshier, and Jill White will make a presentation at the annual Learning Forward Conference at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Dallas, about the district's use of teaching/learning coaches.

 Earlier this month. the R-8 Board of Education approved payment of $2,316 for registration for the conference, a savings of $600 because district officials are making a presentation.

 The presentation is described in this fashion on the conference's website:

  Engage in the leadership journey of two high-poverty elementary schools to make teaching visible, student learning viable, and the process replicable. Collaborate around the idea of choosing a focus to drive results, using learning communities, and uncovering the powerful practices of peer observations and data teams. Evaluate the effectiveness and impact an instructional coach can have.

That topic will include information about coaching and school coaches, effective teaching and instruction learning communities/teams and Title I School Improvement

  Washington. D. C.

Just a few days after the Joplin R-8 Board of Education adopted a deficit budget due to construction costs, at least 27 administrators and TLCs learning coaches were staying in Washington's four-star Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center attending the 21st annual Model Schools Conference.

 The 27 listed for the convention did not include Dr. Besendorfer, who also attended.

 The cost for registering for the four-day event, which began on a Sunday and lasted through Wednesday, was $14,310, and the website for the Model Schools Conference indicated that amount did not include the cost of lodging.

If the Joplin contingent stayed at the Gaylord, where prices start at $179 a night, the cost for the junket, not including food was likely somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000.

 The registration fees for the 27 were included in the list of bills approved by the R-8 Board of Education during its June 25 meeting.

 The Model School Conference was sponsored by the International Center for Leadership in Education and was advertised as "Doing More with Less: Common Core, Next Generation Assessments, Teacher Evaluations." The advertising for the event indicated that it was "not just a conference, it is a four-day, intensive professional learning event."

 This was at least the third straight year Joplin has sent a contingent to the conference.


R-8 Board bills indicate that the district paid $2,783.88 to the Holiday Inn in Joplin for the August 8 banquet where Huff announced to an audience primarily made up of Joplin area business and faith-based leaders that the district's graduation rate had improved dramatically.

 The board also paid $2,116 of taxpayers' money for Kimberling City motivational speaker Terri Tucker to run its retreat in June- a meeting which was highlighted by Ms. Tucker's message that the board should ignore those same taxpayers and trust its administrators.

 What the board received from the retreat was noted in a Joplin Globe article:

  Among things that they said the district could have improved upon were the approach of school officials to the redistricting proposal, policy awareness among staff members, and that the district has relatively few counselors and nurses.Other items listed included not dealing with individual parent concerns and not intervening between parents and children, and not becoming involved in the district’s day-to-day operations.

As noted in the September 26 Turner Report, Ms. Tucker at one time was a member of the Reeds Spring Board of Education, where the voters turned her out of office for her support for the district's superintendent at the time- Angie Besendorfer.

 When new board members were elected and Mrs. Besendorfer had left for Joplin, one of the first introductions to the new R-8 assistant superintendent came in the form of a letter to the Globe:

  Only once in a while does a person meet someone who has so perfectly chosen their profession. There are very few “called” to heal people, to comfort people, to protect people, and to teach people. The new assistant superintendent of the Joplin R-8 School District is one of those people who was meant to serve children, make clear their paths and shine the light of possibilities on their horizons. Angie Besendorfer is leaving the superintendent role at Reeds Spring School District and is heading to the Joplin district with anticipation of positively affecting nearly four times the number of students and their families. We thank Angie for her contributions in our community and applaud the people of Joplin for their wise choice. If you open your arms and welcome this wonderful lady, you will find a truly eager servant. Angie taught us to keep focused on what is truly best for children and how our actions attach lessons to them. We will not forget.

Two people signed the letter. One was a woman named Cindy Morris.

 The other is now the go-to consultant/facilitator for the Joplin R-8 School District- Terri Tucker.

 Joplin R-8's Bleak Financial Condition The continued spending comes even after the Board of Education approved a five-year plan which notes that the school is in for deep financial problems and it comes at a time when the board has just held a special meeting in an effort to trim costs from the building projects.

 The plan noted that district's reserves are rapidly vanishing and would likely go as low as eight percent. Meanwhile, in addition to the expenses listed above, over the past few months, the district has added six Career Pathway cioordinators and seven 21st Century learning coaches, put Wi-Fi on trip buses, agreed to pay $15,000 for teachers to update Facebook pages.

 And the list goes on.

SW Missouri ag teacher charged with manslaughter in alcohol-related accident

A Logan-Rogersville High School vocational agriculture teacher pleaded not guilty Monday in Webster County Circuit Court to felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault in connection with a drunk driving accident in which 84-year-old William Hughes. Bybee is being held in lieu of $100,000 bond. A bond reduction hearing has been scheduled for Monday, November 4. Bybee's next court hearing following that is 9 a.m. December 2, according to court records. The probable cause statement can be found at this link.

Cardinals, Red Sox gear up for game six

Dee Wampler withdraws as former Sarcoxie board member's lawyer

Springfield attorney Dee Wampler is no longer representing former Sarcoxie Board of Education member John Lewis as he reconsiders his guilty plea on a child pornography charge.

Wampler filed a motion to withdraw Monday, a formality since Lewis has already hired another Springfield lawyer, Tom Carver, to represent him.

The judge granted Lewis more time to reconsider the guilty plea and no sentencing date has been set.

New York principals take a stand against Common Core testing

They still don't have anything bad to say about Common Core Standards, but New York principals are upset with the high stakes standardized Common Core tests that hit the schools this year. A number of them signed on to the following letter, which was mailed to parents:

Dear Parents,
We are the principals of your children’s schools. We serve communities in every corner of New York State — from Niagara County to Clinton, Chautauqua to Suffolk. We come from every size and type of school, with students from every background. We thank you for sharing your children with us and for entrusting us to ensure that they acquire the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their dreams and your hopes for them.
This year, many of your children experienced the first administration of the newly revised New York State Assessments. You may have heard that teachers, administrators, and parents are questioning the validity of these tests. As dedicated administrators, we have carefully observed the testing process and have learned a great deal about these tests and their impact. We care deeply about your children and their learning and want to share with you what we know — and what we do not know — about these new state assessments.

Here’s what we know:
1)    NYS Testing Has Increased Dramatically: We know that our students are spending more time taking State tests than ever before. Since 2010, the amount of time spent on average taking the 3-8 ELA and Math tests has increased by a whopping 128%! The increase has been particularly hard on our younger students, with third graders seeing an increase of 163%!
2)    The Tests were Too Long: We know that many students were unable to complete the tests in the allotted time. Not only were the tests lengthy and challenging, but embedded field test questions extended the length of the tests and caused mental exhaustion, often before students reached the questions that counted toward their scores. For our Special Education students who receive additional time, these tests have become more a measure of endurance than anything else.
3)    Ambiguous Questions Appeared throughout the Exams: We know that many teachers and principals could not agree on the correct answers to ambiguous questions in both ELA and Math. In some schools, identical passages and questions appeared on more than one test and at more than one grade level. One school reported that on one day of the ELA Assessment, the same passage with identical questions was included in the third, fourth AND fifth grade ELA Assessments.
4)    Children have Reacted Viscerally to the Tests: We know that many children cried during or after testing, and others vomited or lost control of their bowels or bladders. Others simply gave up. One teacher reported that a student kept banging his head on the desk, and wrote, “This is too hard,” and “I can’t do this,” throughout his test booklet.
5)    The Low Passing Rate was Predicted: We know that in his “Implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards” memo of March 2013, Deputy Commissioner Slentz stated that proficiency scores (i.e., passing rate) on the new assessments would range between 30%-37% statewide. When scores were released in August 2013, the statewide proficiency rate was announced as 31%.
6)    The College Readiness Benchmark is Irresponsibly Inflated: We know that the New York State Education Department used SAT scores of 560 in Reading, 540 in Writing and 530 in mathematics, as the college readiness benchmarks to help set the “passing” cut scores on the 3-8 New York State exams. These NYSED scores, totaling 1630, are far higher than the College Board’s own college readiness benchmark score of 1550. By doing this, NYSED has carelessly inflated the “college readiness” proficiency cut scores for students as young as nine years of age.
7)    State Measures are Contradictory: We know that many children are receiving scores that are not commensurate with the abilities they demonstrate on other measures, particularly the New York State Integrated Algebra Regents examination. Across New York, many accelerated eighth-graders scored below proficiency on the eighth grade test only to go on and excel on the Regents examination one month later. One district reports that 58% of the students who scored below proficiency on the NYS Math 8 examination earned a mastery score on the Integrated Algebra Regents.
8)    Students Labeled as Failures are Forced Out of Classes: We know that many students who never needed Academic Intervention Services (AIS) in the past, are now receiving mandated AIS as a result of the failing scores. As a result, these students are forced to forgo enrichment classes. For example, in one district, some middle school students had to give up instrumental music, computer or other special classes in order to fit AIS into their schedules.
9)    The Achievement Gap is Widening: We know that the tests have caused the achievement gap to widen as the scores of economically disadvantaged students plummeted, and that parents are reporting that low-scoring children feel like failures.
10) The Tests are Putting Financial Strains on Schools: We know that many schools are spending precious dollars on test prep materials, and that instructional time formerly dedicated to field trips, special projects, the arts and enrichment, has been reallocated to test prep, testing, and AIS services.
11) The Tests are Threatening Other State Initiatives: Without a doubt, the emphasis on testing is threatening other important State initiatives, most notably the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Parents who see the impact of the testing on their children are blaming the CCSS, rather than the unwise decision to implement high stakes testing before proper capacity had been developed. As long as these tests remain, it will be nearly impossible to have honest conversations about the impact of the CCSS on our schools.

Here’s what we do not know:
1)    How these Tests will Help our Students: With the exception of select questions released by the state, we do not have access to the test questions. Without access to the questions, it is nearly impossible to use the tests to help improve student learning.
2)    How to Use these Tests to Improve Student Skills or Understanding: Tests should serve as a tool for assessing student skills and understanding. Since we are not informed of the make-up of the tests, we do not know, with any level of specificity, the content or skills for which children require additional support. We do not even know how many points were allotted for each question.
3)    The Underlying Cause of Low Test Scores: We do not know if children’s low test scores are actually due to lack of skills in that area or simply a case of not finishing the test — a problem that plagued many students.
4)    What to Expect Next Year: We do not know what to expect for next year. Our students are overwhelmed by rapidly changing standards, curriculum and assessments. It is nearly impossible to serve and protect the students in our care when expectations are in constant flux and put in place rapidly in a manner that is not reflective of sound educational practice.
5)    How Much this is Costing Already-Strained Taxpayers: We don’t know how much public money is being paid to vendors and corporations that the NYSED contracts to design assessments, nor do we know if the actual designers are educationally qualified.

Please know that we, your school principals, care about your children and will continue to do everything in our power to fill their school days with learning that is creative, engaging, challenging, rewarding and joyous. We encourage you to dialogue with your child’s teachers so that you have real knowledge of his skills and abilities across all areas. If your child scored poorly on the test, please make sure that he does not internalize feelings of failure. We believe that the failure was not on the part of our children, but rather with the officials of the New York State Education Department. These are the individuals who chose to recklessly implement numerous major initiatives without proper dialogue, public engagement or capacity building. They are the individuals who have failed.
As principals of New York schools, it is always our goal to move forward in a constant state of improvement. Under current conditions, we fear that the hasty implementation of unpiloted assessments will continue to cause more harm than good. Please work with us to preserve a healthy learning environment for our children and to protect all of the unique varieties of intelligence that are not reducible to scores on standardized tests. Your child is so much more than a test score, and we know it.

Cynthia Davis launches attack on Islamic culture

In her latest newsletter, former Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, who has now launched a second career as a radio talk show host, writes that while she still has freedom of speech she is going to use it to rip into Muslims. Remember this when she makes her next attempt at political office.

