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  • These Tips Will Make Public School Enrollment a Piece of Cake


    Summer is a time of transition for many families, and it can be a time of anticipation for students and parents who will start a new school in the fall. Luckily, Missouri Parent has done the legwork. These tips will make public school enrollment a piece of cake for your family!

    Tip #1: Find Your Child’s School
    If you’re new to Missouri public schools, or if you’re trying to find your child’s school in a new community following a family move, the Missouri School Directory online is a huge help! It allows you to search for schools by district, county, or legislative district.

    Learn More: Finding Your Child’s School

    Tip #2: Gather the Right Documentation
    It’ll save you time and stress if you show up to your child’s school enrollment appointment with the correct documentation on-hand.

    This post explains the identification, medical, academic, and behavioral records you should bring when you enroll your child in school. Be prepared, though, that your child’s school may also ask you to complete additional documentation like technology assessments or language questionnaires.

    Tip #3: Ensure Your Child’s Immunizations are Up to Date
    Missouri public schools have published a recommended immunization schedule based on the suggestions of leading disease, pediatric, and family organizations across the country. Learn more about the vaccines that public schools students are required to receive in this post.

    Tip #4: Meet the Teacher & Attend the Open House
    Most Missouri schools offer the chance for parents and students to meet the teacher and the principal before school starts. If you’re new to the district, this is a great way to begin building relationships with the adults your child will interact with daily at school. Open houses are also a great way to get your child comfortable with his or her new school building, classroom, and teachers.

    Learn More: Making the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

    Tip #5: Don’t Let In-State Transfers Intimidate You!
    We know that a mid-year school transfer can be stressful for you and your family, so we wrote this post explaining the basic in-state transfer process for you. Luckily, Missouri has streamlined in-state transfers to make them easier for families like yours.

    Summer is a time of transition for many families, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be a time when parents and kids feel overwhelmed by the stress of school enrollment or transfer. We hope that these five tips help make your child’s school enrollment a piece of cake this fall!

    Missouri Parent is a free service for all Missouri parents and others with an interest in public education. Part of goal at Missouri Parent is to provide information that will help you help your child succeed in Missouri public schools. Bookmark Missouri Parent News and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates related to your child’s Missouri public school education!

  • 5 Things to Know About No Child Left Behind


    No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is one of the most important pieces of education legislation in America, which is why Missouri Parent created a multi-part series of posts explaining what NCLB is, how it came to be, and what it means to Missouri students.

    If you don’t have time to read all of our posts about the policy, here are five things to know about No Child Left Behind:

    1) NCLB began in 1965 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to help close the education gap between rich and poor Americans.

    2) Schools Must Follow NCLB to receive federal funding, even though NCLB isn’t technically mandated to the U.S. government. (Learn more)

    3) NCLB requires public schools to alert parents if a child’s core academic instructors are not considered “highly qualified” by their state’s teacher qualification standards.

    3) NCLB calls for state-level standardized testing, Adequate Year Progress reports, and annual report cards to be implemented across the country.

    5) The federal education budget has more than tripled since Congress passed NCLB in 2001.

    To learn more about No Child Left Behind, check out these Missouri Parent posts:

    What Our Nation’s No Child Left Behind Policy Is
    What the No Child Left Behind Policy Means to Our Students
    How Our Nation’s No Child Left Behind Policy Came to Be: A History

    Missouri Parent exists to help keep you, the parent of a Missouri public school student, in-the-know about legislative and funding decisions that affect your child’s K-12 education. To receive regular public school education updates, bookmark Missouri Parent News and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • What Does the Missouri Board of Education Do?


    The Missouri State Board of Education supervises instruction in the state’s public schools from preschool through higher education and adult education. The Board, which was established by Article IX, Section 2a of the Missouri Constitution, has many responsibilities.

    Its role includes, but is not limited to:

    · Appointing the State Commissioner of Education
    · Setting the policies for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)
    · Defining academic performance standards and assessments.
    · Accrediting local school districts through the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP).
    · Operating Missouri State Schools, and
    · Submitting budget recommendations for education to the Missouri Legislature.

    All of the Board of Education’s duties are critical ones for Missouri’s public schools. Accreditation, performance standards, and budgets are some of the biggest categories of educational responsibility in the State of Missouri.

    So when board members’ decisions affect our students, schools, and districts so universally, it’s important to understand more about the Board. How are Board members appointed? How long do they serve? What kinds of credentials do they need to have?

    Who Sits on the Missouri Board of Education?

    There are eight members of the Missouri Board of Education, each of whom serves an eight-year term. The Governor appoints the board’s members, and the State Senate confirms them. The members’ terms are staggered so that only one member’s term expires each year.

    Members must represent more than one political party; no more than four members can belong to the same party. Additionally, each member of the board must come from a different county or congressional district to ensure that a broad range of geographic perspectives is considered in decision-making.

    Board members have a range of professional backgrounds ranging from education to business to politics, and many have served on local school boards for years — or even decades — before being appointed to the State Board of Education.

    You can read more about the Missouri State Board of Education on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Website. You can also find Board meeting agendas and minutes, a Board meeting schedule, and information about Missouri’s Commissioner of Education.

    Missouri Parent is here to help you navigate the intersection of education, policy and parenting. Bookmark Missouri Parent News or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for daily update on legislative and funding issues facing Missouri’s K-12 public schools.

  • Child Development in the First Five Years Part 2: The Importance of Rest

    This post is Part 2 in a four-part series on how rest, nutrition, and a healthy home life help babies, toddlers, and preschoolers grow into healthy, successful kindergarten students. You can read the first post here.

    Research shows that rest plays a big role in a child’s mental, emotional, and physical development. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says that sleep improves learning, helps children pay attention, and aids in creative thinking.

    Children who don’t get enough rest, according to the NHLBI, may have trouble getting along with others, and might struggle to stay awake and pay attention in school. (Source)

    When children live in lower socioeconomic environments, these problems are compounded. The American Psychological Association (APA) says that children living in lower socioeconomic conditions suffer more from lost sleep than kids do who live in middle-class or upper-class homes:

    “Social class moderated the link between children’s sleep and cognitive functioning on standardized ability tests. Children of middle and lower class had similar performance when sleep was optimal, but when sleep was poor, lower SES children’s cognitive performance suffered.” (Source)

    It’s not surprising that poor sleep affects a child’s alertness the next day. It’s more surprising to learn that research shows a correlation between poor sleep patterns now and a child’s academic performance two years later. Children who sleep in early childhood are more likely to be successful when they start school years later.

    Parents Can Help Young Children to Sleep Well

    A number of factors contribute to poor sleep in young children. Some of those factors, like minimizing cigarette smoke in the home, are relatively easy for parents to control. Factors like reducing family conflict, however, might be more difficult to address.

    The APA recommends that parents pay attention to the physical environment a child sleeps in, as well as to the psychological environment around them. Physical things like a comfortable bed affect sleep, but it’s also affected by more complex factors like family conflict:

    “Clean, comfortable bedding, adequate heating and cooling, and reduction of airborne toxins (e.g. tobacco smoke; allergens) all facilitate good sleep. In the psychosocial realm, parental management of bedtimes, monitoring of caffeine, restricting media use, noise abatement and reducing precipitators of anxiety (e.g. family conflict), are all ways to improve sleep.” (Source)

    Getting a good night’s rest is critical for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to grow into healthy kindergarteners who are mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to start school.

    Rest isn’t the only critical ingredient to good health during the first five years. In our next post, we’ll take a look at the importance of nutrition. Come back for the next post in this four-part series on early childhood development.

    If you found this post helpful, we encourage you to bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog and to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

    Learn More:
    Child Development in the First Five Years
    Now for Later: A Campaign for Early Childhood Education in Missouri
    Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten in Missouri
    Missouri Updates to 10 by 20
    Tax Breaks Don’t Benefit Students

  • Read MOre, Missouri! Helps Prevent Summer Slide


    “Read MOre, Missouri!” is a statewide summer reading challenge to prevent summer slide — a loss of learning that many students experience while they are out of school for the summer. The program is designed to help your son or daughter keep reading skills sharp between school years.

    Reading through the summer minimizes reading-specific summer slide, and Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven says, “Kids who read during the summer are much more likely to retain the skills they gained during the school year.”

    Summer slide is a layman’s term for the academic regression kids have during the summer months when they aren’t in school. Teachers often have to spend several weeks of the new school year reviewing information from the previous grade level before they can begin teaching the current year’s coursework.

    Here’s what the loss looks like in reading for kindergarteners through fourth graders:


    To help prevent summer slide, every school district in Missouri is encouraged to take part in Read MOre, Missouri. Here’s what you should know before your child comes home talking about the challenge:

    · Experts say that reading just six books during the summer can help keep kids from having to play catch-up in the fall.
    · The program uses The Lexile® Framework for Reading to help you pick books out for your kids that match their reading levels.
    · The Read MOre, Missouri website helps you search more than 200,000 books so that you can find the ones that are written at your child’s Lexile® level and are about subjects your child enjoys.
    · The site sorts books by more than 28 categories, including everything from humor & games to sports to animals — and more.
    · Once you build your child’s reading list, you can download it or print it. You can take the list with you to the local library or a bookstore to find your child’s books.
    · Your local library offers print editions as well as digital books for your child to read on the Kindle or tablet.
    · Any reading is better than no reading, so encourage your child to read magazines, news stories, or even recipes in addition to the books on their summer reading list.

    Read MOre, Missouri is a program of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). You can read the DESE press release here, and you can learn more about the Lexile® Measure Framework for reading in this post.

    Learn more about how to help your child succeed in his or her Missouri public school education by bookmarking Missouri Parent News and by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • What Should I Know About The Lexile® Framework for Reading?


    You’ve probably heard of Lexile® measures, but do you know why they matter? They’re not just another little trend in public education; they’re an important tool that parents and educators across the country can use to help kids improve reading skills.

    What is a Lexile® Measure?

    The Lexile® Framework is a standard that helps connect readers with texts. Students are assigned a numeric Lexile® measure that functions like a reading score. That number could be in the low 200s for new readers, or it could exceed 1600 for advanced readers. The higher the Lexile® measure, the more advanced the reader. The lower the score, the newer the reader.

