Thursday, July 27, 2006

Missouri news: Addressing education turmoil in St. Louis

Missouri Commissioner of Education Names Special
Advisory Committee on St. Louis Public Schools

Commissioner of Education D. Kent King on Thursday appointed five Missourians to a special committee that will help find solutions to the continuing turmoil in the St. Louis Public Schools. King announced the appointments during a meeting of the State Board of Education in Jefferson City.

Since the abrupt resignation of the school district's superintendent two weeks ago, King said there have been calls for various types of intervention by state education officials in the operations of the school district.

"Under current law, we can consider various levels of intervention in the school district. However, I would like to give the new administration and the school board some breathing room so they can stabilize the district and prepare for the opening of school on August 28.

"I am grateful to these five citizens for their willingness to help the State Board of Education and the St. Louis Public Schools through this difficult time," King said. The following individuals have agreed to serve on the committee:

  • Dr. William H. Danforth, Chancellor Emeritus
    Washington University, St. Louis

  • Mrs. Frankie M. Freeman, Attorney

  • Mr. Ned Lemkemeier, Attorney

  • Mr. Michael Middleton, Deputy Chancellor
    University of Missouri-Columbia

  • Dr. Donald Suggs, Publisher
    St. Louis American newspaper

Dr. Danforth and Mrs. Freeman will co-chair the committee. They currently serve as co-chairs of the St. Louis Community Monitoring and Support Task Force. Mr. Lemkemeier is a member of the task force. The task force was created by the federal court to oversee implementation of the January 1999 settlement agreement in the St. Louis desegregation case.

Commissioner King said he will ask the committee to gather information and make recommendations on the following topics:

Analyzing the district'’s academic performance and identifying steps the district must take to regain full accreditation.

  • Reviewing issues related to the desegregation settlement agreement, governance of the district, and the district'’s accreditation status.

  • Clarifying the financial condition of the school district.

  • Clarifying the primary concerns of parents and community residents about the governance and operations of the district.

  • Recommending potential changes in state law concerning the state'’s involvement with the school district.

  • "The district's accreditation status will be determined this fall by the State Board of Education, based largely on the academic performance of St. Louis students during 2005-06. I am not optimistic that we will see improved test scores this year," King said. The district is currently "provisionally accredited" under state standards.

    "In the meantime, I hope this committee will help reduce tensions in the St. Louis community and help all parties restore their focus on the common goal of providing a safe and positive learning environment for children.

    "We do not have a goal of taking over Missouri'’s largest school district. That is a drastic measure, and we would rather spend our energy on improving education for the students. The St. Louis board of education, however, must find a way to restore stable and effective leadership for the district. If it cannot do so, we will not hesitate to intervene on behalf of the students, parents and teachers," King said.

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    Source: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education


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    Parent involvment gets results



    Involved parents increase chances for student success

    All parents want their children to succeed in school. Research reveals that children whose parents are involved in their kids' education are more likely to succeed. But for many parents, it is hard to know how or when to start.

    Today's parents work long hours, extra jobs and must handle a host of other responsibilities. Resources such as Parent Information Resource Centers (PIRCs) offer assistance in many states. Many community centers also provide help. By all means, do not overlook your child's school, which can provide a wealth of information.

    Education starts at home. Kids spend most of their waking hours outside of school. Rose Jackson-Beavers, an author and director of parent services for the Parent Engagement and Empowerment Center in St. Louis, believes that even busy parents can take an active role in their child's education. According to Jackson-Beavers, the benefits of ongoing parent involvement are substantial.

    "A parent's opportunity to get involved in their child's education doesn't end the moment that child walks into the classroom," said Jackson-Beavers. "Studies show that children with involved parents have more positive learning experiences. This translates into better academic performance, higher grades and test scores. I know our parents can make this happen with a little help."

    Here are tips on how busy parents can work smart:

    - Send your child to school well-fed and rested.
    - Stay on top of homework.

    - Attend open house or back-to-school night at your child's school. It's the perfect time to meet your child's teacher. If you have to work, schedule a meeting with the teacher at another time.
    - Go to parent-teacher conferences.
    - Each day, ask your children what they are learning at school. Discuss it with them or have them explain it.

    - Set high expectations for your children. Encourage them to do their best.
    - Get involved in your school's parent-teacher organization, and find out other ways you can support your child's school.


    St. Louis parents offer their own advice on best practices. Kimberly Brandon is the mother of a middle school student. She also taught elementary school for 22 years in a suburban school district. Family friends notice that Brandon and her daughter, Margaret, always work together as a team. They even tackle homework at the hair salon!

    "I learned right away to be the best teacher you could be for your child at home," said Brandon. "Don't ever stop working with your child. Anytime my daughter has homework, I am involved in it." Brandon emphasizes that the effort comes with rewards. Margaret now carries a 4.0 grade point average.

    Another St. Louis mom, Leslie Smith, encourages parents to establish ongoing communication with their children. Kids will talk to me before they will talk to their mom or dad," Smith stated. "They are afraid to talk to their parents." Smith says it is important that parents listen to their kids.

    Debbie Crump has the experience of being a mother, a grandmother, and a foster mom. She says that when she was raising her own children, her job made it difficult for her to be active in school.

    Nevertheless, Crump emphasizes, "You definitely need to develop a relationship with the teacher. Let the teacher know that you really care about your child's education."
    Crump, who is proud of her adult kids, now raises two foster children.

    Bottom line: When parents are involved in their children's education, kids do better in school.

    Additional Resources:



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    Monday, July 10, 2006

    UK students to take "happiness lessons"

    Schools experiment with a new strategy
    to improve student performance and behavior


    "Happiness lessons" are being offered to students in the U.K., and American experts are being called in to help. In Britain, figures show that at least 10 per cent - three children in every average-sized class of 30 in the country - are experiencing symptoms of severe depression, including suicidal thoughts, prolonged bouts of despair and the urge to cry on a daily basis.

    Sources say that today, many children experience some form of mental illness as early as 14. Twenty-five years ago, the average age of people who fell ill to depression was 30. Details from The Independent (UK).


    Related: Why happiness lessons are the cure for those teenage ills


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    Tuesday, July 04, 2006