We might as well discuss this while we still have the freedom of speech.  Islam is not a cultural issue; it's a political issue.  While other religions are focused on God, the devil or idol worship, Islam is the only religion that is also focused on changing our governmental structure.  Our Declaration of Independence says, "All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."  This is why, among other rights, we have freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press, which makes it great be an American!

Islam teaches that not all people are equal, and the Muslims will rule the world. so we are faced with a premise that is unworkable.  I can't imagine any relationship that would work when it revolves around one person who cannot be questioned, considers the other one to be inferior and speech is prohibited on certain topics.  The underdog might try to coexist,but unnecessary suffering and abuse are embedded into the structure.  

This battle is not just about differences between people.  It's about differences in governance.  It's about the liberty we enjoy in our country that is beyond most others.  The American way of life is built on the Biblical foundation of love, compassion and inherent sense of fairness and justice.

Koster: Ike Skelton was a true public servant

(From Attorney General Chris Koster)

Attorney General Chris Koster released the following statement on the death of Congressman Ike Skelton:
“I extend my heartfelt sympathies to the family of Congressman Ike Skelton.  He was a patriot who always put the defense of our nation at the forefront of his service in Washington.  I was honored to be represented by him as my Congressman for many years, and I will always regard him as the model of a true public servant who places duty before self.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Video: Long-time congressman Ike Skelton dead at 81

Preliminary hearing set for mother charged with assaulting KC kindergarten teacher

A 9 a.m. Thursday, November 21, preliminary hearing has been set in Jackson County Circuit Court for a woman charged with assaulting her son's kindergarten teacher at Truman Elementary School in Kansas City.

Simone Baker, 25, is free on $2,500 bond. She allegedly beat the teacher and slammed her head multiple times into a filing cabinet after she was told by her son that the teacher had scratched him.

The son later recanted the accusation.

Missouri Democratic Party: Skelton was a statesman and a champion

(From the Missouri Democratic Party)

Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple issued the following statement on the passing of Congressman Ike Skelton:
“He was a Missourian, a statesman and a champion of a strong and sensible national defense. And above all, he was a gentleman. His love of and faith in America was unshakable and his support for the U.S. military was second to none. This is a loss for Missouri and the nation. We extend our sincerest sympathy to his family.

Hartzler: I am saddened by the death of Ike Skelton

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

“I am deeply saddened at the passing of my predecessor and respected friend, Ike Skelton. I have appreciated our conversations over the past two and a half years and the commitment we shared to see Missouri's 4th District prosper. I am thankful for Ike's tireless efforts on behalf of our men and women in uniform and know our country is safer as a result of his unwavering leadership. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.

Ike Skelton dead at 81

Former Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton died today at the age of 81.

Skelton won the first of 17 congressional terms in 1976 and was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee at the time of his 2010 loss to Vicky Hartzler.An astute military historian, Skelton helped build up Missouri's two military installations. As Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster was losing its cache of long-range nuclear missiles, Skelton secured its future in the late 1980s by getting the Defense Department to place the new B-2 bomber there.After redistricting made Skelton the representative for Missouri's Fort Leonard Wood in 1983, the number of troops undergoing training there more than quadrupled and the post's mission expanded from the Army to all branches of military service.Born Dec. 20, 1931, Skelton met President Harry Truman as a teenager and had a lifelong interest in politics. He was elected Lafayette County prosecutor in 1956 and later practiced law with his father, but returned to elective office in 1970 when he won a six-year term in the Missouri Senate.An endorsement from Truman's widow, Bess, helped him win his first race for the U.S. House.

Video: Increasing violence of parents against teachers

Video- Andy Reid on 8-0 Chiefs: There's plenty of room for improvement

New York principal: The potential for data mining from Common Core, Race to the Top staggering

While schools all over the United States, including the Joplin R-8 School District, have fallen all over themselves promising to obey all of the dictates of Common Core Standards to rake in that federal money, one school district in southwest Missouri, East Newton, has seen fit to question Common Core.

In the accompanying video, the principal of a New York school district dropped out of Race for the Top because of what many have said- it is the most wide-reaching grab for personal information ever made by the government.

The situation is a bit different in New York than it is in Missouri, but not by much. With last year's revelations about the Department of Revenue sending information to the federal government and the way the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has fallen all over itself latching on to Common Core Standards and Race to the Top, does anyone have any doubt the state will be seeking more and more information about students and parents and that every bit of it will be headed to the federal government and preferred marketers?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Joplin R-8 Administrators to federal government: Our vision saved Joplin after tornado

Joplin R-8 administrators' vision of the future is spelled out in detail in the district's Race to the Top application.

It is a vision that includes establishing career pathways for students as soon as they enter middle school, changing the way grading is done, following the dictates of Common Core Standards, eliminating the need for high school students to sit in traditional classrooms for specific amounts of time each day, and moving to a school centered on the latest in technology.

It is not just the vision of the future that stands out in the application, which has been obtained by the Turner Report and Inside Joplin, but also its bleak vision of Joplin's past and how R-8 administrators were the keys to the community's recovery from the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado.

Though the efforts of Superintendent C. J. Huff are praised in the document, its most effusive praise is for Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer. One of the subheads uses the "Silver Lining in a Cloud" phrase that Dr. Besendorfer has used in numerous speeches, although she has normally added the word "funnel" before cloud.

The application includes references to Dr. Besendorfer's powerful statements and includes the following reference:

Through the tireless work and vision of our Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Angie Besendorfer, we not only "began school" on time- with facilities, furniture, materials and supplies- but also put in a place a learning environment in our "Interim High School" that will act as a prototype for the 21st Century High School facility we will build.

The portions of the Race to the Top application leading up to the budget section, which was printed in the Turner Report Saturday is featured below. Some appendixes and information was left blank in the copy, which is the one that was shown to those Administration was attempting to have sign on to the application:

Joplin Schools Race to the Top – 2013 District Application for Funding
U.S. Department of Education  - CFDA Number: 84.416

A. Vision
A) (1) Articulating a Comprehensive and Coherent Reform Vision


On Graduation Day, May 22, 2011, Joplin, Missouri, experienced one of the most destructive tornados on record. This catastrophic storm ripped through the heart of the city, taking 161 lives and destroying about 1/3 of our community. Over 7,500 residences, 530 businesses, 28 churches, 15,000 cars, one of our major hospital complexes and about half our medical provider offices and labs, almost all our mental health and substance abuse treatment infrastructure and over half our day care facilities were destroyed or significantly damaged.
Over 4,200 students (out of 7,600) lost their schools. Ten schools (more than ½ our educational space – over 260 classrooms) were destroyed, badly damaged or displaced. This included our high school (which had about 2,200 students), our technical school, one of 3 middle schools, 6 of 12 elementary schools and our administration building. Staff, many of whom had also lost homes and loved ones were shaken and demoralized. They needed time and support themselves, but were anxious to reunite with their students and to get back to the jobs they love.
Virtually everyone in the community was impacted in some way. Thousands – perhaps 1/3 of our citizens ---directly experienced the violence of the storm. They crawled from the rubble, and soon came to realize they had lost loved ones, homes, schools, jobs and/or transportation. Thousands more experienced trauma as they began to feel the violence and impact of the turmoil, destruction and loss.  Immediately people from all over the community, (as well as from neighboring regions, across the state, surrounding states and around the nation) rushed in to help. It became evident that emotional and psychological pain was widespread. The lives of the community -- our children, their families, and our staff had been changed forever.
On the morning of May 23, 2011, we, the Joplin Schools administrative team, began to search for our staff and students and to survey the horrific damage inflicted by the tornado. The road to recovery seemed insurmountable. Our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. C.J. Huff, announced that school would open as planned on August 17 … 83 days away!
It was clear that we had much to do. We knew we not only had to find a place to “have school”, we also needed to ensure the recovery and healing of our school community (students, staff and their families). We also knew that just finding a place and a way to “have school” was not going to be enough. As Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Angie Besendorfer, so powerfully stated, “We don’t want just to rebuild our old schools and “get back to normal”. We want so much more … to give them (our students) the schooling they so richly deserve (… and need) to be prepared for citizenship in the 21st century workforce. From tragedy we must create a better future … a” new normal” … for our community … for our students … and for their families.”
On August 17, as planned, school opened for all students!  Joplin has proven itself to be a strong and resilient community --- we know we can create the school system we need!

Description of the Joplin School District
The Joplin School District (Joplin Schools), encompassing 65.5 square miles, is made up, primarily, of the city of Joplin, but also includes a few smaller surrounding communities and some rural area.  Joplin Schools began the 2013-2014 school year with 7,559 students (k-12). The district grade configuration is: Elementary – k-grade 5; Middle School – grades 6-8; High School – grades 9-12. There is also a small blended (special education and Title I funded) preschool (ages 3-5) program that serves about 100 students. Since the tornado we have 7 secondary school campuses (4 official schools). The high school, completely destroyed by the tornado, is now on 4 sites. It began the school year with about 2,114 students. The 11th and 12th graders are located in a renovated department store at the mall; the 9th and 10th in an old school building which last housed a middle school; the technical school and one of our middle schools (also completely destroyed) are currently in remodeled warehouses and the other 2 middle schools are in new/completely remodeled facilities (completed the year before the tornado). There were 1,762 middle school students and 3683 elementary students. In January, 2014 two new elementary schools will open to replace those destroyed; the high school is scheduled to open in August 2014.

 (A)(1) Articulating a Comprehensive and Coherent Reform Vision

Proposed 21st Century Mission and Vision
It is the mission of Joplin Schools to ensure that all students benefit from the challenging and enriched educational experiences necessary to prepare them to be successful adults – learners, workers and citizens. Though our students have varied interests, aptitudes, skills and ambitions, all have the right --- and will be given the opportunity --- to pursue their own dreams. Thus, we will provide a learning environment that will prepare all students to successfully graduate from high school and enter their post-secondary lives with the competencies, attitudes, skills and habits necessary to lead productive and prosperous lives in the 21st century (See Appendix * for 21st Century Skills Chart).
In order to do so we realize we must develop better ways to:
•     ensure all educators have “whatever it takes” to facilitate the success of their students.
•     enable equity of opportunity for all students to succeed at school and beyond by addressing barriers to learning thereby preventing and ameliorating the impact of environmental, learning, behavior and emotional problems.
•     reduce the number of dropouts by reducing the loss of motivation and disengagement struggling students face.
•     improve achievement for all by closing achievement gaps.
•     provide “cutting edge instruction” which takes advantage of the technological advances available in today’s world and is provided by committed,  highly effective educators.
It is our goal that all secondary students will successfully complete a personalized, career-oriented learning pathway that allows successful transition from high school to further post-secondary education (e.g. college, technical training, apprenticeship, on-the-job training) and/or successful suitable employment leading to meaningful and profitable careers (e.g. occupational credentials). In order to accomplish this, components of proposed model include:
•     the provision of  high quality, effective professional development and support for our talented and passionate teachers and administrators. 
•     implementation of a Career Pathways course of study that will provide each student with an education that has been personalized to their needs, aptitudes, aspirations and motivations and will ensure the development of 21st Century skills and competencies
•     an articulated set of rigorous standards and learning outcomes that truly predict post secondary success.
•     instructional strategies … including the use of technological tools … that allow teachers to determine and meet the needs of individual students.
•     an integrated data management system that will support timely, informed decision-making that leads to improved outcomes, both for individual students, schools and the district as a whole.
•     an interactive scheduling instructional management system that will allow for the analysis of data and then will schedule student activities (e.g. courses, study and project groups, internships and other “real world” activities, “reteach” sessions), “map” suggested “next steps” (e.g. suggest interventions, pair appropriate learning experiences with needs of individual and/or groups of students, schedule time, place, resources).
•     policies and practices that are not based on arbitrary requirements like “seat-time” or irrelevant pre-requirements, but on demonstrated student competence (e.g. course completion, opportunities to “opt-out” of units and/or courses, grades, graduation, alternative course options (e.g. on-line, independent study).
•     a comprehensive system of learning supports integrated into the educational system that is designed to address barriers to learning and teaching.
•     an infrastructure  -- including leadership -- that facilitates the building of consensus around the need to change what we do, defines these changes, and institutes a systematic plan for creating them.