    The same scores apply to texts. Books, articles, and websites get Lexile® measures based on the same scale that readers do, helping parents choose books and other reading materials that match their child’s reading comprehension. More than 100 million articles and websites and more than 150,000 books have been assigned a Lexile® measure.

    According to the Lexile® website, for instance, the first Harry Potter book was an 880 Lexile® book. Emerging readers with a 220 Lexile® measure probably not be able to read or understand Harry Potter, but readers with a Lexile® measure range of 780 to 910 can probably read and comprehend the book’s writing without frustration.

    Lexile® Measures Aren’t Based on Grade Level

    Once upon a time, a child’s reading level was based on how other students in the same grade level performed at the same time, on the same test. That meant that the same student’s score would be higher if the rest of the class performed below average.

    It also meant that a student could be identified as reading “below grade level” if he or she happened to be grouped with exceptional readers on test day. Basically, it meant that a child’s reading level was measured on a curve.

    By contrast, a child’s Lexile® measure isn’t based on how other kids in the same grade level did on that year’s test — it’s based on how well a child reads on a Lexile® scale that never changes. This takes pressure off of kids and parents, both, because it allows you to work on improving your child’s reading skills without comparing your child to other kids.

    Why Should I Care About Lexile® Measures?

    Lexile® measures are an international standard that puts the reader and the text on the same developmental scale. Students in more than 180 countries and in all 50 U.S. States use the Lexile® Measure Framework, making the system relatively ubiquitous in libraries, bookstores, and even magazines, news publications, and websites.

    Because the measure is so widespread, you can use it to help find reading materials that will keep your child challenged and happy learning to read. The days of guessing whether a book or news article is the right difficulty for your child are long gone. Now you just need to know your child’s — and the text’s — Lexile® measure, and you’re good to go.

    If you aren’t sure what your child’s Lexile® measure is, talk to his or her teacher or visit the Lexile® Framework for Reading website to learn more.

    Missouri Parent is here to educate you, Missouri’s public school parents, about legislation, funding, and policy issues that affect your child’s education. We’re also here to help provide information that will support you as you guide your child through his or her public school years in preparation for college or career.

    You can learn more about education in Missouri by bookmarking Missouri Parent News, and you can connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for daily education updates from around the state.

  • Free and Appropriate Public Education: What Does It Mean?


    There are hundreds, if not thousands, of acronyms floating around the education world. One of those acronyms is more important than others, though, especially for families whose children fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, or IDEA. That acronym is FAPE, and it stands for Free and Appropriate Public Education.

    A free and appropriate public education (FAPE) is an education that is paid for by the public — not by individual families. It’s designed to meet the child’s unique needs as stated in his or her IEP. A FAPE is available as part of the normal public education system in each community. It also prepares the child for whatever is appropriate for them; the next level of education, job, and life as an adult.

    Every child in the state of Missouri who qualifies for IDEA also qualifies for FAPE. It doesn’t matter how small the child’s school or how limited the district’ resources, it’s still the school’s legal requirement to provide a free, adequate education to every child.

    FAPE doesn’t mean that students under IDEA get a better education that kids who don’t qualify for IDEA. It means that the law requires schools to provide an equal education to disabled students as it does to other students. Missouri public schools must prepare disabled students for college, employment, and adult living just like they prepares every other Missouri public school student.

    A common misperception about IDEA and FAPE is that a FAPE entitles disabled students to everything related to their education absolutely free. In reality, students who qualify under IDEA still have to pay for the same supplies, extracurricular costs, club memberships, and all of the other incidental educational expenses that every other child in public schools has to pay.

    Do you think you’ve got your mind wrapped around the concept of a free and adequate public education for Missouri’s disabled students? Take this quiz to test your knowledge.

    Learn more about K-12 public school education in Missouri by connecting with Missouri Parent on Facebook on Twitter, where we share daily updates on all things education. Be sure to bookmark Missouri Parent News — a single destination for news about schools and education issues across the state.

  • What Is an Individualized Education Plan?


    The federal government requires that all students who qualify under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) have a written plan for success that teachers, parents, and other service providers follow. That plan, called an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, defines the student’s unique learning objectives, and it explains any special services the child might need to succeed in school.

    Not all students who have an IEP fall under IDEA, however. In many cases, IEPs are created for student who have special academic or medical needs, but who don’t have a disability. A child with a medical condition or who isn’t performing at grade level might have an IEP, just a child would who has a disability.

    What’s the Purpose of an IEP?

    An IEP is designed to help children with disabilities and other special needs to attain their unique educational goals. The IEP’s purpose is to support student achievement and well-being. The IEP doesn’t just exist for the student’s benefit, though. The IEP also exists to help teachers and service providers to understand and adapt to the student’s disability or special needs.

    Parents play an important role in developing their child’s IEPs. They’re involved in creating the IEP, and they give final signoff on the IEP. According to the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri, parents should remain active in their child’s IEP from creation through implementation:

    “The principal is ultimately responsible to ensure that the IEP is being implemented. Parent are encouraged to work with teachers to ensure that children’s needs are being met both at home and at school.” (Source)

    The Children’s Education Alliance offers a free, extremely helpful, 20-page downloadable PDF called, “What Every Parent Needs to Know About Individualized Education Plans.” The document details exactly what Missouri public school parents should expect their child’s IEP to contain, suggestions on how to be prepared and involved in the IEP process, and more.

    Learn more about Missouri’s K-12 public schools by connecting with Missouri Parent on Facebook, on Twitter, where we share daily updates on all things education. And be sure to bookmark Missouri Parent News — a single destination for news about schools and education issues across the state.

  • Preparing Your Child for Middle School in Missouri


    The transition from elementary school to middle school is one of the most significant transitions of his or her years in Missouri’s public school classrooms. We know that you want to see your child succeed at every level of public school education. That’s why Missouri Parent is here today with a few tips on helping your son or daughter successfully make the middle school transition.

    Talk About It
    Most kids will feel a combination of excitement and nervousness when it’s time to start middle school. Take a little extra time to bond with your son or daughter during his or her last year of elementary school and into that first year of junior high.

    By building in a little extra time, you’re there to offer insights and encouragement — or just a listening ear — when your child has questions or needs to talk about his or her fears.

    Do you have a preschool child? Click here to learn more about preparing your child for kindergarten in Missouri.

    Go To Open House
    Nearly every middle school and junior high school in Missouri offers some sort of open house event for students and parents. The open house usually occurs before the school year begins. The open house is a great way not only to meet your child’s new teachers but to familiarize yourself and your child with the lay of the land in his or her new school.

    Take the time to walk from one classroom to the next with your child, in the order that his or her classes will take place. Find your son or daughter’s locker, figure out where the closest restrooms are, and make sure he or she knows where you (or the school bus) will do school drop-offs and pick-ups before and after school.

    Get Organized
    For many students, middle school is the first time they’ll move between classes each hour of the day. Make sure your child has more than one copy of his or her schedule handy. That way, your child has a little reinforcement until the new schedule is fully memorized.

    Work together with your son or daughter to organize notebooks, folders, or binders for the new school year. If your child has a place for his or her homework assignments and other classroom materials to go, it’ll minimize the risk of lost of forgotten assignments.

    Scholastic offers some helpful tips on organization for middle schoolers here.

    Cool Clothes & Dress Codes
    Tweens may be excited to express themselves in new ways at the start of middle school. The transition from elementary school to junior high can even present an opportunity for your child to reinvent himself or herself between school years.

    Before heading out to find your child’s new back to school look, however, be sure you’re familiar with the school’s dress code. You don’t want to spend money on clothes your child can’t wear, and sending your son or daughter to school in clothes the school doesn’t allow could cause embarrassment — or even expulsion!

    Depending on how old your child is the year that middle school begins, you might need to make an appointment for a few new immunizations. At between 11 and 12 years old, the State of Missouri recommends that children receive vaccinations for Meningococcal Conjugate (MCV), Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and Influenza.

    Read more about Missouri’s immunization recommendations for children from birth to 18 years old.

    Do you have tips for other Missouri parents whose students will start middle school this year? Leave a comment here, or chat with us on the Missouri Parent Facebook Page.

    Be sure to bookmark Missouri Parent News, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates on parenting, funding, and education legislation in the State of Missouri

  • Child Development in the First Five Years Part 4: A Healthy Home Life

    This the final post in a four-part series on how rest, nutrition, and a healthy home life help babies, toddlers, and preschoolers grow into healthy, successful kindergarten students. You can the additional posts in the series here, followed by this post on the importance of proper rest.

    In the first part of this series on child development in the first five years, we featured a video created by The Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago, Illinois. A child’s voice narrates the video, saying that he’s one of the “thousands of little miracles born into poverty each day”.

    Later in the video, the child narrators take turns saying, “I’m twice as likely to be in special education. I’m 30 percent more likely to never go to college. I’m 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.”

    These are some of the realities for children who are at-risk at home. Learning begins before children start school, so kids who are born into unsafe or unhealthy homes begin life at a disadvantage that can follow them into adulthood. Studies have shown that children are more successful in school—and later in life—when they eat well, get proper rest, and have a safe and emotionally supportive home life in the first five years.

    According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF),

    “...Babies learn rapidly from the moment of their birth.They grow and learn the most when they receive affection, attention and stimulation in addition to good nutrition and proper health care. Investments in early child development through early learning activities and improved school readiness along with health and nutrition interventions increases the likelihood that boys and girls will complete primary school.” (source)

    The circumstances surrounding an at-risk child’s home life can be complex, including abuse and neglect, homelessness, and poor (or no) childcare while parents are at work. These aren’t simple problems to fix, and many families might feel truly discouraged by their situations.

    Missouri Parent encourages parents and other caregivers to create the safest and most supportive home life possible. Even small changes can make a big difference for young children. Here are a few small ways you can help your baby, toddler, or preschool succeed:

    · Read a bedtime story together each night.
    · Eat breakfast together in the morning.
    · Provide a comfortable sleeping environment for your child.
    · Set regular bed times and wake-up times for your child each day.

