The Monett R-1 Board of Education heard reports on the Southwest Area Career Center and changes in standards that will impact the local district.
Career Center Director Brad Hanson saw several strengths in the vocational training program. The number of students per teacher is very manageable. Second-year students can mentor first-year students. The faculty is made up of industry-trained instructors who have chosen the education field. Life skill applications in the program enhance student confidence, and there is strong community support.
Hanson wanted to see definitive start and finish times set for classes. He saw a need for two levels of curriculum to include dual-credit and regular career and technical opportunities. Offering embedded credits would also enable students to more easily meet graduation requirements. Students taking classes needed to commit three or four hours to attend career classes.
A consistent struggle still exists with the traditional "vo-tech" image, Hanson said. He also saw a need to expand services for students with disabilities.
Goals for the Career Center include having more than 67 percent of students achieving mastery on the Technical Skills Attainment exams. Increasing the graduation rate to 95 percent by May 2013 and completing accreditation are two other goals. Hanson noted the North Central accreditation review would take place April 5 to April 7.
Improving communications with stakeholders has led to a number of steps taken this year. Hanson said the first parent orientation night was held in August and should become an annual event. Over 200 people attended and met with individual teachers.
A parent showcase evening was held for potential sophomore parents on March 1. This event was attended by 60 parents. The advisory committee involving community and industry members was held in October and will be held again on April 5.
State standards changing
Assistant Superintendent Julie Germann updated board members on new preliminary standards posted for the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) level five. Germann said the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will push for expanded testing in an effort to make Missouri one of the top 10 performing states by 2020.
DESE appears to be prepared to credit districts for the growth in performance by individual students over time, rather than solely counting those who score in the top tiers of standardized exams. Germann expected more subgroup testing and several more end-of-course exams at the high school.
Germann said the state does not have funds to pay for the testing done now. Changing the standard may push more costs onto the district and create more opportunities for failure.
Monett still has some American Economic Recovery Act (AERA) funds left to spend. Jungmann reported he had purchased additional projectors and SmartBoards for Monett Elementary, as planned. In addition, he has ordered 160 iPad2 devices for kindergarten through fourth grades. If split up, each classroom will have four devices.
"It's really important to increase the degree of technology integration for kids who grow up in the age of digital devices," Jungmann said. "It's undoubtedly the way we will learn in the future."
Plans were reviewed to send a team of administrators, the technology director and an instruction specialist to Chicago to go to the Apple Computers central headquarters. The team will study the program where students are assigned to a single computer, instead of sharing machines from class to class.
"There is a lot of potential to change the learning environment, especially using digital textbooks," Jungmann said. "If there is a one-stop shop, there are potential efficiency gains. We'll study to see if and when we should consider making a change."