(A)(2) Approach to Implementation
(a&b) Selection of Schools to Participate:
            The target population for this project will be all secondary school students (grades 6-12). This includes 2,114 Joplin High School (JHS) students and 1,762 students in middle school -- grades 6-8 (652 South Middle School (SMS), 494 East Middle School (EMS) and 616 North Middle School (NMS). All high school students attend one school and all three middle schools feed into it.

Participating Students
Since our district’s free/reduced rate is almost 60%, with the high school at over 46% and the middle schools 56% all participating schools will meet the eligibility criteria. We started school in 2013, with 3,860 students (1,760 middle school and 2,120 high school). Of these students: 13.7% of the JHS students had disabilities and 16% of the middle school students; ethnicity – (high school 84% White, 5% Black, 6% Hispanic, 2% Asian, 2% Indian; middle school 83% White, 6% Black, 6% Hispanic, 2% Asian, 2% Indian); 17 (1%) of the high school level were English Language Learners, 22 (1%) middle schoolers; over 100 students district-wide met the McKinney-Vento definition of “Homeless” (as compared to over 600 immediately following the tornado). About 60% received Medicaid (up from about 45% pre-tornado).

 (A)(2)(c) Joplin Schools Race to the Top Participating Schools Demographic Information

School Demographics
Raw Data
Actual numbers or estimates
(Please note where estimates are used)
(Column relevant for consortium applicants)
Grades/Subjects included in Race to the Top - District Plan
# of Participating Educators
# of Participating Students
# of Participating high-need students
# of Participating low-income students
Total # of low-income students in LEA or Consortium
Total # of Students in the School
% of Participating Students in the School
% of Participating students from low-income families
% of Total LEA low-income population
Joplin Schools
Joplin High School (JHS)


East Middle School (EMS)


North Middle School (NMS)


South Middle School (SMA)





Note: ** “High Needs Students “is defined as “… students at risk of educational failure or otherwise in need of special assistance and support, such as students who are living in poverty, who attend high-minority schools, who are far below grade level, who have left school before receiving a regular high school diploma, who are at risk of not graduating with a diploma on time, who are homeless, who are in foster care, who have been incarcerated, who have disabilities, or who are English learners. The number is an estimate.

Rationale for Selection of All Secondary Students
Because we believe all students need --- and have a right to --- what we know in the best approach to secondary education, we are proposing simultaneous implementation for all 4,913 secondary students. We are including the middle school students because we believe they must begin the process of developing the 21st Century skills they will need, and because we believe this model of instruction is appropriate for all students. A “phase in” process … waiting to begin the reform for middle school … would only hamper the effectiveness of the implementation at the high school.
           For a number of years (pre-tornado) we had been undergoing a strategic planning process undertaken to improve education in Joplin. Change – not unexpectedly – has been slow and laborious. So this team recommended, while recognizing that children must build a strong foundation in order to be successful at the secondary level, that an “achievement dip” occurring at the middle school level and our high dropout rate mandated that changes at the secondary level could not wait for improvements at the elementary level to “solve the problem”.
So as we implemented our improvement plan, we:
 •    provided the resources to implement technology-enriched instruction
•     provided teachers and administrators with professional development and revised curriculum and instruction in order to prepare students to meet the common core standards; and
•     decided to implement career pathways and better integrated the high school and tech school courses of study.

The Cloud with the Silver Lining
We were struggling to find ways to implement these 21st Century innovations in out-grown, out-moded facilities and to fund needed improvements (e.g. a 1-to-1 laptop initiative) when one of the most destructive tornados on record completely destroyed almost ½ of our educational space, including our high and technical schools. As we considered how best to recover and rebuild, our choices seemed to be … to despair and “hunker down” … or to accept the reality and take the opportunity to move ahead. With great courage our leadership --- with the backing of staff, students, families, the community and the local, state and federal government – decided to proceed. We are pressing on to create the educational system of the 21st Century for which we had planned and dreamed!
So, for example, instead of replacing $1,000,000 worth of destroyed textbooks, we decided to use the money to implement the 1to1 initiative we had been designing. As a result, … in fewer than 90 days… we purchased and imaged laptops for all high school students (over 2,200), prepared all high school teachers to implement a new instructional paradigm and found and hired teachers who could “coach” their peers in effectively instructing in new ways  (21st  Century Coaches). Though many teachers and administrators were apprehensive, by the end of the year most were very happy with what they had been able to accomplish! (Conversations with other districts implementing similar initiatives verified that we were far ahead of many with gradual, phase-in implementations.)
Similarly, we decided not to rebuild the 1950’s buildings we lost, but to design and build the educational facilities we would need for the future. Through the tireless work and vision of our Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Angie Besendorfer, we not only “began school” on time – with facilities, furniture, materials and supplies ---but also put in a place a learning environment in our “Interim High School” that will act as a prototype for the 21st Century High School facility we will build.

(A)(3) LEA Reform and Change
Plan for Implementing Reform in Participating Schools and Scaling–up to Overall District
Bringing our model to scale will occur as an integral component of district-wide reform. Since the model we are proposing includes all students at the secondary level, we are not “piloting” the reform for a few students or one school. For example, the appropriate collection and analysis of data (another vital component of our proposal) will allow “lessons learned” to inform needed change at the elementary … while at the same time it is generating hypotheses and providing information that will fuel the continuous improvement cycle that powers change at the secondary (targeted) level. The following areas will be the “generators” of this synergistic process:
•      Use of 21st Century and Instructional Coaches: We know that the key to an assurance that all students stay on track to master the rigorous competencies (Core Competencies) necessary for success in the 21st Century is effective teachers who have the resources necessary to recognize and meet the needs of all students and, then to provide them with the personalized instruction needed by each to ensure that they stay on track. Thus, we must have in place the highest quality professional development that recognizes the needs of individual teachers, departments and building and provides the support they will need to grow and develop as necessary. The expertise developed at the secondary level will be melded with the knowledge and skills being developed at the elementary level. This group operates as a team, thus assuring vertical articulation.
•      Effective, efficient readily accessible data collection will be at the core of our comprehensive reform efforts. Without the data we only guess what “might work” and whether it “is working”. This is not only a very inefficient use of resources – but also makes needed change “too late” … for far too many students. We know that one of the barriers to being able to truly personalize instruction has been the inability to manage such a system. With this proposal we should “free up” teacher time for the truly creative act of teaching.
•      Use of effective learning technology. Like teachers, students need to learn the effective and efficient use of the most up-to-date teaching tool and be given the opportunity to maximize their potential based on individual needs and attributes. We must recognize and provide these tools. We have already instituted a 1to1 initiative at the high school and in the 8th grade at the middle schools. We are proposing the expansion of 1to1 devises to the the remainder of the middle level. As we build our technological resources this will allow to expand district resources to meet the technological needs at the elementary level.

Why do we believe we can implement proposed reform …
•     First of all we have the leadership necessary to make change possible. Our Superintendent of Schools said we would start school “on time” and we did! This determination to return to normalcy was vital to our community and for our children and families. We have had many individuals tell us the vision and “can do” attitude of the school district inspired and empowered the entire town.
•     We have a motivated, courageous and determined staff that sees the need for an educational system that “operates differently … and gets different results”. While acknowledging that change is hard, they have worked to change … to learn … and to grow.
•     We have already begun to implement the knowledge, attitudes, skills and habits needed to implement personalized 21st century learning and teaching.
•     We already have the cutting edge technological and staff development infrastructure that provides a firm foundation for the “next generation” paradigms we are proposing. We have already implemented a successful coaching model for support and professional development district-wide and believe this model – in concert with shared vision, PLC’s, collaborative leadership teams, tools and processes that facilitate data collection, management, analysis and problem solving – will further implementation.
•     We know we have the fiscal strength and flexibility to support and sustain our current high school and middle schools so, after start-up costs, sustainability of the new model will not be an issue.
•     We have a community that not only understands and supports us, but also is willing to take an active role; despite losing 1/3 to 1/2 of the assessed valuation of the school district the community passes a $61,000,000 bond issue!

 (A)(4) Joplin Schools Goals for Improved Student Outcomes
We expect to dramatically improve 1) the number and percentage of students who graduate from high school able to successfully participate in post-secondary educational experiences; and 2) successfully complete at least one year of higher education or career education; and/or increase the proportion of young people who obtain meaningful post-secondary credentials and/or work.
[Note: Because Missouri has established new performance standards and procedures for measuring them we will need to establish baseline and will not be able to compare to prior year data.]

(A)(4) District-wide Goals for Improved Student Outcomes
(A)(4)(a&b)) Performance on Summative Assessments and Closing the Achievement Gap
Goal 1: Using standardized state assessment data (Communication Arts and Math MAP and End of Course examinations), all areas of student achievement will meet or exceed expectations established by the Missouri School Improvement Program. (MSIP 5).
1.a.  For “Total Students”, annually district-wide communication arts achievement will meet “target” or “exceed expectations” (growth or status) of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP 5).
        Current performance:
1.b.  For “Total Students”, annually district-wide math achievement will meet “target” or “exceed expectations” (growth or status) of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP 5).

2008 -2009
Comm. Arts

Baseline: Currently we have improved Comm Arts scores 1-3% per year and Math scores were making similar gains, but have fallen about 1%/year for the last 3 years.
1.c.  For the “Super Subgroup”, annually district-wide communication arts achievement will be on target or exceed expectations (growth or status indicators) of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP 5).
1.d. For the “Super Subgroup”, annually district-wide math achievement will be on target or exceed expectations of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP 5).
1.e.  We will meet or exceed state expectations on all EOC’s:
•     Class of 2013, 2014, 2015: English II, Algebra I, Biology and Government
•     Class of 2016: English I, English II, English EOHS, Algebra I, Math EOHS, Biology, Government, American History
•     Class of 2017: English I, English II, English EOHS, Algebra I, Math EOHS, Additional Math, Biology, Government, American History
1.f.  Annually ninety percent of students will, at a minimum, maintain a ninety percent attendance rate.

(A)(4)(c) Graduation
Goal 2: Graduation rate will increase by 5% per year for all students.
Baseline: Current rate is 85.9%; average increase for the last five years has been about 3%.

(A)(4)(d&e) College Enrollment and Postsecondary Attainment
Goal 3:  The percentage of students who graduate from Joplin Schools college and career ready will increase annually.
Baseline: Since this has not been measured in the past baseline data is not available. The following will be used to determine baseline and a expected percentage of increase will be established in year 2.
3.a.  Prior to graduation, 100% of Joplin High School will take the Compass, ASVAB, and/or ACT.
3.b.  Using the district Employability Report Card, from quarter 1 to Quarter 4 evaluation, 80% of the students will show “improvement” in skills (Note: This instrument and procedures are being developed and piloted during 2012-2013. In years 2013-2014, “Improvement” will be further refined as instrument is validated and “cut scores” are defined. By 2014-15 75% of the students will graduate “ready for employment”.
3.c. The district’s average composite score(s) on any department-approved measure(s) of college and career readiness, for example, the ACT®, SAT®, COMPASS®, or ASVAB, meet(s) or exceed(s) the state standard or demonstrate(s) required improvement.
3.d. The percent of graduates who earned a qualifying score on an Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or Technical Skills Attainment (TSA) assessments and/or receive college credit through early college, dual enrollment, or approved dual credit courses meets or exceeds the state standard or demonstrates required improvement.
3.e.  The percent of graduates who attend post-secondary education/training or are in the military within six (6) months of graduating meets the state standard or demonstrates required improvement.
3.f.  The percent of graduates who complete career education programs approved by the department and are placed in occupations directly related to their training, continue their education, or are in the military within six (6) months of graduating meets the state standard or demonstrates required improvement.