    If your family’s needs are more than you can meet, there are programs and resources out there that can help you take care of your child. Here is a list of state agencies and programs that help families with winter heating costs, child abuse and neglect, and other home life challenges:
    · Be an advocate for your child: if your home situation is unsafe, get help.
    · Is your home cold this winter? See if you qualify for the Missouri Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) or the Missouri Weatherization Assistance Program.
    · Is your baby sleeping in an unsafe bed? The Safe Crib Project from the Children’s Trust Fund of Missouri might be able to help you.
    · Early Head Start helps provide safe and developmentally enriching caregiving for infants and toddlers under the age of 3.

    In previous posts, we’ve talked about the importance of rest and nutrition in early childhood development. Each of those posts includes links to state and federal programs to help point you in the right direction to help your family or a family you know who has children under the age of five in Missouri.

    We hope that you’ll continue to use the Missouri Parent Blog as a resource for information about early childhood education, policies and funding issues in Missouri. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Child Development in the First Five Years Part 3: Proper Nutrition is Key

    This post is Part 3 in a four-part series on how rest, nutrition, and a healthy home life help babies, toddlers, and preschoolers grow into healthy, successful kindergarten students.

    Read the first post in the series here.

    Proper rest, good nutrition, and a safe and supportive home life each have a direct impact on a young child’s readiness for and success in school. Nourishment is critical for child development from birth to age five, and many state and federal organizations exist to ensure that all children have access to the nutritional resources they need.

    Good Nutrition in the First Five Years
    The first five years of life are crucial for a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Proper nourishment begins during pregnancy, and it continues throughout childhood.

    A child’s exact nutritional needs change over time, but because a child’s brain develops so rapidly in the first few years, it’s vital that children get enough protein and other nutrients. The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families says that:

    “Brain development is most sensitive to a baby's nutrition between mid-gestation and two years of age. Children who are malnourished--not just fussy eaters but truly deprived of adequate calories and protein in their diet--throughout this period do not adequately grow, either physically or mentally.”– (Source)

    Adequate physical and mental growth in the early years directly affects a child’s likelihood of success from kindergarten through high school graduation and beyond. The No Kid Hungry campaign says, “Poor early childhood nutrition can negatively impact a child’s physical and emotional development in both the short- and long-term and limit adult achievement and productivity.” (Source)

    It’s amazing that adult achievement is influenced by something as far removed as basic nourishment in infancy. The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, however, says that malnourished infants suffer long-lasting issues ranging from cognitive deficits to slower language and motor skills development. Malnourished infants often have lower IQs and poorer school performance than their well-nourished peers. (Source)

    Though a newborn’s needs are different from those of a four-year-old, access to nourishing foods is critical in the years when the brain is developing the most rapidly. Unfortunately, not all babies and young children have access to well-rounded, nourishing meals at home. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), children in approximately one in six households are at risk of going hungry.

    Kids raised in poverty are at a clear nutritional disadvantage that extends to kindergarten preparedness and success all through school. Thankfully, a number of state and federal resources exist to help level the playing field for young children whose caregivers struggle to put food healthy on the family table.

    Early Childhood Nutritional Resources Families in Need
    Childhood nutrition and brain development begin during pregnancy. One of the country’s leading resources for pregnant women and young children is the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program.

    Pregnant women and new parents in Missouri can get breastfeeding support, free supplemental food, nutritional counseling, and health services through the Missouri WIC program. The Missouri Head Start program also helps by providing health and nutrition screenings for young children.

    Learn More: You can read more about early childhood health screenings in this post.

    Federal Home Visiting Programs, like those run by Parents as Teachers, provide high needs families and at-risk families with direct, at-home support and access to parent education. Outside the home, the Special Milk Program provides milk to kids at school and in childcare centers and camps.

    Do you know a baby, toddler or preschooler who might not be getting enough to eat at home? Please share this post with them or help put them in touch with one of the government organizations we’ve highlighted here.

    Proper nourishment from pregnancy through age five can help prepare at-risk children for success in kindergarten and beyond. If you know a family who’s having trouble providing nutritious meals to their young child or a pregnant mother who needs help affording healthy foods, reach out. You might be able to help connect them to the resources they need.

    Continue to learn more about early childhood education by bookmarking the Missouri Parent Blog. We’ll update you on legislation and funding issues affecting Missouri’s youngest learners, as well as those affecting Missouri K-12 public school students.

  • Missouri Promise


    Good grades and community service could mean free tuition for Missouri college and university students if the Missouri Promise plan continues to gain traction. The plan, which would pay tuition and fees for tens of thousands of Missouri college and university students, is rapidly gaining momentum.

    Many of Missouri’s two-year colleges have already shown support for Missouri Promise, and its four-year colleges and universities are preparing to make their support for the plan public. Supporters hope to see the plan added to the November 2016 ballot as a state amendment.

    Proponents believe that the plan will encourage Missouri’s best students to attend college in state, and to remain in state after graduation. Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel said that, “Missouri Promise is based on the notion that the most powerful thing we can do as a state is invest in our future.” (Source)

    According to, Missouri loses a large percentage of its best-performing high school students to out-of-state schools. Even worse, many of those students don’t attend college at all. Only 60% of high school students who earned a GPA of 3.0 or higher attended college or a university in Missouri, they said.

    The Missouri Promise plan would encourage high school students to attend school in state by paying their tuition and fees for state colleges and universities. To qualify, students would need to earn a 3.0 GPA in high school, perform community service, and maintain a 3.0 GPA in college.

    “Missouri Promise is about creating a culture of expectations, one that includes an element of responsibility for both parents and students. It empowers students early on to work hard, get good grades and demonstrate good citizenship. When we encourage meaningful investment in families, we also make a promise to Missouri employers that we will have a ready supply of high-quality human capital available to compete in the global workforce.” (Source)

    Missouri Promise has the potential to be an excellent opportunity for Missouri residents who might not otherwise be able to afford college tuition. We’d love to hear from you: would Missouri Promise help your child to pursue higher education? Leave a comment here or on the Missouri Parent Facebook Page today.

    Connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook or Twitter, and be sure to bookmark Missouri Parent News!

  • What are Missouri State Schools?


    What are state schools, and how are they different from local public schools? That’s what we’ll talk about today on the Missouri Parent Blog.

    The public schools that most of us are most familiar with are traditional public schools administered at the local level through a local education authority, or LEA. LEAs are more commonly simply called school districts.

    State schools, on the other hand, serve children with severe disabilities. Mid-Missouri’s Public Radio station, KBIA explains:

    “In Missouri, the state schools aren’t integrated into local public school systems. They are separate, regional schools that serve only students with severe mental and physical disabilities.”

    These schools are administered by the State of Missouri through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Division of Learning Services’ Office of Special Education.

    According to DESE, there are three State Board of Education Operated Programs: School for the Deaf, School for the Blind, and the Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled. Each of these is considered to be a state school system. (Source)

    Who Administers Missouri State Schools?

    A. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)
    B. Division of Learning Services
    C. Office of Special Education
    c. Missouri State Schools
    School for the Deaf
    School for the Blind
    the Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled

    Funding for state schools comes from federal and state moneys. In some cases, local districts are also required to contribute toward the cost of a child’s education who attends a state school but is a resident of the local district.

    If you’d like to learn more about Missouri’s three state-administered school districts, we recommend the following posts:

    The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
    Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD)
    The Missouri School for the Blind (MSB)
    The Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled (MSSD)

    To continue learning about Missouri public schools, bookmark Missouri Parent News. For daily updates, connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.

  • The Missouri School for the Blind


    Missouri School for the Blind is a state-run residential school in St. Louis where legally blind students from birth to 21 years old have received a free, quality, public education since 1851.

    The mission of MSB is to provide individualized instruction, resources, and educational services ensuring that students with visual impairments achieve the academic, social, employment, and life skills empowering them to enjoy full productive lives.

    MSB achieves its mission through two primary programs areas. First, MSB has a residential K-12 school in St. Louis. Second, it offers outreach services throughout the state. MSB is a statewide resource for families and educators on blindness and/or deafblindness. (Source)

    MSB’s residential program provides students with an array of athletics and clubs, and the school is fully accredited by the North Central Association of Schools for the Blind (NCASB).

    Its outreach services support families, provide parent education, and publish listings of vision education and mobility service providers. Outreach also includes a media library and professional development opportunities.

    About Missouri State Schools

    MSB is one of three school systems in Missouri that is administered by the State Board of Education, rafter than by a local school district. Students attend MSB at no cost to their families or their local school districts.

    The other two systems are the Missouri School for the Deaf and the Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled.

    If you’d like to learn more about Missouri’s three state-administered school districts, we recommend the following posts:

    The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
    What are Missouri State Schools?
    Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD)
    The Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled (MSSD)

    To continue learning about Missouri public schools, bookmark Missouri Parent News. For daily updates, connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Missouri School for the Deaf


    The Missouri School for the Deaf is a state school for students with hearing disabilities. MSD, which is located in Fulton, offers a comprehensive K-12 education with accredited academics and vocational training, as well as a wide array of extracurricular activities, sports, and residential life activities.

    Although most of MSD’s students are residential, many families of deaf children relocate to Fulton so that their children can attend MSD as day students while living at home. Children can go home as often as they’d like; students who live nearby can go home each night, but students who live further away might only go home on the weekends.

    As a state school, MSD is free for students to attend; the state pays for room, board, tuition, laundry, books, and other education and residential services. A deaf student’s access to a quality education is never inhibited by his or her parents’ ability to pay for it.

    According to MSD’s website, MSD students graduate “prepared for the world of work and for post-secondary education opportunities.” MSD calls its graduates, “self-supporting men and women who live and work in all parts of the state and throughout the nation.”

    MSD doesn’t just educate students. The Resource Center on Deafness at MSD is the state’s “official source of programs, services, information, and resources supporting the educational needs of deaf and hard of hearing children.” (Source)

    The Resource Center helps deaf and hard of hearing children, their parents, and their schools from birth until high school graduation.

