The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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October 17, 2012

Joplin School Board refines objective in strategic plan

JOPLIN, Mo. — Student achievement in Joplin public schools should be measured by standards specific to the school district, in addition to standards already in place at the state level, members of the Board of Education have decided.

The board during a work session Wednesday afternoon reapproved five broad objectives, referred to by district officials as Standards of Excellence, to be used as a guide in creating specific improvement strategies during a months-long planning and review procedure. The standards initially were approved last month after a somewhat contentious meeting and a split vote by board members.

The revised first standard now reads: “All areas of student achievement will be on target or exceed expectations in core academic areas.” It previously specified that student achievement would be measured by the Missouri School Improvement Program, a set of standards for public schools and school district accreditation from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Superintendent C.J. Huff said he is looking to measure student achievement based on district-specific standards above what is required by the state program.

“It’s not that we’re ignoring No Child Left Behind or MSIP 5,” he said. “It’s more about what’s going on in the classroom today to improve student achievement today. That’s what’s going to improve us.”

Board members said they liked the focus on student achievement but were unsure about using the state program as the measuring stick, given that its standards are frequently updated. The fifth cycle of the program, which was given preliminary approval last month by the State Board of Education, would go into effect within two years after its final approval.

“Things change so often, so I question if that should be our baseline,” board member Dawn Sticklen said. “What if there’s another program next year? Then we have to come back and repeat the whole process (of a long-term strategic plan).”

Said board member Jeff Flowers of the district setting its own standards: “I agree 100 percent. I’m all over that.”

Angie Besendorfer, assistant superintendent, said the updated standards from the state focus more heavily on the end results of student achievement, such as graduation rates and ACT scores. She said student achievement should be assessed by more factors than those.

“It ignores a whole lot of the educational process, and as we thought about it, we thought, ‘We can play this game, but it’s not what we’re about,’” she said.

The remaining four standards, unchanged after Wednesday’s unanimous vote of approval, are:

• Joplin schools will graduate civic-minded, high-quality citizens who are college- and career-ready.

• Joplin schools will become the employer of choice through the recruitment, development and retention of high-quality staff.

• Joplin schools will become the school district of choice in Southwest Missouri by demonstrating annual improvement in overall patron, parent and student satisfaction.

• Joplin schools will demonstrate financial stability and targeted allocation of taxpayer resources to support the board-approved Standards of Excellence.

Huff also outlined the procedure to be used to develop specific strategies that will support each standard. Departments in the district will first brainstorm strategies they need to achieve the standards, he said. An internal team will review suggestions before taking them to board members during a work session. The strategies also will go through a community-review procedure before a final draft will be presented to the board for approval, he said.

Huff said he hopes to have the strategic plan approved and in place by June.

“We need to be ready to roll by next school year,” he said.

Grant application

THE JOPLIN BOARD OF EDUCATION on Wednesday approved an application for a federal Economic Development Administration grant in the amount of $3 million to go toward equipment at Franklin Technology Center.

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