Goal 4: The number and percentage of certified staff who are ‘highly effective” or “effective” will increase over baseline. [Note: The current evaluation process, will be revised by the 2014-2015 school year
Baseline: Since this has not been measured in the past baseline data is not available. The following will be used to determine baseline and a expected percentage of increase will be established in year 2.
•     Methods for determining “highly effective” and “effective” will be determined and will become a component of the PBTE system
•     When surveyed, 80% of staff will acknowledge an understanding of the terms and how they are measured.
•     By 2014-2015, baseline will be established.
•     Each year after establishment of baseline the percentage of  “highly effective” and “effective” teachers will increase 5% annually.
4.a.  The number and percentage of students whose teacher of record is “highly effective” or “effective” will increase over baseline (to be determined by 2014-2015).
4.b. The number and percentage of students, by subgroup, whose teacher of record is “highly effective” or “effective” will increase over baseline (to be determined by 2014-2015).
4.c.  By the end of the grant there will be no district principals who are not rated as “highly effective” or “effective” for more than 2 successive years. Each year, any principal who receives a rating of less that “effective” will be placed on an Improvement Plan.  All principals on plans will demonstrate at least “improved” status.
4.d. By the end of the grant, quarterly Innovation Configuration data from all buildings will demonstrate progress on key implementation indicators.

(A)(4) Plan for Meeting District Goals and State Standards

Figure 1: Plan for Meeting District Goals

(Completed by …)
Responsible Parties
* Goal I: Using standardized state assessment data, at all levels (elementary, middle school, secondary) all areas of student achievement will meet or exceed expectations established by the Missouri School Improvement Program. (MSIP 5).
Continue implementation and refinement of RtI process at all grade levels to include:
•   effective use of bench mark and progress monitoring data
•  consistent, efficient and effective implementation of SOAR Teams (student intervention team)
•  Provide on-going training for all school teams
Teacher and building team survey results indicate teachers are “effectively” (defined in instrument) using data for individual and building improvement

Documentation indicates at least bimonthly team meetings

Documentation indicates all students referred have plans that have been implemented

Innovation Configuration data indicate “improved implementation” of  RtI process

Principals, Instructional Coaches
Put in place effective Tier II and Tier III interventions in order that 95% of students leave Gr.5 and Gr. 8 on level in Comm. Arts and Math.
•  Implement Read 180/System 44 for all eligible students
•  Implement effective Tier II and III math interventions
• Document fidelity of implementation
Read 180 and System 44 annual summary data
Director of Special Services, Principals
Enhance Tier I Comm. Arts and Math instruction so that every classroom meets district-established expectations for implementation
Walk-through data, Innovation Configuration data
Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Instructional Coaches, Principals
Implement district written expression model
 •  Provide training for all teachers
May 2013
Innovation Configuration data,
Quarterly Formative Evaluation Reports by Implementation Team
Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Instructional Coaches, Principals
Implement elementary and middle level training for effective use of technology as a teaching tool
•  Training for all teachers
•  Training scope and sequence for all students
May 2015
Documentation indicates professional development for all teachers

Documentation indicates training for students

Innovation Configuration data indicate “improved implementation” of technology integration at all buildings
Technology Innovation Educator, 21st Century Coaches, Instructional Coaches, Principals
Successfully implement Project Hope to decrease social/emotional barriers to learning
August 2013
Documentation indicates the number of students needing social/emotional support will decrease

Survey data from parents and students will indicate a decrease in social/emotional concerns
Project Hope Director, Director of Special Services, Principals,
Successfully integrate Bright Futures services in order to address barriers to learning
Data will indicate student needs will be addressed within 36 hours of notifying the Bright Futures staff of a need

Bright Futures Director, Principals, Teachers
Goal 2: Graduation rate will increase by 5% per year for all students.

School Wide Intervention Focus Team (SWIFT) will create a Tier I Toolbox of Interventions that will be collectively agreed upon by all departments, administration, and the steering committee.
August 2013 for creation then ongoing
Documentation will be the Tier I Toolbox of Interventions

SWIFT team Administrators, Core Teachers, and 21st Century Coaches, Counselors, School Psychologist.
SWIFT will analyze attendance, behavior, and grade data to be able to quickly identify students in need of extra academic and/or behavior support and recommend additional interventions.
Data will indicate a significant decrease in the number of students identified as needing extra academic and/or behavior support
SWIFT team - Administrators, Core Teachers, and 21st Century Coaches, Counselors, School Psychologist.
1:1 Teacher Student Mentor Program will be implemented to provide additional support to students struggling in attendance, grades, and behavior.
Data will indicate a significant decrease in the number of students identified as needing extra academic and/or behavior support
Teachers Principals SWIFT
Develop more clubs and after-school activities to engage students who have little or no connection to the school.
May 2015
Documentation will show an increase of clubs and after school activity opportunities for students

Data will indicate an increase in the percent of students involved in clubs and after school activities.
Principals, Athletic Directors,
Link Crew Leaders will support 9th graders academically and socially and promote school spirit and club participation.
Documentation of minimum of monthly activities with link crew leaders interacting with freshman students

Survey Data will demonstrate that 9th grade students feel connected to school
Link Crew Leaders, Counselors, Business Partners

Night School, Summer School, and abbreviated credit recovery will be offered in the four core areas and other specified academic areas.
Data will indicate an increase of students who are not on track for graduation participating in night school, summer school and abbreviated credit recovery
Consistent implementation of Eagle Time (9th -12th grades): Intensive Study Time, Math & Communication Art Labs, Success Class, and reward time.
Walk through Data will demonstrate student engagement during Eagle Time

Data will demonstrate the percent of students earning credit for all of their classes each semester will increase
Goal 3:  The percentage of students who graduate from Joplin Schools college and career ready will increase annually.
Develop Career Pathways for the new high school program of study.
March 2014
Documentation the Program of Study for Joplin High School and Franklin Tech Center
Career Path Coordinators, Administrators,
Counselors, Teachers, Business Partners
All Freshman will identify a career path and develop a personal plan of study

August 2014
Documentation student enrollment will identify the students’ career path choices
Counselors, Teachers
Students will have knowledge about their personal career path choices based upon their interests and aptitudes
May 2015
Data will demonstrate that 100% of students participate in career assessments such as Work Keys, ASVAB, etc.

Data the number of students achieving above state average on ASVAB, Compass or ACT will increase annually
Counselors, Teachers,
Workforce Investment Board, Joplin Chamber of Commerce
Students will graduate with a personalized career path plan
Data will demonstrate the number of students graduating with certifications for a career beyond high school will increase

Data will demonstrate the number of students graduating with college credit prior to leaving high school will increase
Counselors, Teachers, Area colleges and tech schools
Students will graduate with the soft skills necessary for success in the workplace
Data will demonstrate an increase in the number of students earning high marks on the employability report card
Counselors, Teachers, Business Partners
Students will pursue education beyond high school in the career area of their choice
Data will demonstrate the percent of students continuing their education beyond high school will increase annually
Counselors, Teachers, Area colleges and tech schools
Goal 4: The number and percentage of certified staff who are ‘highly effective” or “effective” will increase over baseline.
Hiring practices will ensure teachers have appropriate certification when they are hired
Data will demonstrate the percent of teaching in their area of certification will improve to 100%
Human Resources Director, Administrators, Principals
The Performance Based Teacher Evaluation system will be revised to meet the expectations of the RTTT and Missouri requirements
May 2014
Documentation indicates that teacher evaluation has the component of student performance as required
Human Resources Director, Administrators, Principals
The Joplin principal and superintendent evaluations will be revised to meet the expectations of the RTTT and Missouri requirements
May 2014
Documentation indicates that teacher evaluation has the component of student performance as required
Human Resources Director, Administrators, Principals
Data analysis of the new evaluation systems will demonstrate that teacher/principal evaluations differentiate based on student success
May 2015
Data will demonstrate an annual increase in the percent of teachers and principals who are “highly effective” and “effective”
Human Resources Director, Administrators, Principals
High quality professional development will be provided to teachers, principals and administrators
Documentation indicates that professional development provided is based on analysis of evaluation data
Human Resources Director, Administrators, Principals, Teachers

(B) Prior Record of Success
Success in Advancing Student Learning:
Graduation Rate
•     Our graduation rate, a major concern for well over a decade … the improvement of which has been a district priority … has been improving for the last 6 years. Despite the destruction of the high school and disruption in the community and the lives of many of our youth we saw tremendous growth last year. We reached an all –time high of 86.8%! (We had been warned by others recovering from disaster to expect an increase in the drop out rate.
-   While, in our long-range vision, 100% of our students graduate and are able to be successful in their post-secondary lives, this year we had only 74 dropouts (an all-time low).
-   As a result of our progress on the graduation rate we were designated a “Model School” by the Nation Dropout Prevention Center

 “Weathering the Storm”
As we studied the literature and talked to other who an experienced similar disasters, we were led to expect the community and personal disruption being encountered by our students would have a serious negative impact on their ability to engage in their schooling. (For example, over 600 of our students were classified as “homeless” and over ½ had lost their homes and/or their schools.) Despite this … and due to the hard work and diligence of our educators and the supports of the community this did not occur!

•     Our attendance rate of almost 95% has always exceeded the state average. It only showed a very small drop.

•     Despite the great disruption at the high school (trauma of the tornado, new temporary facilities, 1to1 initiative creating great changes for teachers and students) the “implementation dip” that could be expected as so much change was implemented our EOC’s were near the same.
•     The number of “serious discipline referrals” (those resulting in suspension of 10 days or more) was relatively stable (84 students in 2009 to 90 in 2011). In the 3 years since the tornado this number has dropped almost 50%.
•     Our MAP scores (while a concern and a district priority) likewise did not experience a serious dip.

•  “High School Grades” (defined as the percent of students who are passing/failing is considered as a strong indicator of “at risk for dropping out” status. At the high school the “passing rate” for all subjects (for the group “All Students”) was a goal of the high school and was improving prior to the tornado. It dropped significantly after the tornado, but has recovered.
•  The “Passing Rate” for Freshmen entering the high school has also recovered. The post-tornado dip.
Other indicators:
•     The placement rate for career/technical students (63.2%) exceeds the state average by over 6%.
•     Joplin ACT scores have always been above the state average and are improving.

Why do we believe we can implement proposed reform …
•     First of all we have the leadership necessary to make change possible. Our Superintendent of Schools said we would start school “on time” and we did! This determination to return to normalcy was vital to our community and for our children and families. We have had many individuals tell us the vision and “can do” attitude of the school district inspired and empowered the entire town.
•     We have a motivated, courageous and determined staff that sees the need for an educational system that “operates differently … and gets different results”. While acknowledging that change is hard, they have worked to change … to learn … and to grow.
•     We have already begun to implement the knowledge, attitudes, skills and habits needed to implement personalized 21st century learning and teaching.
•     We already have the cutting edge technological and staff development infrastructure that provides a firm foundation for the “next generation” paradigms we are proposing. We have already implemented a successful coaching model for support and professional development district-wide and believe this model – in concert with shared vision, PLC’s, collaborative leadership teams, tools and processes that facilitate data collection, management, analysis and problem solving – will further implementation.
•     We know we have the fiscal strength and flexibility to support and sustain our current high school and middle schools so, after start-up costs, sustainability of the new model will not be an issue.
•     We have a community that not only understands and supports us, but also is willing to take an active role; despite losing 1/3 to 1/2 of the assessed valuation of the school district the community passes a $61,000,000 bond issue!