    The Missouri Legislature established the Missouri School for the Deaf in 1851. Located on an almost 90-acre campus in Fulton, Missouri, MSD is the oldest residential deaf school west of the Mississippi River.

    About Missouri State Schools

    MSD is one of three school systems in Missouri that is administered by the State Board of Education, rafter than by a local school district. The other two systems are the Missouri School for the Blind and the Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled.

    If you’d like to learn more about these three Missouri’s state-administered school districts, we recommend the following posts:

    The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
    What are Missouri State Schools?
    The Missouri School for the Blind (MSB)
    The Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled (MSSD)

    To continue learning about Missouri public schools, bookmark Missouri Parent News. For daily updates, connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)


    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is America’s federal law governing special education. It requires public schools to provide disabled students with a free education that’s specially designed to meet their needs.

    To better understand IDEA, it helps to understand what kinds of disabilities qualify a student for IDEA support.

    According to IDEA, a child with a disability is a child who has:
    · an intellectual disability
    · a hearing impairment
    · a speech or language impairment
    · a visual impairment
    · a serious emotional disturbance
    · an orthopedic impairment
    · autism
    · a traumatic brain injury
    · other health impairment
    · a specific learning disability
    · deaf-blindness
    · multiple disabilities

    Before a student is qualified for IDEA, he or she must be evaluated according to §§300.304 through 300.3. If the evaluation reveals that the child needs special education, then her or she qualifies for IDEA as a disabled student. However, sometimes a student’s evaluation reveals that while he or she needs related services, the student is not disabled. Those students don’t fall under IDEA.

    IDEA supports individuals from birth through age 22, but at Missouri Parent, we’re most concerned with how IDEA impacts K-12 public education. According to the Center for Parent Information and Resources, IDEA helps schools understand standards of achievement for students with disabilities:

    “Our nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), sets high standards for their achievement and guides how special help and services are made available in schools to address their individual needs.”

    IDEA standards are the minimum expectation of public school systems, though. States and districts can —and often do — exceed those expectations by offering exemplary educational services. In Missouri, students are integrated into their local school’s classrooms wherever possible. Students with sever disabilities can attend a Missouri state school. You can read more about state schools here.

    IDEA was passed in 1975 as the Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act, and has been revised and reauthorized through the years. Its current iteration is known as IDEA 2004.

    If you’d like to learn more about Missouri’s educational programs for disabled students, we recommend these posts:

    Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD)
    What are Missouri State Schools?
    The Missouri School for the Blind (MSB)
    The Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled (MSSD)

    To continue learning about Missouri public schools, bookmark Missouri Parent News. For daily updates, connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.

  • The Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled

    The Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled (MSSD) is one of Missouri’s three state operated school districts, serving children and youth from 5 to 21 years old who have severe disabilities.

    MSSD’s mission is to “ensure students learn authentic skills in a safe environment to be productive and integrated into their home, community, leisure and work.” (Source)

    To that end, MSSD’s curriculum aligns with Missouri’s state standards for English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, health/physical education, and fine arts. And teachers use an integrated, trans disciplinary approach in the classroom.

    MSSD teachers are fully certified, and usually have at least two aides in their classrooms. In most cases, the adult-to-student ratio is one-to-two. Teachers are also supported by specially trained occupational, physical, and speech therapists and registered nurses who either work for the school full time or travel between schools, depending on the school’s needs.

    A Student is referred to MSSD when his or her local school district isn’t able to support his or her specific educational needs. The student’s disabilities must fall into a range from severe to profound, as defined by Missouri’s IDEA classification system.

    Unlike resident students at the Missouri School for the Blind, most of MSSD’s students live at home. Because there are 75 MSSD schools across the state, most students can be bussed to and from school each day.

    Each of MSSD’s 75 schools falls into one of three regional Areas in Sedalia, St. Louis, and Springfield. At the Area level, those schools have the support of an Area director and an Area administrative office. MSSD’s main administrative office is located in Jefferson City.

    Like Missouri’s other state schools, MSSD receives federal and state funding. But even though “MSSD is supported by funds appropriated annually by the Missouri Legislature,” local school districts also provide support. The law requires them to contribute towards the cost of education for each child from their district attending an MSSD school. (Source)

    If you’d like to learn more about Missouri’s three state-administered school districts, we recommend the following posts:

    The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
    What are Missouri State Schools?
    Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD)
    The Missouri School for the Blind (MSB)

    To learn more about Missouri public schools, bookmark Missouri Parent News. For daily updates, connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.

  • What You Need to Know About PIAAC’s International Skills Assessment

    PIAAC stands for the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. PIAAC. One of PIAAC’s best-publicized programs is its Survey of Adult Skills, which was featured in this story in The Atlantic.

    The survey, which is conducted across 33 countries, measures “key cognitive and workplace skills needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper.” (Source)

    The goal of the survey is to assess workers from age 16 to age 65 to see how well-developed the skills of a nation’s workers are — especially relative to those of workers in other industrialized nations. Additionally, the survey hopes to help countries “better understand how education and training systems can nurture these skills.” (Source)

    The survey assesses literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving, as well as cognitive skills, interaction and social skills, physical skills, and learning skills.

    And because it takes into account each survey participant’s age, education level, and other demographic details, nations can even see how their populations (younger vs. older; more educated vs. less educated, etc.) compare with one another.

    To that end, the study found that while the U.S. workers’ skills aren’t as well developed as other those of workers in other nations, the U.S. ranks much higher in terms of the number of citizens with advanced degrees than other nations do.

    PIAAC’s website says that, “Actual skill levels often differ from what formal education qualifications suggest. For example, Italy or the United States rank much higher internationally in the share of adults with tertiary degrees than in the level of literacy or numeracy proficiency.” 

    The more educated American survey participants were, the closer they came to closing the skills gap with workers in Japan and Finland — the highest performing countries on the assessment.

    Does a skills gap truly exist between the U.S. and other wealthy nations? If PIAAC’s survey results are accurate, then the answer is yes. The next question we should be asking is, “What can America’s public schools do about it?”.

    Are you curious to learn more about the International Assessment of Adult Competencies? Beginning in August, you can take the test online to see how your skills stack up against those of other well-developed nations around the world!

    We hope that you’ll bookmark Missouri Parent News, and that you’ll connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed on all things education in the State of Missouri.

  • School Transfer: An Expensive Law for Struggling Schools


    Missouri’s School Transfer Law allows students who live in an unaccredited Missouri school district to attend school in an accredited district. When students transfer under the law, their home district (the failing district) is required to pay for their transportation to and tuition for the accredited school they’ll attend. This is an expensive an unsustainable solution for struggling schools.

    An Expensive Solution
    School transfers are expensive for the unaccredited district. In 2013, when both the Normandy and Riverview Gardens in St. Louis County were deemed unaccredited, more than 2,000 students transferred.

    While state lawmakers have proposed changes to the School Transfer Law, the law — in its current form — is an unsustainable one for unaccredited districts. Tuition alone cost between $7,000 and $21,000 per student for Normandy and Riverview Gardens. That means that the two districts spent more than $14 million just on tuition — an expense that threatened to send Normandy into bankruptcy. (Source)

    Learn More: Riverview Gardens Struggling as Result of School Transfers

    An Unsustainable Solution
    While the school transfer law helps the individual students who transfer out of struggling schools into successful ones, the transfer law doesn’t solve the larger problems facing failing schools. In fact, it just drains money away from schools that are already having a hard time maintaining infrastructure, providing students with quality resources, and hiring and retaining good teachers.

    This 2014 news story on opened by saying that Normandy School District was “buckling under the financial weight of Missouri’s school transfer law.”

    More recently, Normandy estimated that if more than 530 students transfer to accredited districts, “the cost of their tuition and in some cases their transportation could cause Normandy to go broke.” (Source)

    Selling Assets to Stay Afloat
    The sale of unused school district property is one of Normandy’s only saving graces. Beyond Housing, a nonprofit organization purchased seven empty schools and an early childhood center from Normandy last year, giving it a brief influx of funds.

    Profits from those sales have helped Normandy to remain operational, but how much longer can the district survive on this trajectory? How can lawmakers stand by while thousands of St. Louis public school students risk losing their local public school district entirely?

    Selling off assets and paying to send students to accredited schools isn’t a sustainable solution for Normandy, and it won’t be a strong solution for other Missouri schools that face lost accreditation in future years, either.

    Students Deserve a Quality Education at Home
    Missouri’s public school students deserve a high quality education in their own local public schools. The school transfer law helps some of the students in each unaccredited district, but for every student the law helps right now, it harms dozen more in the long run.

    As said, “the situation gives opportunity to about 430 Normandy children now in higher performing schools, but at the expense of the 3,500 who stayed.”

    That’s the risk of the school transfer law: its unreasonably expensive for local districts, and as a result, it’s not a sustainable way for our legislature to address lost accreditation. Struggling schools need to be made stronger by education policy. Instead, our state’s school transfer law is threatening to run them into the ground.

    Learn more about Missouri education policy and funding issues by bookmarking the Missouri Parent Blog. Get daily news updates from Missouri Parent News, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for timely information about state and local education policy.

  • Missouri Education Advocates: Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA)


    Name: Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA)

    About: The MSHSAA is a nonprofit educational organization made up of approximately 750 public and private member schools in Missouri. The organization sets eligibility requirements for school sports and activities ranging from softball to speech and debate.

    The MSHSAA’s philosophy is that interscholastic activities and sports supplement the secondary school curriculum, helping them to become better citizens.

    MSHSAA sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, field hockey, 11-man football, 8-man football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, and wrestling.

    MSHSAA activities include bass fishing, bowling, chess, music activities, scholar bowl, speech and debate, spirit activities, and target shooting.

    Tweet with us using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

    In addition to regulating interscholastic activities and student eligibility, the MSHSAA is responsible for the registration of contest officials for interscholastic competitions. MSHSAA member schools must use MSHSAA contest officials for their activities and sporting events.

