School districts honored

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Cassville R-IV School District has once again been recognized with a Distinction in Performance Award from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The district has received the prestigious award three times over the last four years.

"It is fantastic," said Superintendent Jim Orrell. "The work is done by the teachers and the students. Our people continue to do a good job each day.

"Part of the good thing about receiving the award this year is that we have our five-year state performance review coming up," said Orrell. "This will bode well on our MSIP (Missouri School Improvement Program) review."

DESE's Distinction in Performance Award is based on the 14 academic performance standards that are used in accreditation of all public school districts. These standards include Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test scores, ACT performance, graduation rates and other indicators.

"Our teachers and students know the challenge, and they continue to perform well every year," said Orrell. "They work hard and know how important it is for each of them to achieve their goals."

Over the last year, the R-IV School District focused on several programs to help improve student performance and achievement.

"Receiving the Distinction in Performance Award is a two-part honor," said Richard Asbill, Cassville special services director. "We scored well enough on our APR (annual performance report) to earn the honor, but we are also very excited about receiving those good scores on the APR.

"This is a kindergarten through 12th grade effort," said Asbill. "A lot of the APR points are based on achievements in the eighth through 12th grade levels, but those achievements rely on the entire process."

The R-IV School District is in its second year of implementing school improvement efforts in the kindergarten through fifth grades. These efforts include before and after school tutoring programs and expansion of professional development opportunities for primary and intermediate school teachers.

The district has also implemented the Response To Intervention (RTI) program, which provides new strategies to help improve student success.

"In the middle school we are offering similar things like professional development improvement efforts," said Asbill. "We are also focusing on curriculum and planning to offer better curriculum strategies to improve lessons."

Over four years ago, Cassville High School implemented Schools At Work. The program is a comprehensive instruction and learning system that offers learning and tutoring opportunities each school day.

"The intervention efforts are different in the different school levels, but they are designed to meet the needs of the students at that grade level," said Asbill.

"There are two keys to all of these efforts," said Asbill. "We have a faculty that works very hard and is willing to strive to get better, and the students at each building take a lot of pride in being successful. Those students are confident in their efforts to do better."

Two other Barry County school districts also achieved Distinction in Performance Awards this year. The Shell Knob School District received the honor for the fourth consecutive year, and the Wheaton R-III School District received its first Distinction in Performance honor this year.

Shell Knob School District

"It is indescribable how excited we are," said Shell Knob Superintendent Shelly Fransen. "We have such an outstanding staff here. The students also work very hard. They are good, well-behaved kids and that really plays a part in how they do on their annual tests."

The Shell Knob School District has maintained academic excellence by focusing on building communication arts and mathematics skills. Last year, the district introduced a MAP preparation book called "Buckle Down."

"Our teachers make sure that each student hits their grade level expectations," said Fransen. "We have worked very hard on writing also. So much of the MAP test is writing now."

The district also developed a system that allows fourth and fifth grade students to change classes for communication arts, mathematics, social studies and science classroom instruction.

"We have two teachers at each grade level who specialize in these areas," said Fransen. "Those teachers follow the students over a two-year period and have an opportunity to watch their skill level develop."

Last year, Shell Knob also implemented an after-school program that offers students extra tutoring in key areas. Around 70 students attend the program, which is called Charger Time.

"We have an outstanding board that supports our teaching staff and keeps our salaries competitive," said Fransen. "It really trickles down. We have an outstanding community and an outstanding staff, from our bus drivers and cooks to the custodians who keep our school in tip top condition. It takes pride from everyone."

Wheaton School District

Wheaton Superintendent Joe Layton also credits the district's community, school board and teaching staff with ensuring students achieve academic success.

"We are elated to receive this honor," said Layton. "I think this goes back to the past three or four years of hard work that our building principals and staff have put in. I am so proud of our staff and students for this accomplishment."

Wheaton Elementary School faculty members have concentrated on providing quality instruction in the classroom and monitoring student performance through assessment programs.

"We provide extra instruction to meet student needs," said Eileen Ford, elementary principal. "We have also implemented RTI, which allows us to monitor students who are not achieving at the grade level. Then, we can provide those students with extra learning time."

The focus on targetting student achievement in the classroom has been carried over to the district's junior and senior high school classes, including elective classes.

"We have made an effort to include communication arts and mathematics as a part of every class," said Lance Massey, junior and senior high school principal. "As a result, last year, we had exceptional math scores on the MAP test, and our com arts scores were greatly improved."

Wheaton High School has also added a new focus on ACT preparation, and new team building meetings have been implemented throughout the district to help teachers develop more rigorous curriculum and improved classroom instruction.

"It has been a collaboration with the teachers working with the administrators and each other to achieve success," said Ford. "We have received wonderful support from our board to retain the quality teachers we have and to hire new teachers who offer students a very high level of instruction."

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