(B)(2) Increasing Transparency in District Processes, Practices and Investments
We develop, manage and report all district financial data in accordance with state requirements. All information is available for public review upon request and can be accessed by request and/or via the district website.
All Board of Education meetings are televised on the district’s cable channel and are shown both live and on tapes aired at several other times. Agendas are posted as required and information is available upon request. There is a public comment period at each BOE meeting. Guests are always welcome … and encouraged … to attend any public meeting. The district’s annual audit is provided as a part of this meeting. All audits have shown the district’s processes and practices to be exemplary.
Monthly expenditure reports are provided at the district and school level and are available for review upon request. While school-level salary data is available, it is routinely analyzed and reported at the district level.

The following data are available to everyone on the District Report Card on the state website which is linked to the district’s website: a) actual personnel salaries at the school level for instructional staff and b) teachers.
It will be the responsibility of the Project Director, in conjunction with the CFO, Director of Technology and the Assistant Supt. to monitor and make public progress on all project activities undertaken as a part of our RTTT-D project. This will include monitoring of financial status and adherence to all procedures and reporting. A website, linked to the district website will be developed and used to facilitate this process.

(B)(4) Stakeholder Engagement and Support
(B)(4)(a) Stakeholder Involvement in the Development of the District Reform Effort Outlined in the RTTT-D Proposal
[NOTE: Because our ongoing reform efforts have crystalized into this RTTT-D proposal, stakeholder engagement throughout this several year process has been described. This engagement has occurred in several stages – foundational planning, awareness and “buy-in”, level of implementation and “scale-up”.]  
Foundation for the Proposed Reform: For many years we have known that we were not accomplishing our mission to “… develop and enhance teaching and learning in order to improve academic performance and enable all students to meet their personal, academic, and career goals”. In an effort to do so, strategic planning/district improvement efforts undertaken for at least the last decade have been aimed at reforming education --- particularly secondary education --- in order to ensure that all students graduate with the attitudes, habits, skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in the 21st century world.  We are already undertaking the work required to bring about this reform and these ever-evolving efforts form the framework of the reform initiative outlined in this RTTT-D proposal.
      Joplin Schools has had persistently low achievement and high drop out rates for many years (see Appendix *** and section *** of this proposal for data). While data indicate significant improvement in the last few years, previously as many as ¼ of our students were not graduating and many who did graduate were finishing high school unprepared to be successful and prosperous in the world of the 21st century.  These alarming statistics created great concern and a tremendous sense of urgency among educators, parents and our community. We knew that our educational system would not simply "evolve” to meet the changing needs of students, and that the “business of schooling” in Joplin had to change … and change quickly. We realized that we had to radically transform or “re-build” education --- particularly secondary education -- for Joplin Schools. (We did not realize, however, that this “rebuild” would have to occur literally as well!).  
We based the need for radical reform on three factors:
 •  First, regrettably on the data (as outlined above). In a community where a majority of our children and their families face barriers that put them at risk as adults (e.g. poverty, low familial educational completion rates, underemployment and the influences of factors like substance abuse and domestic violence) (see Appendix ***: Kids Count Data) it is vitally important that all young people develop the skills and resilience necessary to overcome these barriers and create brighter futures for themselves and their families. In order to thrive, adults must be resilient, creative, flexible, problem solvers, self-motivated and innovative. They must be able to recognize and overcome circumstances that create challenges. Today’s very competitive job market requires a complex set of marketable skills without which, if there is employment, it is low paying with little chance for advancement. They cannot afford to reach adulthood unprepared to meet their obligations and we, as a society, cannot afford to lose their contributions.
•   Secondly, because this is a relatively small, close-knit community we heard the “stories” of our students as they embarked on their journey into adulthood – those who were successful … those who struggled … and those who failed. They told us when and how they were prepared … and when they were not.
•   Finally we have studied the literature on the needs of 21st century citizens (***cite Daggett, etc) and have worked closely with representatives from higher education (e.g. colleges, technical schools, skilled trades entities), city, county and Chamber of Commerce representatives and business and community members to determine not only what they need from our graduates but also how our students “measure up”.

Stakeholder Involvement in the Development of the Foundation for the Proposal: Since 2005, Joplin has hosted two large-scale strategic planning/district improvement plan development cycles. These efforts included students (including those at-risk), teachers, parents, administrators, and business community representatives.
April, 20011: 
•   The first meeting of this strategic planning session resulted in defining a set of 21st Century Learning Citizen Skills that would serve as the desired outcomes for graduates (see Appendix *** for description).  (These skills included: Collaboration, Communication, Problem Solving, Technology Literacy, Critical Thinking, Flexibility/Adaptability, Interpersonal Interaction, Ethics/Character, Community/Global Awareness and Self-initiated Lifelong Learning).
•   This meeting had *** participants drawn from students (including students who were at-risk), teachers and administrators from all grade levels, central office leadership, parents, and business, community and high education representatives.
•   It was the consensus of this group that the high school would not only change the emphasis of the content (with the integration of 21st century skills and an expectation of the mastery of core competencies and key skills at a higher order) but also the way instruction was delivered and experienced. It was recommended that learning be “personalized” to the needs, aptitudes and interests of students, the use of technology as a teaching tool be embraced and new ways to engage and reengage students identified.
•   While these recommendations was strongly endorsed by this planning team – which included members of the Board of Education, high school administration and staff, two huge barriers to implementation of proposed reforms were identified --- the extreme overcrowding of the high school which seemed to block efforts to update teaching approaches and the shortage of funding necessary to initiate the enhanced use of technology as a learning tool.
Then … less than a month later an EF-5 tornado destroyed our High School and Technical School.

June 2011
•   Three weeks after the tornado, we hosted what had been planned to be the next session of the strategic planning effort (now termed our “Dream Meeting”) to re-navigate a course for the future of secondary education in Joplin. Though the shock and horror of the destruction were still very real, it seemed the group actually took strength from this “opportunity” to dream big and without the constraints of what, less than a month before, had seemed insurmountable obstacles.  
•   These “Dream Meetings” included people from all of the same groups and added experts from various educational and business organizations such as the International Center for Leadership in Education, Midcontinent Regional Education Laboratory, Leadership and Learning, eMINTS National Center, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Apple. (see Appendix *** for further information)
•   The vision of the new Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center that began to emerge from this process can be described as synergistic.  It is certainly not the vision of one person but rather a creation that belonged to many.  The process involved, as equal voices, educators and non-educators, “Joplinites” and those with expertise who had come from all over the nation to help.  The dream to create a more engaging … new … better … different high school experience that prepared students for their personal future was enthusiastically embraced by all.
•   As the vision of “what” this “reborn” educational experience would “be” like was clarified (… and strengthened by input from countless other stakeholders) the “how” it would be accomplished loomed large.  It was clear that realization of this vision would take the passionate support of all who had a commitment to the future of Joplin’s children. From the first dream meeting to the bond issue campaign all who learned about the vision were excited and ready to help.  This was true for the educational consultants and Apple representatives who participated in our meetings at no cost to the district, to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).  [Note: The support of our state department was viewed as critical because the new vision requires that we be allowed to pilot new ways and get waivers from specific requirements.  In our meetings with our State Supervisor and the Commissioner of Education, we have been encouraged to continue to develop the vision and assured that they support our efforts.  Their backing has helped remove barriers that would have blocked creativity.]

Community Stakeholder Involvement in Awareness and “Buy-in”
•   The synergy in the community was equally encouraging.  As part of the visioning and design process, teams went on site visits to innovative schools across the country.  By taking school board members, administrators, teachers and business representatives, different perspectives were melded into one vision.  The ideas were brought back to future dream meetings and shared publicly through social media and formal media avenues resulting in excitement across the community.  The reform plan (see Appendix *** for Bond Issue Campaign Documentation) was shared at dozens of meetings throughout the community and across the district. Again, input gained through these interactions was used to further shape the dream. The passing of a $62 million dollar bond issue (in a community almost 1/3 destroyed) to build innovative elementary, middle, high and technical schools was clear evidence of the widespread support for the vision and for the future of Joplin’s youth.
•   The bond funding was only one source of support for rebuild.  It, coupled with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding and insurance proceeds, will provide the funding needed for the innovative educational facilities.  Donations from around the world provided the additional support necessary to fund the technological advances. For example, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) donated $1 million dollars for laptops for students, thus allowing us to proceed with the implementation of the 21st Century educational practices in a 1-1 learning environment.

Stakeholder Involvement in Implementation
As planning was begun for the 2011-2012 school year (less than 90 days after the tornado) a courageous decision was made to move forward with the high school reform initiative.  Examples of the immediate actions required by this decision include:
•  Implementation of a 24-7 laptop initiative for grades 9-12 that required purchasing and checking out Macbook laptop computers for all students, provision of infrastructure (including school and community internet access for all) and technical support, the design and implementation of training for all students and orientation and support for parents and development of policy and procedures which would govern the initiative.
•  Deciding to NOT to replace the $1,000,000 worth of textbooks for grades 9-12 that had been destroyed, but, instead to “fast forward” the use of 21st century instructional practices (see section *** for description).
•  Committing to the development of high level intensive and ongoing professional development for all high school teachers in order to support the immediate implementation of the 1-1 laptop program. 

Board of Education “By-in”:
In the midst of a time filled with financial uncertainty and concern, the Joplin Board of Education agreed to provide the support necessary to being the implementation process. They approved the hiring of a) six Career Path Coordinators (examples of their responsibilities include: development of the Career Path curriculum (including its alignment with the requirements of college, careers and work) and its integration with the core academics, facilitation of the development of alternative teaching strategies, determination of the formative (continuous) and summative assessment strategies), three 21st Century Coaches and three addition tech support personnel.

Stakeholder Involvement in Project Development
Input into the design/development/revision of the Career Pathways model (e.g. curriculum, assessment, teaching approaches, indicators of mastery, use of time, personalized learning components, necessary policies and procedures)
•   Using the PLC paradigm and facilitated by the Career Pathways Coordinators, teachers and business representatives from each pathway to meet on an ongoing basis to define what students need to know and be able to do to be successful in specific jobs within each career path.
•   Each Department is responsible for reconfiguring their courses to integrate into the pathways. All teachers have input into this process.
•   A cross disciplinary group of teachers meets regularly with Career Path leaders to collaborate, recommend, evaluate and provide feedback to the Career Path Curriculum writing teams throughout the process of implementation.  The responsibility of this team is to keep the career path implementation aligned with teachers in every step of the process.
•   All high school and tech teachers are involved in the implementation.
•   Parents and student input is solicited by this team and used in decision-making.

Stakeholder Involvement in Bringing the Model to Scale
As outlined in this proposal, using the Implementing Change model (Hall and Hurd, 2010) three Innovation Configurations will be developed to monitor the progress of implementation and to gain feedback from teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders. These Innovation Configurations will monitor Stages of Concern, Level of Use and Fidelity of Implementation. (see Appendix *** for description and Continuous Monitoring section of this document for further information).

 (B)(3) State context for implementation (10 points)

Conditions that Contribute to Successful Implementation of Joplin Schools RTTT-D Proposal

State Commitment to the Basic Principles Underlying this Proposal: Because the broad reform initiatives designed, adopted and being implemented by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) are congruent with those at the heart of district reform efforts (See Appendix ***: Joplin Schools Standards of Excellence and discussion of purpose, mission, goals, e.g. in section *** pg.*** of this document), it is clear that we will not only have the approval to implement all components proposed in this Race to The Top Application, but also the support and encouragement of the state.
The following components demonstrate this shared vision:
•  DESE has adopted state goals to ensure that “ … all Missouri students will graduate college and career ready” and “Missouri will prepare, develop and support effective educators”. These goals mirror goals currently adopted by the district and proposed in this RTTT-D application (Appendix*** DESE Goals).