    The mission of the MSHSAA is to promote “the value of participation, sportsmanship, team play, and personal excellence to develop citizens who make positive contributions to their community and support the democratic principles of our state and nation.” (Source)

    President & Executive Director:
    The MSHSAA Board President is Ken Eaton
    The MSHSAA Executive Director is Dr. Kerwin Urhahn

    Employees & Board:
    MSHSAA employs ten people. You can find a staff list, including short job descriptions here. This page provides a list of MSHSAA’s current Board of Directors.


    Social Media Sites:
    MSHSAA’s Communications Director, Jason West, on Twitter
    MSHSAA on Facebook

    This post is part of a running series called “Missouri Education Advocates,” which is designed to highlight the professional education organizations in Missouri that work on public education legislation and advocacy. These short and sweet features highlight basic information about some of Missouri’s leading education organizations.

    Connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter and share our Missouri Education Advocates posts with your network using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

  • What Does it Mean When Your School Fails?

    What does it mean when you hear in the news that one of Missouri’s public schools is failing? And how is that term, “failing,” different from a school being unaccredited? Today on the Missouri Parent Blog, we’ll answer both of those questions.

    School Accreditation
    APRs are the state’s primary way of determining accreditation. Every public school, district, and charter local education agency in the state receives an APR based primarily on its performance in five areas.

    APRs help the state determine the level of accreditation each school earns. There are four levels of accreditation: Accredited with Distinction, Accredited, Provisionally Accredited, and Unaccredited.

    Accreditation holds all schools across the state to the same, measurable, standard of success. It takes into account graduation rates, high school and college preparedness, academic achievement, subgroup achievement, attendance, and other variables.

    If a school, district, or charter local education agency earns less than half of the points possible on its APR, it is deemed unaccredited. Losing accreditation is one reason a school might by called “failing,” but it’s not the only reason.

    Failing Schools
    National dialog about “failing” schools isn’t limited to schools that have lost accreditation. In fact, “failing” is used so broadly in media and policy that it’s sometimes unclear what it takes for a school to pass or fail.

    News stories accuse schools of failing when funding levels aren’t high enough, when too many families live below the poverty line, or when parents aren’t engaged enough.

    Reformers argue that America’s schools are failing because our students don’t perform as well on tests as students in other nations. And in some states, schools “fail” if they score in the bottom 5% of schools within that state on specific standardized tests.

    By that metric, 5% of the schools in the state will always fail, even if 100% of students earn passing test scores.

    The media has accused schools of failing because they aren’t modern enough, or because teachers’ unions protect their teachers. It has even said that schools “fail” if they don’t successfully ignite students’ passions. In an ideal world, all teachers would ignite their students’ passions. But is a teacher (or a school) failing if he or she (or it) successfully prepares students for college or career without necessarily lighting a fire in their hearts? Surely a successful education includes more than that.

    While researching this post, we read dozens of articles on “failing” schools and school systems, but few of those stories used quantifiable or peer-evaluated standards for passage or failure.

    “Failure,” it seems, is an easy label for anyone — politicians, reporters, administrators, reformers — to use to instill a sense of urgency for change. Who’s attention isn’t grabbed at the thought of their child’s school “failing”?

    To truly measure a school’s success, though, we need to take into account more than a single politician, journalist, or reformer’s personal viewpoints. We need consistent, measurable standards that ensure that all of Missouri’s public schools offer high-quality educational opportunities to our K-12 students. That’s exactly what Missouri’s school accreditation system does.

    For more information about school accreditation, we hope that you’ll explore these posts:

    What is the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP)?
    MSIP5 Performance Standard: High School (K-8) & College (K-12) Readiness
    High School Graduation Rates and School Accreditation
    5 Ways Your Student’s School is Evaluated for Accreditation
    Academic Achievement & School Accreditation
    What are Subgroups, and How Does Missouri Measure Their Achievement?

    One of our goals at Missouri Parent is to provide information on Missouri’s MSIP 5 accountability system, including school accreditation, to parents of Missouri’s K-12 public school students. We hope that you’ll bookmark Missouri Parent News, and that you’ll connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed on school accreditation

  • Caring for Our Kids Helps them Learn Reading and Math


    In 2008, a researcher in England published a working paper that showed something that many hard-working parents in Missouri will be glad to hear: that simply taking good care of your child will help him or her to do better in school.

    According to the study, there’s more than one way a child can get an edge in school. We all know that family income and other financial resources can afford a child unique experiences and support, but the researchers in this study argued that money isn’t the only variable for student success. The way a parent cares for his or her child plays a huge role in academic learning.

    “The evidence suggests that caring for children [...] has a substantial correlation with the children’s measured skills in reading and math,” the paper said, “and this relationship is separable from the advantages of family resources.”

    In other words, even after adjusting for financial resources, parents who cared for their children from pregnancy through elementary school helped their kids do better in math and reading.

    Care is a hard thing to measure, of course, so researchers selected a variety of parental behaviors that they felt were a reflection of the way parents care for their children. The intent was to account for the way parents use the resources they do have (time, energy, and attention — but also money) to support their kids.

    The thing we found really uplifting about this study is that it provides evidence that there are things that every single parent in Missouri — no matter how big or small your income — can do to help give your child a stronger foundation for reading and math.

    From not smoking while pregnant to reading to your child often and from a young age; from showing an interest in your child’s schoolwork and activities to encouraging him or her to stay in school, you can do small things that make a big difference for your child.

    Many of the ways you can help your child, according to the study, don’t cost anything. “Caring, as measured here,” said the study, “does not ‘cost money’.”

    Contact your child’s teacher to ask about how he or she is doing in the classroom. Read your child a book, or let them read one to you. Take your child on a little outing to a local park, museum, or library this weekend, and make sure that they’re getting the rest, nutrition, and safe home life they need to succeed in school.

    Want to learn more about how you can help your child succeed in school? Bookmark Missouri Parent News, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, where we post policy updates, parenting tips, and other education news that’s relevant to you, the Missouri public school parent.

  • The Four-Day School Week: A New Missouri Trend


    Miller, Missouri and Pierce City, Missouri schools will move to a four-day school week, beginning in the 2015-16 school year, and a third district in Stockton, Missouri is weighing the possibility of a four-day week.

    Why a Four-Day Week?

    Pierce City Superintendent Russ Moreland says that the shortened school week “provides numerous benefits to the district both in the short and long term.” (Source)

    Specifically, those benefits include district cost savings, an expected improvement in student engagement, and better recruitment and retention of great teachers. Miller schools expects to save as much as $175,000 per year because of the shortened school week.

    Substitute teachers will be in lower demand in four-day districts, contributing to the district’s cost savings. The four-day school week leaves Mondays available for teacher trainings or in-service, allowing teachers to manage professional development without missing school.

    Miller Superintendent Tracey Hankins told the Springfield News-Leader that teachers are ready for the change. “The teachers have expressed excitement for the opportunity to allow students additional time to complete projects and have deep discussions and lessons during one complete instructional time,” she told the paper. (Source)

    What About Childcare?

    Teachers may be ready for the change, and the school board may be practicing good financial stewardship by adopting a four-day week, but what does the shortened school week mean for children with two working parents? Childcare is one of the main concerns of parents living in districts that have adopted a four-day workweek.

    Pierce City Schools directly addressed childcare in a Q&A on its website, saying that other districts operating on a four-day school week identified childcare as “a non-issue”. Parents, according to Pierce City Schools, are already accustomed to managing childcare on early out days and other days when school is not in session. The shift to a four-day week wouldn’t create a new problem; it would simply increase the scale of an existing circumstance most families have already adapted to.

    Is a Four-Day Week Even Legal?

    Yes. Missouri law allows four-day school weeks, and it gives districts the choice to structure their school calendar how they see fit. It’s up to the school board, rather than the district administrators, to make that call. A majority of the board must vote in favor of the altered school schedule.

    Another important point of law is that if a school shifts to a four-day week and student performance suffers, the district is required to change back to a traditional five-day school week the following academic year. (Source)

    What About Instructional Time?

    Even if children are only in school four days of the week, the law requires that they still attend school for at least 1,044 hours per school year. According to Pierce City Schools, students will actually gain 29.75 hours of classroom instruction annually as a result of their transition to a four-day school week. (Source)

    Missouri Parent exists in part to inform and support parents of Missouri K-12 public school students. If you enjoy posts like this one, bookmark Missouri Parent News today or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll continue to share regular updates on Missouri education policy and other educational initiatives affecting your public school student.

  • Do Standardized Tests in Reading Measure Teachers or Parents?


    A story on indicated that math scores on standardized tests are easier to improve upon then reading scores are. Their rationale: students’ language learning is less strongly influenced by formal education than by home life. This got us thinking about standardized tests, and whether they measure the success of teachers, parents, or both. (Source) didn’t cite specific research, but it did point out that reading levels are deeply intertwined with a student’s personal background and home life, meaning that standardized test scores for reading might say more about a child’s parents and informal learning than it does about the child’s classroom education:

    “Math is a skill that students mostly learn in school. Reading skills, on the other hand, are more intertwined with students’ backgrounds — everything from their family income to how many words they heard early in life,” the story said.

    Curious, we hunted around the Internet looking for research and other news stories to support the idea that teachers may have less influence on students’ test scores (in any subject area) than parents do. Here’s what we found:

    · The Telegraph reports on a study conducted at the University of London that showed parental influence to be five times more powerful than formal education. (Source)
    · The Heritage Foundation says that there is a “strong relationship between parental influences and children’s educational outcomes, from school readiness to college completion.” (Source)
    · This Op-Ed piece from the New York Times says that teenagers whose parents read them books often as young children scored much higher on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) test than those whose parents did not often read to them. (Source)
    · But this blog post, also from the New York Times, begs to differ. Parent involvement in a child’s education, according to a study by the authors, is overrated.

    What do you think? Do you believe that how you supplement your child’s formal education at home has as strong — or stronger — of an influence on your child’s standardized test scores than their formal public school education does? Weigh in on our Facebook Page, or leave a comment right here on the blog.

    You can read the full story that inspired this post here.

    Bookmark Missouri Parent News today or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates on Missouri education policy, testing, and other educational initiatives affecting Missouri’s public school students.

