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.

Video- Hundreds mourn murdered Massachusetts teacher

More than 400 of her students attended the funeral service for math teacher Colleen Ritzer, who was recently stabbed to death with a box cutter allegedly by one of her students.

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?