Top 10 by 20 Initiative.  The plan designed to support achievement of these state goals is called the Top 10 by 20 InitiativeThis state initiative provides “ …a solid, actionable plan for improving the education provided to all students in the state. The plan provides a road map for raising the bar for academic achievement enabling Missouri to achieve the status as one of the top ten performing states in the country by 2020 (***cite). This comprehensive reform plan:
- measures whether students are prepared for college and careers
-  focuses on student growth and gain, rather than absolute test scores
- maintains a commitment to disaggregating data to track whether schools are closing the achievement gap.
The strategic goals included in the plan are supported by specific and measureable objectives that serve as key milestones.
•   Adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Missouri State Board of Education formally adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and these have been aligned with the newly revised state standards (****M0 Academic Core Standards).
-   the state has established supports and resources designed to help LEAs and educator preparation institutions in transitioning to college- and career-ready standards
-   districts have been directed and are expected to make necessary curricular adjustments by the 2013-14 school year.
•   The state has adopted College and Career-Ready Standards for all students. District accountability is determined through measurement and reporting of mastery of these College and Career Readiness Standards.
•   Districts are given the authority to develop incentives to maintain Personalized Plans of Study for students in grades 7-12.
•   Support for alternative course delivery modes is demonstrated through the establishment virtual public schools in 2006 and the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MOVIP) in the 2007. MOVIP was supported to expand the range of content and to provide students access to coursework, such as higher level/AP courses, not offered by their school districts. Missouri is providing guidance to districts so that they understand the availability of these online courses and other in-state distance learning opportunities.
•   Data Access
•   Missouri’s LEAs will have the option of using or adopting all or portions of the state’s model Educator Evaluation System (or districts may also create and implement their own local system.)
-   “… By the 2014-2015 year, districts will establish evaluation processes that align to the essential principles of an effective evaluation system as articulated in the state’s model. Regardless of whether an LEA adopts the state model or implements their own local evaluation process, all LEAs in the state will commit to the essential principles … (see Appendix *** State of Missouri: ESEA Flexibility Request – revised June 27, 2012).
-  measures performance against research-based practices aligned to those articulated in the state’s model teacher and leader standards;
-  uses of multiple ratings to differentiate levels of performance;
-  highlights a probationary period of adequate duration which results in sufficient induction and socialization support for new teachers and leaders;
-  uses measures of student growth in learning as a significant part of the evaluation of professional practice at all levels and ensures an inability to receive a proficient or distinguished rating in educator performance if student growth is low;
-  provides ongoing, regular, timely and meaningful feedback on performance; includes standardized and ongoing training for evaluators;
-  uses evaluation results to inform decisions, determinations and policy regarding personnel.

Autonomy to Successfully Implement the Plan Under State Legal, Statutory and Regulatory Requirements: The state has in place several regulatory components that provide the flexibility and autonomy necessary to implement the district’s RTTT-D proposed plan.
•   Section 161.210, RSMo that gives the SBE the authority to waive or modify any administrative rule it has adopted or policy implemented by the Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education.
•   Senate Bill 291 established the “School Flex Program” which allows for the use of flexible time and scheduling to create an incentive for potential dropouts to stay in school part-time and keep working toward a diploma. This legislation allows districts to develop and put in place alternatives to the traditional school day/seat time model, thus allowing the district to define evidence of mastery of the required core competencies in a manner that is individualized and aligned with students’ personalized plans of study.
•   The State Board of Education is authorized to waive or modify administrative rules, should there be a need to request this in regard to issues with individualized learning opportunities.

Joplin School Board's commitment to develop and implement policy that directly supports personalized learning within the district.: The Joplin School Board has demonstrated support for the reform efforts outlined in the RTTT-D proposal by:
•   Active participation in and adoption of the Joplin Schools Standards of Excellence. (see Appendix ***).
•   Approval for funding for additional personnel deemed necessary to design and begin implementation of the Career Pathways program (see Appendix *** for job descriptions and activities of 21st Century Coaches and Career Pathway Coordinators).
(what else belongs here???)

 (B)(4)(b) Letters of Support
There were ** letter of support provided with this project. Of these ** letters of support from teachers, ** letters of support from administrators, ** letters of support from business partners, ** letters of support from students and parents, ** letters of support from other stakeholders.

Excerpts from Letters of Support
…. “Thank you for the opportunity to offer some insight on the Joplin metropolitan area employment market, today and for the foreseeable future. In particular, I appreciate the opportunity to provide this insight in relation to the Joplin Schools effort to develop a 21st century learning environment built around career paths and career clusters.
In reading through the Career Path & Cluster information provided by the Missouri Center for Career Education, I am impressed with the approach and how a learning environment based on the Career Path concepts can give the members of the next generation a way to pursue their passions, without closing the door to future educational and/or career choices. I also note this approach stresses engagement with the employer community and economic development. This engagement will be critical for the success of Career-based learning in the Joplin Schools and in the success of students and our businesses going forward.
However, the reality for Joplin, our region, and our states is that the jobs of the future are already here. They will utilize more technology, more thinking and more creativity and less “hands”, but we already have great jobs in this area and can get more IF there is a workforce with the skills to do them.”     Rob O’Brian, President, Chamber of Commerce

            … “I have been very impressed over the years as I have watched the Joplin school system strive to give the best education possible to the residents of Joplin. In recent months I have been even more impressed as I have learned about a new and innovative approach to teaching through the Career Pathways initiative.” -- Tom Nutt, Director of Operations, Good News Productions International

            … “I can guarantee you that your investment in the Joplin Schools with a Race to the Top Grant will reap a huge dividend -- a generation of students discovering a successful career path that they can pursue with purpose and passion . . . By addressing the needs of academics and technology as well as engaging each student in a decision the Joplin administration has put forth a best possible process scenario that leads to not only a more focused education but also provides hands on experience.  You have before you an incredible plan that will elevate the potential of moving every young person towards a successful career with purpose and passion.” --Andy Hansen, President, Christ in Youth

            …”I witnessed first hand the determination this district put forth after the May 2011tornado to get our kids back to school, and I was a strong supporter of the proposition that recently passed which provided the tax funds to rebuild Joplin Schools better than ever.”  -- Ryan Spriggs, Walgreen’s Manager

            “As a member of the Bright Futures advisory board for the R-8 system, (another innovative student oriented program), I see the passion from the entire district for the most important resource we have: the children.  The students have always been, and always will be, the focal point of the school district and community.  This is why I wholeheartedly recommend the Joplin R-8 School District for this grant.” –Larry Warren, President, Atlas Risk Management

                        …”Throughout the rebuilding process, they have looked at cutting edge methods and programs to address all types of educational needs I whole-heartedly believe that the Career Pathways initiative, which will merge Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center, is the most effective direction they can take. I am very happy to recommend them for this grant.” -- Cindy Langford, Executive Director, Connections Case Management

            …”Th e Joplin Area Ch amber of Commerce has been a community partner for over 25 years with the Joplin Schools through our collaborations involving students from the elementary grades through high school. Our partnerships include tutoring programs, leadership programs and youth outreach and mentoring programs. We will actively support the new initiatives and programs developed through this grant.” -- Cary Beasley, Workforce Development Manager, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce

… “The Joplin School personnel have demonstrated the highest levels of commitment to the task and to excellence.  It is evident that they would make the very best use of any resources that may be available through receiving a grant and that it would be a worthy investment in our students and in our community.” -- Greg Hafer, Executive Vice President, Ozark Christian College

… “I understand and value the tax dollar, and I believe Joplin Schools is a great investment.”—Kenny Neal, Owner/President Midland Erector Company
… “I am very excited and honored that I live in a community that has a school district that shows a commitment to the growth of our community.” – Shelly Kraft, Kraft Insurance Company

… “Joplin Schools has proven their ability to implement major improvements and creative use of resources. The entire community was witness to this resourcefulness and determination in the summer of 2011 when Joplin students returned to "business as usual" on the first day of school.” Chad Greer, Corner, Greer and Associates

… “What the Joplin schools have done following the tornado has been amazing to witness. Although, lives were forever changed, what has followed shows what a community and volunteers can accomplish with hard work and God's blessing.” – Scott Clayton, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity

… “The needs of the country's workforce are constantly evolving, and as a result, schools need to be creative in their use of resources to meet this ever-changing demand. The Career Pathways initiative between Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center is one such program that will help give our students the ability to contribute to the needs of our community as valuable members of our workforce, whatever those needs may look like in the future.” -- Sam Anselm Assistant City Manager, City of Joplin
(See Appendix ** for Letters of Support)

 (C) Preparing Students for College and Careers
(C)(1)(a&b) Plan for Improving Learning, Teaching and Leading by Personalizing the Learning Environment in Order to Prepare all Students for College and Careers

What We Hope to Accomplish
Upon implementation of the proposed model, all Joplin High School students will receive extensive personalized, “real-world” experiences that will equip them to successfully pursue their post-high school aspirations. They will not only successfully complete high school with a solid foundation of literacy, numeracy and thinking skills but also with an understanding of their individual career interests and aptitudes and the intrinsic motivation and work ethic necessary to assume their roles as successful adults --- lifelong learners, workers and responsible citizens.  This high school experience will blend opportunities to “learn-by-doing”, cutting-edge technological instruction and more traditional “face-to-face” approaches that are personalized for each student and are determined based on student need and interest instead of a “one-size-fits-all.”
In order to accomplish this we will ensure that we have in place a system that engages and supports all learners (particularly those who struggle). This system will encompass high quality instructional strategies designed to develop and as necessary accelerate and/or intensify learning strategies designed to meet the needs of individuals, continuous assessment that not only pinpoints needs but demonstrates the effectiveness of instruction, provide opportunities to think, problem-solve, create, experience and take responsibility for one’s own learning. Students will have access to rigorous standards, a variety of instructional approaches, technological learning tools, on-going and regular feedback and accommodations as needed. Mechanisms and supports will be in place to provide for the development of skills students will need to maximize their educational experience.

Approach to Implementing Instructional Strategies for All Secondary Students
Our plan for improving learning and teaching by personalizing the learning environment in order to provide all students the support to graduate college and career ready includes the following components:
q      Personalized learning paced to the individual needs of each student will form the basis of the proposed model. Each student, whatever their initial skill level, will be helped to achieve her potential through a wide range of resources and strategies appropriate for her learning style, abilities, and interests, as well as social, emotional, and physical situation. A learning plan will be tailored to learning preferences and interests of each student. Fixed time, place, curriculum and pacing will not determine content or expected outcomes, instead the student’s educational path, curriculum, instruction, and schedule will be personalized to meet unique needs, inside and outside of school.

q      A “blended learning model” that will allow us to “reinvent” the effective and efficient use of teacher time and talent and allow for greater student engagement and self-initiative. Students will be allowed to progress at their own pace, based on mastery not “seat time”.
-     Students will still receive some of their instruction through face-to-face interaction with teachers, others providing educational experiences (e.g. internships and other applied experiences) and with peers in structured (though carefully designed) learning environments. When and which instruction will be delivered in this way will be determined by the desired outcome, not by the constraints of time, facility, policy or teacher preference. Other instruction will be delivered online or through other high-quality digital content. This online content – perhaps 50% of the instructional delivery -- will be developed by our teachers and 21st century instructional coaches (using Blackboard or other avenues) with the support and collaboration of our business and post-secondary education partners.

q      The use of modern learning technologies will provide opportunities for student/teacher interactions that are more instructionally meaningful (e.g. facilitation, collaborative problem-solving, mentoring and modeling creativity and ingenuity).
-     This use of technology will allow students the opportunity to participate in anytime/anyplace learning and to access widely varied engaging learning content, resources and opportunities.
-     Because they have proven themselves to be such powerful and motivating tools, social media milieu, such as Face Book, Twitter and Blogging, will be used to enhance and facilitate instruction

q      A Career Pathways Course of Study framework will provide a structure for our model. It will give all students the opportunity to select a career area of interest and to gain, while acquiring all the rigorous core knowledge, understanding and 21st century skills, a “head start” toward post-secondary education or toward lucrative employment. The focus on career paths was one of the early agreements of the Dream Team.  They clearly believed that high school doesn’t need to be a “hoop to jump through”, but, rather, should assist students in achieving their future.  The disengagement of high school students was believed to be directly related to a lack of interest and relevancy of high school to their lives. The idea that we can capture the passion of students by involving them in things they believe are relevant to their success as they enter high school was important in the creation of the model. 