  • Missouri Education Advocates: The Missouri National Education Association (MNEA)


    Name: The Missouri National Education Association (MNEA)

    About: MNEA is a professional membership organization serving 35,000 Missouri teachers, librarians, counselors, coaches, school psychologists and psychiatrists, administrators, and college and university faculty. Any school employee, including bus drivers, cooks, nurses, and secretaries, can join MNEA.

    MNEA advocates for “public schools, public school students and public school employees,” and offers a variety of services including legal programs, special events, public relations campaigns, professional development, legislative work, and more.

    MNEA is affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA). The mission of MNEA is “to serve as the united voice to promote, advance and protect public education and to advocate for the rights and interests of students and our members.” (Source)

    Tweet with us using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

    President: Charles Smith


    Social Media Sites:
    MNEA on Facebook
    MNEA on Flickr
    MNEA on Twitter
    MNEA on YouTube

    Legislation & Advocacy:
    MNEA’s Platform & Priorities
    MNEA’s State Legislative Updates
    The Education Advocate (EA) Daily News
    MNEA Legislative Action Center
    Contact Your State or National Legislator Page
    Political Action Program

    This post is part of a running series called “Missouri Education Advocates,” which is designed to highlight the professional education organizations in Missouri that work on public education legislation and advocacy. These short and sweet features highlight basic information about some of Missouri’s leading education organizations.

    Connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter and share our Missouri Education Advocates posts with your network using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates

  • Missouri Education Advocates: The Missouri K-8 Schools Association (MOK8)


    Name: The Missouri K-8 School Association (MOK8)

    About: The Missouri K-8 Association is a membership organization that represents all K-8 schools in Missouri. It exists to preserve the integrity of K-8 districts by sharing common resources, improving efficiency and expanding opportunities through collaborative efforts. (Source)

    Tweet with us using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

    Co-Presidents: Darryl Pannier and Carless Osburn


    Legislation & Advocacy: MOK8 is concerned about school transfers and unaccredited school districts, and believes in high standards for funding technology and modern tools that support education and curriculum. MOK8 is committed to full funding of the Foundation Formula.

    Read MOK8’s full Legislative Platform here.

    This post is part of a running series called “Missouri Education Advocates,” which is designed to highlight the professional education organizations in Missouri that work on public education legislation and advocacy. These short and sweet features highlight basic information about some of Missouri’s leading education organizations.

    Connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter and share our Missouri Education Advocates posts with your network using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

  • Missouri Education Advocates: The Missouri Council of Administrators of Special Education (MO-CASE)

    Name: The Missouri Council of Administrators of Special Education (MO-CASE)

    About: MO-CASE is a subdivision of the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE), a division of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). MO-CASE is dedicated to the professional development and support of administrators and supervisors of special education within Missouri’s educational settings.

    MO-CASE provides support and resources to all special education directors in Missouri. MO-CASE achieves its goals through a newsletter, conferences, and scholarships. (Source)

    Purpose: The purpose of MO-CASE is:

    · To promote professional leadership among special educators
    · To promoted the study of issues common to its members
    · To communicate, through discussion and publications, information that will assist in the development of improved services for exceptional children in the state
    · To participate actively in the improvement and the expansion of special education programs in the state (Source)

    Tweet with us using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

    President: Steven Beldin


    Social Media Sites:

    Legislation & Advocacy: You can read details about MO-CASE’s legislative platform and advocacy perspectives on its website. Here’s a brief summary of each of the organization’s key policy perspectives:

    · MO-CASE opposes school transfer and open enrollment
    · MO-CASE opposes school vouchers
    · MO-CASE supports increased charter school accountability
    · MO-CASE opposes legislation that would mandate student retention
    · MO-CASE generally opposes legislation that singles out discreet disabilities for different treatment within the education system
    · MO-CASE supports legislation that promotes understanding of specific disabilities and provides quality recommendations for improving services to children with those disabilities
    · MO-CASE is concerned about federal and state legislative and policy proposals that would revise teacher evaluation systems, teacher tenure, and establish differentiated compensation (pay for performance)
    · MO-CASE believes that teacher evaluation, tenure and compensation may be based in part on student growth, but not as a majority portion so that other factors become inconsequential.
    · MO-CASE is against corporal punishment in schools
    · MO-CASE supports state policy initiatives that move Missouri toward universally accessible preschool for all children
    · MO-CASE strongly supports mandatory early childhood special education services (ECSE)
    · MO-CASE supports federal legislation that reasonably limits the use of seclusion, restraint and aversive interventions.
    · MO-CASE strongly supports increasing federal and state funding to adequately support the significant special education requirements imposed on schools.

    This post is part of a running series called “Missouri Education Advocates,” which is designed to highlight the professional education organizations in Missouri that work on public education legislation and advocacy. These short and sweet features highlight basic information about some of Missouri’s leading education organizations.

    Connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter and share our Missouri Education Advocates posts with your network using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

  • Our Federal Title I Program Supports Students and Schools


    Title I is the country’s “flagship aid program for disadvantaged students”. It provides funding to schools to help close the education gaps associated with poverty. Title I is literally the first title (or section) in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was passed into law in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty”.

    The Institute of Education Sciences sums up Title I as a program that “provides financial assistance through state educational agencies (SEAs) to local educational agencies (LEAs) and public schools with high numbers or percentages of poor children to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards.” (Source)

    What are SEAs?
    Each state has a State Education Agency (SEA) that coordinates educational efforts at the state level. Missouri’s SEA is the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

    What are LEAs?
    Your child’s Local Education Agency (LEA) is the local organization that coordinates education efforts or provides government services to local schools. In most cases, the LEA is simply your child’s school district.

    How Can Title I Funds Be Used?
    Title I funds can be used for school wide programs or for targeted assistance. School wide programs are for schools that have 40% or more low-income students. School wide programs are implemented across the entire school, making core instructional programs stronger.

    Schools that don’t qualify for (or chose not to use) school wide Title I program funds can use the Title I targeted assistance program. Targeted assistance means that the school can identify and support those students who are at highest risk of failing.

    Title I funds could be used for a number of purposes, including extra instruction in core academic subjects, transportation of homeless students to their school of origin, hiring extra teachers, or investing in supplemental materials or technologies that help disadvantaged students meet state academic standards. Funding can also be used to support preschool, after-school, or summer programs that “reinforce the regular school curriculum.” (Source, Source)

    Who Benefits from Title I Funding?
    · Schools in need
    (to be eligible, at least 40% of a school’s students must be from low-income families)
    · Individual students who are at risk of failing. Examples could include children from migrant families, neglected youth and those at risk of abuse, or other at-risk youth

    How Many American Students Benefit from Title I?
    · In the 2006-7 school year: more than 17 million K-12 students benefited from Title I funds. (Source)
    · In the 2009-10 school year, more than 56,000 public schools or more than 21 million children nationwide benefited from Title I funds.

    Visit Missouri Parent News or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates about K-12 public school education, funding, and policy in the State of Missouri.

  • Who Better to Evaluate our K-12 STEM Programs than American Scientists


    The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of scientists and the general population to help understand how science and public opinion intersect. Pew surveyed general American citizens and scientists affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Survey questions asked for their thoughts on everything from STEM education to climate change to the genetically modified foods.

    The results were fascinating, but the specific results that stood out the most to us were those that showed what American scientists think about American K-12 STEM education. Who better to evaluate STEM education than the very scientists who work in STEM fields today?

    STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM has made national news over the last few years because students who study in STEM-related degree programs during college are likely to earn more money in their careers. This income gap is sustained for STEM majors, regardless of whether they pursue work in a STEM-related field.

    Most American high school students don’t graduate high school ready to study university-level science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. This lack of preparation — and the resulting lack of qualified candidates for STEM-industry jobs — is referred to as the STEM Crisis.

    Pew’s research project didn’t set out to prove or disprove the existence of a crisis in STEM education, but the results of its survey could absolutely be used to advance advocacy for STEM education: Nearly half of American scientists believe that K-12 STEM education is “below average” compared to K-12 STEM education in other industrialized nations.

    What will it take for America’s public schools (and Missouri’s public schools) to take the lead in global STEM education? What will it take for us to send our high school seniors off to college, fully prepared to excel in college-level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics classes? Missouri Parent doesn’t have all the answers, but we will continue to research and write about the importance of STEM education in Missouri public schools.

    Here are a few of the takeaways from the Pew study:

    · Only 16% of AAAS scientists rank American K-12 STEM education as above average or the best in the world.
    · Just 29% of the general public rank American K-12 STEM education as above average or the best in the world.
    · A whopping 46% of AAAS scientists believe that America’s K-12 STEM education programs are “below average”.
    · 29% of the general public believes that America’s K-12 STEM education programs are “below average”.
    · Scientists also believe that the general public’s limited scientific knowledge is a result of poor K-12 STEM education.

    You can read the Pew Research Center’s report (which is the source of all statistics used in this Missouri Parent post) here.

    More Missouri Parent Posts About STEM Education:
    What is the STEM Crisis?
    Girl Scout Embrace STEM
    A Missouri University Embracing STEM Education for Public Schools
    INFOGRAPHIC: The Facts About Women and STEM

    Missouri Parent is a free service for anyone in Missouri who has an interest in public education. Come back to the MOParent Blog, check MOParent News, or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates and timely information about public education and the funding and legislative issues affecting it.

  • What the No Child Left Behind Policy Means to Our Students


    Recently on the Missouri Parent Blog, we wrote about No Child Left Behind (NCLB), explaining what this important federal education policy is. In that post, we explained that schools that wish to receive federal funding must follow NCLB standards for performance and accountability. Today we’ll explain what each of those performance and accountability measures means to our students.

    It’s our goal to keep you informed about legislative and funding issues that affect children in Missouri’s public schools. We hope that this two-part post on No Child Left Behind helps you to better-understand in this important federal educational initiative and the impact it has on Missouri’s K-12 public school students.