Five career paths were identified after reviewing various other models.  There career paths were identified by looking at research on future job predictions as well as working with the area Workforce Investment Board and Chamber of Commerce to identify employment needs in Joplin.  The career paths are:
·         Health Sciences (anticipated to be the largest area of future need)
·         Technical Sciences
·         Arts and Communication
·         Human Services
·         Business/Technology

How would this work?
-     All Joplin students entering high school will declare a career path for their future.
-     Students may exercise their right to change career paths if they so choose.
-     Each career path will have multiple pathways for students, so that no matter what level of entry into their career path, all students will leave college and career ready.
-     Every career path will include pathways from:
§  high school to work (leave high school with certifications for entry level jobs).
§  high school to technical college (articulated agreements will be developed).
§  high school to four-year college programs (including AP and Dual Credit classes).
§  high school to ivy league universities (Rich opportunities for AP and Dual Credit classes).

q      All students will meet required state standards (Common Core Standards) for high school graduation.  This approach will differ from current practice in that the personalized learning needs of each students will dictate the scope and sequence of learning, not an adopted textbook or curriculum. Mastery of rigorous standards will be embedded within courses as well as offered in new and different ways.  Each path may embed the standards differently in order to focus on key learning that is more important for the career focus of those students.  This scope and sequence of learning for each student, as stated above, will be rigorous and equivalent for all students, and will be personalized to each student’s interests, aptitudes, aspirations and readiness level.

q      Opportunities for students to accelerate through courses will be available so that students are empowered to take charge of their education and will be able to open doors to opportunities related to their interests.  The courses that are available for acceleration will be dependent upon the career path they have identified.
Acceleration can occur by:
-        Combined subject courses (for example: one course earning both communication arts and social science credit).
§  Which courses are able to be combined will be dependent upon the career path selected (for example students interested in arts and communication path may spend more time in courses related to the career path by enrolling in combined courses for science and math)
-                CLEP or “opt-out”
-                Completing self-paced online courses to meet learning styles, student needs and/or to free-up time for courses of deeper interest.
-        Demonstrating proficiency through assessment to avoid enrolling in the course at all.

q      The way time is spent in high school will be quite different.  Instead of 7 period days that are the always the same, students will be provided options and thus will be empowered to choose how, when and where they learn best. Students will learn time management skills because a typical school day won’t be typical, rather it will vary from week to week depending upon enrollment.
-        A decision has been made to throw out our assumptions about how time must be allocated and spent in high school.  Instead we are asking “why”:
… Why do we think it takes the same number of minutes to learn algebra and biology? Or art appreciation? …
… Why should the desired learning not determine the time needed for a course?
… Where and when does the “traditional high school schedule” fit in … does it?
-        Time spent face-to-face in class or online will be determined by the learning objectives allowing the class format to change from week to week depending upon the topic.
-        The school day won’t be confined to 8-3; instead when students are “doing school” will vary from one student to the next depending on their learning plan.
o    For example, a student enrolled in the human services path might have a senior internship working in one of the higher end restaurants during the evening.
o    It’s even possible that students may have online internships with international companies.

q      Other opportunities will be available for students who elect to put forth the effort.  This includes the opportunity to earn credit by demonstrating competency rather than “playing the school game” (… by attending class for enough hours and doing enough schoolwork to pass the class).  Instead, students might review a preparatory book and take an assessment to earn credit much like a driver’s test.  In the health sciences path, students might be afforded this opportunity for art appreciation or other courses that are less critical to success in the health sciences path.

q      By changing the “school game” to a competency-based approach, students can move through courses based on their learning instead of seat time.  The personalized learning approach allows students to understand the relationship between their commitment to their high school responsibilities, their choices and the consequent outcome. All students will continue to be required to pass state-required curriculum for high school graduation, but how they do so will be their choice ranging from traditional courses, online courses, blended courses, independent study with assessment for mastery, etc.  By increasing effort in required courses or in courses with less direct impact on their career path, they can increase opportunities for choices related to their selected career path including internships or additional courses in their field of choice.  Students will be empowered to achieve certifications or preparation for the “high school plus” education needed to achieve their dreams. The dream team contends that this student empowerment model will be motivating to students because they will be in courses related to their future every year of high school while being in control of how much time they spend focusing on that career. This is anticipated to improve persistence to graduation because school will be relevant to the students’ and their dreams.

q      This different model will require a change to graduation requirements.  Some requirements are set by law including how many credits in each area, etc.  We have realized that, as a school district, we are empowered to determine at what point credit is awarded.  This provides the flexibility for our model.  However, credits and completion of a specific number of courses are not synonymous.  We haven’t yet finalized how this model will change, but we recognize that we will need to make some major adjustments.  (See section *** for state department support for implementation of this plan).

q      Why implement for everyone …. and at the same time? Making the foundational decision to create a career path model was an early and easy choice.  For years our community had expressed great interest in developing closer ties between the high school curriculum and the world of work. Employers told us, far too often, that there was a gap between the skills our graduates were demonstrating and those that were needed at work or in postsecondary education. However, as we studied the literature and attended site visits at career academy schools, we realized the model we envisioned was not what we were seeing or reading about. We wanted all --- 2,200 students in our large, comprehensive high school --- to be afforded this opportunity, not just those “lucky” enough to get into a career academy! Furthermore, every student in these academy programs had the same required courses, while we wanted out students to have individualized choices.
     We still have many things to plan, but we are committed to this opportunity for every student attending Joplin High School.  The Dream Team worked through the questions about whether kids really could choose a career path as they enter high school.  It was determined that we would allow for a personalized approach but making a selection was required.

q      Including the middle schools: To prepare our eighth graders for such an important decision, the middle schools will be implementing a program that ensures that students gain information on each career path.  We hypothesize that many of our students (65% of which come from poverty) make decisions about their future based on what family and friends, community helpers or superstars do in their careers.  The career exploration will begin in sixth grade with a focus on self (their personal strengths), seventh grade will stretch into aptitudes and interests, as well as learning styles and approaches.  In eighth grade, they will study each career path in depth to be prepared to make decisions about which area they would like to focus in high school.  The decisions needed for high school enrollment will be personalized with a student-parent-middle school teacher-high school teacher conference to create a four-year plan. 
Students who are ambiguous about their future will analyze their preferences in core academics to get some direction for a path.  Each path will have introductory courses that will help students understand their options so that, as they move ahead, more precision can be applied to their course plans.  The freshman experience will provide opportunities to visit with adults with careers in the various pathways in order to provide a better understanding of the career options.  We believe that this approach will provide our students with a greater variety of career options and a more realistic understanding of the future workplace.  This, we hope, will result in more students selecting careers that will bring happiness as well as fewer students changing majors during college.  Additionally, we anticipate some of our students working through certification programs that will provide a wage, which will support them as they work their way through college.  For example, a student might become certified as an EMT in high school so that he can work to pay for medical school or law school or any other college program he desires.  The design is empowering particularly for students from poverty … it allows students and their families to understand that they can break the poverty cycle and become contributing members of society.

q      Competency Based Curriculum: The next step is the development of the program of study and course curriculum for each career path and career pathway.  This will be merged with the state required high school and career competencies to build a seamless model characterized by student choices.  Each career pathway program will be developed by advisory groups including educators, community and college representatives. 
q      implementation of the Model: A team composed of a facilitator and a coordinator for each path will lead this process. The facilitator will be an educator responsible for ensuring the curriculum and programs of study developed will work across paths (to allow students to change and personalize) and that the required curriculum is included.  The six Career Path Coordinators will come from business and industry so that they can be the liaison between education and the “real world” in order to ensure that the program developed really prepares students for their future.  These relationships will also be important in working with the community for internship opportunities as well as for creating an authentic audience for student projects. 
              The curriculum development process will be accomplished during the 2012-13 school year.  A phase-in implementation plan will be established to prepare students to begin in the new high school in the fall of 2014.  By that time, the full options of courses for each path program of study as well as specifically defined competencies will be established.  The process utilized to develop these will be very organic and will involve both education and business/industry in the decision-making.

q      Personalized Student Journey – Support and Counseling for the Career Pathways: Each student will belong to a career path.  Within that path, we plan to create a web of support to help him navigate through the process that will become his high school experience.  This will include both adult and peer connections as well as the ability for the student to monitor grades and progress through the internet.  An Academic Advisor from the career path will be assigned to each student.  This will be a consistent person who will be with the student throughout the four-year journey.  Each advisor will be responsible for a group of students at various stages throughout their high school career.  Then within those groups, older students will be assigned to mentor younger students.  They will be sharing in the role of ensuring that every student is successful.  We currently have a peer-mentoring program in our high school.  We will build upon this to enhance it to provide personalized support for students.    Teachers will act as academic advisors. High school counselors and business volunteers will be trained to provide the mentoring and support as needed by students. When necessary specialists from Vocational Rehabilitation and Work Force Investment will be solicited. Assuring this support will be an integral component of the model.

    Students will have multiple opportunities to gain feedback on their progress.  Much of that will be technology-based.  The continuous feedback process will have the following components;
-     Student self-awareness and self-direction is an integral component of this approach.
 in elementary school, all students will be taught to take responsibility for monitoring and problem-solving about their own progress – both on academic and “soft” work/study/behavior skills. They will learn to recognize, monitor and take ownership of their own engagement, effort and motivation.
m Students will use technology (e.g. hand-held recording devises) and activities such as peer mentoring, self-monitoring (video-taping and analyzing activities), teacher, advisor, parent and business mentoring to analyze progress toward goals and to plan future directions.
m They will maintain portfolios and will be able to communicate their strengths, aspirations, etc.
m The intent is to teach students to become responsible for their choices through appropriate time management.  The high school system will be much like college when students are free to make choices, the difference is that through this program there will be a gradual release instead of going from a traditional high school of control to full freedom.  This model provides for the gradual empowerment of students with more and more freedom and less and less monitoring as they move through high school.  Parents will also have access to information about their student through the web.  This will include attendance, behavior, grades, etc. We believe this approach will better prepare students for the world beyond high school when choices are many and failure is very real.  By creating a system with a net to catch students when they begin to fail, we can reteach and support students in learning the life skills of time management and putting forth your best effort.  This gradual release will bridge the gap that currently exists between high school that operates on control of students and college that is the ultimate freedom.
-     Technology will also be used to support the extremely complex scheduling and resource allocation this model will require. Teacher time, space, materials, etc. can be managed in this way.
Real-time personalized approaches to communication, far beyond email, will allow teachers, students, parents and community members to overcome barriers that have always interfered with effective collaboration and interaction on behalf of students.
For example, we have already created a rough prototype of an app that could be developed to help students monitor their changing routine so that their calendar is populated with choices and they can plug in the times they choose to attend face-to-face classes. 
Advisors will meet individually with each advisee at least biweekly and more frequently if progress needs to be monitored more closely.  The app will assist with alerts and a robust system of time management. 
-     Technology will also allow for the efficient and effective collection, analysis and use of large amounts of data. Data can be used both retrospectively and predictively to support problem-solving and “in time” decision-making.