    Read Part 1: What the No Child Left Behind Policy Is

    Standardized Testing
    NCLB identifies reading, language arts, mathematics, and science as “core academic subjects”. States seeking federal education funding must develop and implement state assessments in each of those subject areas. There is not a federal achievement standard – instead, each state determines what constitutes achievement in each subject area and grade level.

    What NCLB Means for Our Students: Students are required to take annual state standardized tests in reading, language arts, mathematics, and science in grades 3-8.

    Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
    Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is one of the ways NCLB measures district accountability. AYP is designed to “ensure that every child learns, every school has the opportunity to improve, and every dollar is spent wisely.” (Source)

    What AYP Means for Our Students: Federal AYP accountability standards reinforce Missouri’s need to give annual standardized tests. Without those tests, Missouri would lose federal NCLB funding. That’s not all though: Schools are identified as successful or failing based on their AYPs. Inadequate AYPs qualify students for school transfers, and persistently low AYPs can result in school closures.

    Report Cards
    NCLB requires states and districts to be transparent about school performance and teacher quality by providing a “report card” to the public.

    What Report Cards Mean for Our Students: NCLB Report Cards give you and your child an idea of your child’s academic progress compared to other students in the school district and the state. NCLB Report Cards also provide information about overall academic achievement in the district and about school safety.

    Find your child’s NCLB District Report Card here.
    Find your child’s School Report Card here.
    Read Missouri’s State Report Card here.

    Teacher Qualifications
    NCLB requires public schools to provide highly qualified teachers to students, specifically in their core academic subject areas (reading, language arts, mathematics, and science). Each state sets its own standards for what it means to be a “highly qualified” teacher.

    What NCLB’s Teacher Qualifications requirements mean to our students: As the parent of a public school student, your child’s school is required by NCLB to notify you if his or her core academic subject area teachers are not considered “highly qualified” by state standards.

    Funding Changes
    Between 2001 and 20014, total federal education funding increased from $42.2 billion to $55.7 billion. In 2014, the federal government allotted approximately $141 billion to education. (Source, Source)

    What NCLB Federal Funding Changes Mean to Our Students: School districts with high concentrations of low-income families benefit more from NCLB than students in higher-income districts. Some of the increase in federal funding was directed toward school technology. Also, students in Title I programs benefit from increased NCLB funding. Finally, Missouri’s special education students have seen an increase in federal funding since the adoption of NCLB through the Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) have seen an increase in federal funding since the adoption of NCLB.

    This post was the second post in a two-part post on No Child Left Behind. Continue to learn more about funding and legislative issues affecting Missouri students by bookmarking Missouri Parent Blog. You can also connect with us on Facebook or Twitter for regular Missouri education updates.

  • Missouri Education Advocates: The Missouri Association of Rural Education


    Name: The Missouri Association of Rural Education (MARE)

    About: MARE recognizes the needs and concerns unique to rural education. It provides a forum for discussion and resolution of those needs and concerns, and presents a voice for rural education in Missouri.

    MARE is made up of teachers, administrators, community members, state education leaders, college and university educators, and more. The organization advocates for rural education, seeking equal and quality education for all rural children in the state.

    MARE offers a number of services including board consulting, building administrator searches, and governmental support. MARE is part of the National Rural Education Association and has been active in Missouri for nearly 30 years.

    Read More About Education in Rural Missouri: How Does Rural Living Affect Your Access to the Internet?

    Statement of Purpose: MARE is a service organization whose purpose is to serve the member schools in such a way that:
    · The students of rural Missouri will have an equal opportunity to receive excellent education.
    · The students of rural Missouri will be able to compete academically with students through the world.
    · The citizens of Missouri will be proud of the educational programs in rural Missouri schools. (Source)

    Tweet with us using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

    Number of Employees: 3

    Executive Director: Dr. Ray V. Patrick


    Social Media Sites:
    National Rural Education Association on Facebook
    National Rural Education Association on Twitter
    National Rural Education Association on YouTube

    Legislation & Advocacy:
    MARE Website’s Advocacy Page
    School Administrators Coalition (SAC) Legislative Updates

    This post is part of a running series called “Missouri Education Advocates,” which is designed to highlight the professional education organizations in Missouri that work on public education legislation and advocacy. These short and sweet features highlight basic information about some of Missouri’s leading education organizations.

    Connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter and share our Missouri Education Advocates posts with your network using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

  • Live Tweets from Missouri Senate #MoTransfers Hearing


  • Missouri Education Advocates: Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)


    Name: The Missouri Council for Exceptional Children

    About the International Organization: The Council for Exceptional Children is a premier education organization, internationally renowned for its expertise and leadership, working collaboratively with strategic partners to ensure that children and you with exceptionalities are valued and full participating members of society. As a diverse and vibrant professional community, CEC is a trusted voice in shaping education practice and policy. (Source)

    CEC is a professional membership organization for gifted and special education professionals. The organization is international with a local chapter here in Missouri.

    Tweet with us using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

    Mission of the Missouri CEC: The purpose of the Missouri Council for Exceptional Children is to advance the education of individuals with exceptionalities and to promote related educational, scientific, and charitable purposes.

    President: Kim Turner


    Social Media Sites:
    International CEC on Twitter
    International CEC on Facebook
    International CEC on YouTube
    International CEC on Pinterest
    International CEC on LinkedIn

    Legislation & Advocacy:
    CEC works to improve public policy affecting children and youth with disabilities and gifts and talents, their parents, and the professionals who work with them, at all levels of government. You can learn more about CEC’s policy and advocacy work on this page of the international organization’s website.

    The CEC “Policy Insider” is the organization’s weekly news digest that includes news — including policy and advocacy news — to readers.

    To learn more about the specific causes that CEC’s members advocate for, check out the CEC’s “I’m An Advocate” YouTube Playlist.

    This post is part of a running series called “Missouri Education Advocates,” which is designed to highlight the professional education organizations in Missouri that work on public education legislation and advocacy. These short and sweet features highlight basic information about some of Missouri’s leading education organizations.

    Connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter and share our Missouri Education Advocates posts with your network using the hashtag #MoEdAdvocates.

  • This Program is Revolutionizing Education for Missouri High School Students in the Northland

    Public schools today are being asked to do more than they’ve ever been asked to do before.

    Americans have watched the cost of college education skyrocket, and at the same time, our job market has been more competitive than ever. Is it still enough for public schools to provide K-12 academic education, or do we owe our students — particular our high school students — a more relevant set of college and career training opportunities?

    One program in greater Kansas City has set the standard for a new, immersive, and highly relevant public-private approach to high school education. Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (Northland CAPS) offers high school students the opportunity to earn high school credit and college dual-enrollment while working directly with local businesses.

    Northland CAPS is revolutionizing education for high school juniors and seniors in the Kearney, Liberty, North Kansas City, Park Hill, Platte County, and Smithville school districts. Students at Northland CAPS work directly with local and global business partners in one of five “strands” of study:

    · Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing
    · Global Business and Entrepreneurship
    · Global Logistics and Transportation
    · Medicine and Healthcare
    · Technology Solutions

    Students work with real businesses on meaningful projects, using business-standard software and equipment. Real employers mentor and supervise Northland CAPS students, and giving students valuable early career experience in project management, creativity, business ethics, teamwork, and time management.

    Among the public-private partnerships through Northland CAPS is the partnership with Liberty Hospital. One student posted an update about his experience at Liberty to the programs’ website on January 16th:

    “The Northland CAPS program has matured me in ways I never would have imagined...This semester I have two internships, one through Hospice Advantage and the other through Liberty Hospital with the Clinical Education department...This is only the beginning of a long journey into areas of medicine that I am very passionate about and I can’t wait to see where this experience takes me.” (Source)

    Programs like Northland CAPS aren’t just academic, and they aren’t just vocational. They train students for college, career, or both. The program teaches students industry standards, opens them up to entrepreneurial thinking, and gives them an edge in college admissions.

    Dozens of universities, including the University of Missouri (MU), endorse the program at Northland CAPS. Dr. DeAngela Burns-Wallace, Assistant Vice Provost and Director of Access Initiatives, Division of Enrollment Manager and Dr. Ann J. Korschgen, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management — both at MU, say that:

    “We are excited to see such bold vision and innovation at the secondary level. The hands-on experiential learning, the fostering of innovation and technology, and the partnerships across the community exemplify aspects that we hope to see replicated in other areas around the state and the nation.” (Source)

    The experiences and partnerships that MU mentions in its endorsement aren’t accidental. Northland CAPS is committed to providing hands-on experiences and business mentorships that integrate the 21st Century learning skills of critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.

    Northland CAPS is leading the way in public-private education partnerships in Missouri, but it’s not the only initiative we’ve seen. The Missouri DECA program has promoted entrepreneurship and business skills for more than 65 years, and passionate educators and entrepreneurs came together in Missouri for the recent Kansas City Startup Weekend. Another notable public-private partnership in Missouri is the Governor’s Innovation Campus program.

    To learn more about forward-thinking educators and educational programs in the state of Missouri, bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • What the Missouri Hold Harmless Clause Means for Our Students and Schools


    Just like you, those of ust at Missouri Parent see the phrase “hold harmless” used a lot in conversations about funding for Missouri’s K-12 public schools, but we rarely see the term explained in simple terms. Policy makers and education professionals might understand the hold harmless clause, but does the average Missouri parent?

    The phrase “hold harmless” refers to the more than 170 public school districts that fall under a specific clause of the Missouri Foundation Formula. That clause says that no Missouri school district will receive less funding in the current year than it received in the 2005-6 school year.

    Is your local public school district a hold harmless district? Check this list to see.

    Educators use a finely-tuned formula to determine which schools are held harmless and which are not. The formula takes each district’s Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA), its State Adequacy Target (SAT), and its local funding efforts into account. (Learn more about the WADA and SAT in this post about the Foundation Formula.)

    The bottom line is that if a Missouri school district’s current funding level is less now than it was in 2006, it is a hold harmless district.

    The subject of hold harmless districts is, and will continue to be, relevant to public education funding and legislation. Keep coming back to the Missouri Parent Blog for accurate and timely information that impacts public education, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for daily education news and updates.