(C)(2) Teaching and Leading: Helping Educators Improve Instruction and Increase Capacity to Support Student Progress

Approach to Ensuring that all Educators Improve their Capacity to Provide High Quality Instruction
Our plan for improving teaching and leading will be based on the provision of high quality professional development, sufficient resources – including technology – and a supportive infrastructure (administration, policy, practice and support for overcoming barriers to learning). This model includes the following components:
q      New ways of teaching. In addition to new teaching strategies and methodologies, teachers will become experts at demonstrating in their teaching the same 21st century skills they are expecting of their students. These “teaching skills” have formed (and will form) the basis for ongoing staff development that is primarily provided collaboratively and job-embedded by instructional coaches.
         Teaching will look like:
-  Time, space and resources will be managed in order to allow the teacher to move fluidly and flexibly from the role of coach to direct instruction provider to resource provider. Much of the “mental work” previously left to the teacher (e.g. researching, analyzing, experimenting, collaborating, evaluating and communicating) will be done by the students.
-  Students will have access to all the necessary “learning tools” … lab equipment, technology, internet access.
-  There will be a good balance of direct teacher-led instruction, on-line instruction, collaborative discovery, individual research and exploratory learning throughout the project.
-  The pace and degree of challenge will not be pre-established, but will be flexible and personalized. The type/amount of instruction necessary for students to master competencies will be individually determined.

-  Teachers were provided additional support for this implementation through 21st century coaches as well as additional software purchases to ease the transition.  Blackboard, a program utilized by many area colleges and universities, was purchased as a management tool for their technology-based instruction.  A new curriculum database was purchased to help teachers develop their curriculum as a living guide for their teaching.  Significant training was also provided by John Kuglin on technology integration. 

q      High Quality Professional Development. Professional development will be provided collaboratively and job-embedded by instructional coaches.
Instructional Coaches (TLCs)
•        For several years we have had 12 instructional coaches who have focused on the development of skills teachers will need to successfully teach 21st century learners. These instructional coaches work in each building “shoulder to shoulder “ with teachers to improve instruction in order to better meet the needs of students. Teachers have:
-  been asked to stretch their own beliefs and “certainties” about what students should learn, what and how they should teach and how and when students should be able to demonstrate this capability.
-  learned the importance of engaging and motivating diverse students and have gained strategies for doing so.
-  provided instruction that ensures students master a rigorous and relevant core curriculum.
-  learned to formatively (periodically) assess and sculpt learning, providing evidence that the student is developing the necessary understandings and skill proficiencies.
-  learned to implement personalized learning environments and strategies
-  learned to adapt content and instruction to allow students to work collaboratively.

21st Century Coaches
•     Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year we added three “21st Century Coaches” who were charged with enhancing the development of the 21st Century skills as well as supporting the implementation of the 1-to-1 Initiative. Five “tech savvy” teachers were pulled from classroom duties to fill this role.  They were each charged with supporting a cadre of 25 teachers with the implementation of a “textbookless” technology-based teaching model.  (See Appendix *** for the history of the development of “technology as an instructional tool” in the Joplin district)
They have:
-  Developed expertise in managing new kinds of classroom dynamics, supporting both individuals and teams of students working independently.
-  Learned to effectively and efficiently use technology to expand, organize and deepen expertise and to help apply knowledge and skills to new and more complex learning challenges.
-  Provided complex management (including monitoring, scheduling and pacing) that allows for personalization.

Teacher and Principal Evaluation
Joplin Schools current teacher and principal evaluation systems were updated for the 2010-2011 school year. In order to align with the new Missouri Educator Evaluation System, developed as articulated in the NCLB Waiver, it will be revised again and in place by the 2014-2015 school year This evaluation system will be based on the following set of assumptions:
•     When the evaluation system provides accurate, reliable data identifying growth opportunities in educator performance, then focused feedback and learning can be applied, which generates growth.
•     When focused feedback and learning address specific growth opportunities, then improved educator performance can be validated and replicated.
•     When improved educator performance is validated and replicated, then an aligned and effective system will produce improved student performance.
As required, the system will be based on the Missouri model and will align with the seven essential principles of effective evaluation (Missouri’s Educator Evaluation System, 2012). The essential principles are those particular research-based practices and components associated with effective evaluative processes. An evaluation process is effective if it helps to improve educator practice. The seven principles include:
•     Measuring performance based on research-based and proven practices
•     Using differentiated levels of performance
•     Highlighting the probationary period as a significant time of intensive support
•     Including measures of growth in student learning as evidence of performance
•     Providing regular, timely and meaningful feedback on performance
•     Including standardized and ongoing training for evaluators
•     Using evaluation results to inform employment decisions and policy

D. LEA Policy and Infrastructure
Practices, policies, and rules that facilitate personalized learning by—
(a) The central office structure is carefully organized to provide support and services to all schools principals, school leadership teams and central office meet frequently for the purpose of communication and implementation of programming. All staff development is based around these identified needs. The Board is committed to support these efforts.
(b) All school leadership teams (PLC’s) that have been functioning for many years. They work hand-in-hand with the school and central office leadership to ensue the effective implementation of school reform. They influence all decisions – including scheduling, staffing, resource usage roles and responsibilities and budgets (c) Giving students the opportunity to progress and earn credit based on demonstrated mastery, not the amount of time spent on a topic;
 (e) Providing learning resources and instructional practices that are adaptable and fully accessible to all students, including students with disabilities and English learners.

(D)(2) LEA and school infrastructure
As described elsewhere in this proposal the district supports personalized learning by—
(a), all participating students, parents, educators and other stakeholders have access to necessary content, tools, and other learning resources both in and out of school.
This is demonstrated by …
-     1to1 access for all students
-     wireless internet accessibility that is readily available     
(b) As outlined in other sections of this proposal, training and support is available for all students, parents, educators, and other stakeholders (through a range of strategies (e.g., peer support, online support, or local support)

As a result of this proposed project we will incorporate into the development of a powerful data management system the following components required by the project.
(a) Information technology systems that allow parents and students to export their information in an open data format and to use the data in other electronic learning systems (e.g., electronic tutors, tools that make recommendations for additional learning supports, or software that securely stores personal records); and
(e) We will develop interoperable data systems e.g., systems that include human resources data, student information data, budget data, and instructional improvement system data.

Data Management Plan
We must put in place an integrated data management system that will:
a)   facilitate data mining to ensure periodic formative assessment of student growth and success and help teachers and principals determine how they can improve instruction and outcomes … for individuals, schools and the district;
b)  provide both retrospective and predictive analytical capacity designed for program improvement, resource allocation and support for determining effectiveness;
c)   allow easily accessed, readily available visualizations (e.g. dash boards tied to desired outcomes, standards, etc.) and analysis of data for the purpose of communication with stakeholders and for district, community and national strategic planning;
d)   create a system that allow parents and students to export their information in an open data format and to use the data in other electronic learning systems (e.g., electronic tutors, tools that make recommendations for additional learning supports, or software that securely stores personal records); and
e)   ensure interoperable district data systems (e.g., systems that include human resources data, student information data, budget data, and instructional improvement system data). The system will provide easy (yet secure) access – as appropriate -- to teachers, administrators, parents and the community.

•     It is essential that we have in place a highly effective, integrated data management system that effectively and efficiently meets our needs.
•     Because we believe that timely, informed decision-making is the key to effective problem-solving and systemic improvement, it is essential that we have a data management system that is actually a tool and not just a repository of isolated historical data sets.

Long Term Goal By the end of the grant …
By the end of the grant period, 100% of school teams will report that the use of data for progress monitoring and decision-making has “improved’ or “significantly improved” building achievement for “all students” and for “subgroups”.

By the end of the grant, there will be a 25% increase (over baseline) in percentage of teachers who report “significant use” of data-based decision-making in personalizing learning for individual students.

By the end of the grant, quarterly Innovation Configuration data from all buildings will demonstrate progress on key implementation indicators.

Current Status
•     Currently we have been working to determine and teach our staff to use the data management capacity of our Student Information System – Infinite Campus (SIS). We can develop ad hoc reports and analyses and can look at building data longitudinally.

•     We are using the data dashboard system and have created readily accessible (on our website) “real time” data snap shots for targeted district outcomes

•     We have computerized standards-based diagnostic systems for communication arts and math (e.g. Acuity, AimsWeb, Read 180), but these systems are all separate and non-interactive.

•     We have created a behavior tracking system and a rudimentary “early warning system” (similar to the PBIS/SWIS system) within our SIS.

•     We have a Parent Portal that allows parents immediate access to certain information on their students.

•     We are creating, in collaboration with our area mental health system a “texting system” that will allow for immediate access and reporting capability for students struggling with social/emotional issues.

Activities for Meeting Objectives
•      We will develop capacity for our current Student Information System. We will collaborate with the producer to develop the capacity to integrate data across functions (student information, HR, food service, health, special education, etc).
•      We will analyze our current system, develop a plan which will allow for the acquisition (revision of current of purchase of new) system that will enable us to collect and use data on students from preschool through higher education (e.g., have the ability to track where a recent high school graduate attends college).
•      We will develop/find a system that will provide continuous feedback using formative quantitative (e.g. grades, test score, benchmark and progress monitoring indicators), qualitative (e.g. student self-assessment “benchmarks”, portfolio information, employability and internship “report cards”) and output data (student access of applications, log-in time, modules attempted/completed).
•      We will acquire interactive scheduling instructional management system that will allow for the analysis of data and then will “map” suggested “next steps” (e.g. suggest interventions, pair appropriate learning experiences with needs of individual and/or groups of students, schedule time, place, resources). This system will allow for the development and monitoring of personalized learning plans without the teacher time and paperwork currently required.
-     The system will track progress toward proficiency for individual students (e.g. establish when cred it earned, grades, etc.)
-     The system will act as a planning tool for students, teachers, parents and mentors to determine “next steps” toward goals.
-     Provide teachers and students with planning tools (e.g. support with calendaring, time management, resource identification)
-     As a transition tool, teachers and other educators will be able to immediately develop “snap shots” of students. (transferring into the district, demonstrating difficulty, etc.) They could, with appropriate compliance with FERPA, be shared with others district (as a student transfers out) and with other agencies that might be supporting the student/family.

(E) Continuous Improvement
(E) (1) Continuous Evaluation Process
This project was developed with the input of school and district administrators, teachers, university and college personnel and community and business leaders..  These individuals will be invited to serve on the Advisory Committee that will oversee the implementation of this grant. Parents and business partners will be recruited to participate on the Advisory Committee.  The Advisory Committee will meet on a regular basis to provide oversight and leadership to the project. Each building will provide input to the Advisory Committee.  In addition, all project staff will meet will meet monthly with Building Leadership Teams to discuss services and grant activities.  Project staff are active members of each school’s faculty and will collaborate in all PLC activities. They will actively solicit feed back which will be shared with project team staff and will be used for program improvement. The district will develop and, by the end of the grant , will be able to use their expanded data management system for decision-making.
            The Project Manager, with the Data Manager will establish an ongoing continuous evaluation process. To help ensure the evaluation is utilized, the evaluator will meet with the program administrators quarterly and with the advisory committee semi-annually to review the evaluation findings.  This will help stakeholders monitor progress toward outcomes of the Project, and to review process evaluation findings that identify success and gaps in the implementation process. The evaluator will help facilitate discussion and decision-making on improvements in program implementation and impact based on the data.  Other key evaluation components will include:
¨      The Project manager will facilitate an Advisory Committee discussion at the beginning of the grant. A critical outcome of this meeting is to help stakeholders identify program goals and objectives and develop important measures that will clarify program strengths and weaknesses periodically, and facilitate decision-making about changes that will improve the program.
¨      After this evaluator -facilitated Advisory Committee meeting, the evaluator will prepare a draft of a system-change model, then revise and refine it working with program administrators.  This will be the template for the final formative evaluation plan.
¨      The district data coordinator will work with the district database to provide data to building administration as well as program administrators at regular intervals as well as at their request.

The budget part of the Race to the Top request can be found at this link.