  • Quality Counts School Finance Report Gives Missouri a C- Grade


    Quality Counts — the nation’s most comprehensive ongoing assessment of the state of American education — published its 19th annual Education Week’s Quality Counts report.

    The report, called Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown was made up of three indexes:

    · The Chance for Success Index;
    · K-12 Achievement Index; and
    · School Finance

    School finance is an ongoing battle in Missouri, where the state’s Foundation Formula goes under-funded year after year. That’s why the Quality Counts report caught our attention: We were curious to see how Missouri’s school finance stacks up against the rest of the nation. The School Finance index “examined educational expenditure patterns and the distribution of those funds” (source).

    The findings? The U.S. earned a C grade. The highest scoring state in the nation was Wyoming, which earned a B+. The lowest was Idaho, which earned a failing grade. Missouri fell in the middle of the pack: we earned a C-.

    You can purchase the full report here, but if you’d like the shorter version, keep reading:

    The report looks at how much money each state actually spent on public education, but it also looked at funding-related poverty-based achievement gaps. It’s important to understand that the report didn’t just look at the state’s overall education spending though; it looked at the districts within each state.

    The study aims to measure educational progress — in this case educational funding progress — over time and across all states. To do that, the finance report included eight key factors:

    1. The relationships between school district funding and local property wealth;

    Missouri’s Score: Missouri scored 0.185, which means that wealthy districts in the state receive more funding per weighted pupil that Missouri’s poorer districts do.

    Read more: Satire (and the Sad Truth) About Education Funding with The Onion

    2. Actual spending as a percent of the amount of money needed to bring all students to a median level of funding;

    Missouri’s Score: 91.1%. The best scores in the nation were in the 95th percentile and the lowest was in the 81st. The national average was 90.8%. Our interpretation is that Missouri could do more to close the gap for students in districts where funding falls below the state median.

    3. The amount of disparity in spending across school districts within a state;

    Missouri’s Score: 0.151. In this case, 0.0 would be a perfect score because it would indicate that there was no disparity in spending from one district to the next. We fell near the middle of all states, but we were below the national average of 0.167

    4. The difference in per-pupil spending levels between the highest (95th) and lowest (5th) percentiles;

    Missouri’s Score: $3,558. Missouri’s spending difference was lower than the national average ($4,559), but the discrepancy in spending is substantial when you consider that our State Adequacy Target (SAT) for PPE in the same year was just $6,717.17.

    Learn more: Missouri’s State Adequacy Target & the Foundation Formula

    5. Each state’s per-pupil expenditure (PPE), adjusted for regional cost differences;

    Missouri’s Score: $10,798. The national average (adjusted for cost of living, etc.) was $11,735, so Missouri didn’t fall too far behind. Wyoming’s PPE was the highest in the nation at $17,758.

    6. The number of students in the state who attend school in a district that has the same PPE as the national average or a higher PPE than the national average;

    Missouri’s Score: Just 13.7% of Missouri’s students attend school in districts where PPE meets or exceeds the national average. Nationally, 43.4% of students attend school in a district that meets or exceeds national average per-pupil funding.

    7. PPE compared to how far below the national average each district funds its students; and

    Missouri’s Score: 85.7. While this measurement (called the “Spending Index”) uses a complicated mathematic formula (see the report), the important takeaways are that 100 is a perfect score, and that the national average was 89.4. Eight states scored a perfect 100, meaning that every single district in their state fund their pupils at or above the national average.

    8. The state’s total percent of taxable resources invested in education.

    Missouri’s Score: 3.3% of Missouri’s total taxable resources are invested in education, as compared to a 3.4% national average. The highest percentages in the country were in Vermont and West Virginia. Both states spent 5.1% of their taxable resources on education. North Dakota invested just 2.3% of taxable resources to public education.

    Learn more: Where Does Missouri’s Public Education Funding Come From?

    While the School Finance report shouldn’t be viewed as a standalone piece from the other two indices in Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown, its findings are still intriguing.

    · If we hope to reach a Top 10 national public schools ranking by the year 2020, how important is it to close our spending gaps between wealthier and poorer schools?
    · What can our education leaders and lawmakers do to help ensure that all students in Missouri get at least median-level funding for public education?
    · Is a $3,558 per-student discrepancy acceptable between our best- and worst-funded schools after removing the top and bottom 5%?

    Education funding and policy are complex issues nationally and right here in Missouri. Missouri Parent won’t always have the answers to these polarizing questions, but we’ll continue to report on funding and legislative issues that affect your child’s K-12 public education in the state.

    Come back to the Missouri Parent Blog throughout the legislative session to learn more about education funding policies being debated right now in Missouri, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.


    Download the “National Highlights Report” of Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown here.

    Read Education Week’s press release on Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown here.

    See the School Finance report here.

  • Corporal Punishment in Schools: Your Opinion

    Missouri lawmakers are back in the capitol for the First Regular Session of the 98th General Assembly, and one of the many conversations lawmakers will have during the legislative session is one about corporal punishment in schools.

    Senator Joe Keaveny (D – St. Louis) filed a bill that will prohibit spanking or paddling in public schools. This isn’t the first time that Missouri lawmakers have tried to ban spanking in schools – according to, “similar legislation that also would have banned spanking in private schools failed last year.” (source)

    Senate Bill 241 would prohibit the use of corporal punishment in all Missouri public schools, says the Senator’s page on the Senate website. 19 states in America allow corporal punishment, such as spankings and paddlings, as a form of discipline in public schools. The Washington Post cites federal data analysis that says that “one child is hit in public schools every 30 seconds somewhere in the United States.” (source)

    Besides Missouri, the following states allow teachers and administrators to punish children physically: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

    The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) ranks Missouri as the state with the 10th highest incidents of corporal punishment based on 2006 data, when 5,129 students received corporal punishment in Missouri public schools.

    Do you think that teachers and administrators should be allowed to administer spankings, paddlings, and other corporal punishment in Missouri’s public schools? We want to hear from you. Leave a comment right here, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

  • The Missouri Legislature Begins Anew



    January 2014 marked the beginning of another session of the Missouri Legislature. This is the First Regular Session of the 98th General Assembly.

    As the Missouri Parent project also exists to inform our audience of public policy issues which impact public education in our state, you will begin to see more content published here and shared across our social media about the activities of our elected officials.

    We would like to share a couple general pieces of information you may find helpful as the session works its way towards completion in May.

    • You can find contact information, listen to live floor debate, and follow the progress of legislation through the Missouri General Assembly website. Additionally, The Missouri Senate and the Missouri House of Representatives have their own websites with these functions.

    • There are several committees in the legislature which have importance to our public schools. These include the House Appropriations - Elementary and Secondary Education, the House Select Committee on the Budget, the House Elementary and Secondary Education, Emerging Issues in Education, the Select Committee on Education, the Senate Education, and the Senate Appropriations committees.

    • The Missouri Senate and the Missouri House both provide web functions for finding legislation by topic.

    • You can follow live progress or ongoing discussions and posts about the Missouri Legislatures activities on social media by following the hashtag #MoLeg. Here are links to the search on Twitter and Facebook. You will also see #MoLeg on Instagram, Google+, and occasionally in our #MOParent posts.

    • Finally, from the Missouri House site, we share a page highlighting legislative processes in Missouri and a glossary of legislative terms which you will find very handy!

    If there are any other questions you have about our policy discussions, the legislature or issues you would like to see addressed, please leave a comment below or contact us at any time.

  • Public-Private Partnership in Joplin Helps High School Students Earn Associates Degrees


    What happens when government, business, public schools, and colleges collaborate? In Joplin and seven other cities in Missouri, the answer is that high school students can graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, too.

    Joplin’s Innovation Campus began in 2012 as a partnership between Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Southern State University, Crowder College and Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center. The program enables qualifying students to enroll in associates-degree-focused dual credit courses. The partnering institutions help kids cover the cost of enrollment through grant funding.

    The idea behind Innovation Campuses is twofold. First, Innovation Campus programs help student reach their career goals more quickly. Second, Innovation Campus programs help them get further into their college degrees without incurring student debt.

    According to the Governor’s office, similar programs are being created in St. Joseph, Springfield, St. Louis, Jefferson City, St. Charles, Cape Girardeau, and Rolla. (Source)

    “This is exactly the type of strong public-private partnership we need to grow our economy and keep our state moving forward,” said Governor Jay Nixon of the St. Joseph campus partnership between Missouri Western, Metropolitan Community College, and the St. Joseph Metro Chamber of Commerce. That partnership began in 2012. (Source)

    Innovation campuses are helping to train students for careers, particularly for careers in high-demand fields like nursing and technology, though programs are available in a variety of fields of study. Partnerships between schools and local businesses mean that those businesses commit to “creating or retraining a specific number of jobs”. (Source)

    Continue to learn about the initiatives underway in the state of Missouri to prepare students for college and career by bookmarking the Missouri Parent Blog and following Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.

    About Missouri Innovation Campuses & SB 381
    Missouri’s Innovation Campuses were created under Missouri Senate Bill 381, sponsored by Senator Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit. The bill states that Innovation Campuses are: “a partnership comprised of one or more Missouri public community colleges or Linn State Technical College; one or more Missouri public or private four-year institutions of higher education; one or more Missouri high schools or K-12 education districts; and at least one Missouri-based business.”

  • Missouri Parent: Looking Ahead to 2015


    If you have an interest in public education, Missouri Parent is here for you. We’ve worked hard to provide accurate and timely information to parents and advocates of public education since we launched 2013. We saw some big wins for K-12 schools in 2014, and we’re looking forward to making even more progress in 2015.

    One of our biggest advocacy priorities has been, and will continue to be, reaching full funding for the historically under-funded Missouri Foundation Formula.

    The Foundation Formula was passed into law in 2005 but has never received promised levels of state investment. We’ll talk a lot about the Formula, sharing relevant news, advocacy opportunities and updates to you, our readers.

    In 2015, you can also count on Missouri Parent to help you get to know many of our state legislators as they work to fund and administer K-12 education in the Show-Me State.

    We’ll work to educate and inform new and current representatives to the role of public schools in local communities and the state as a whole. Missouri’s historical Republican supermajority gives less power to the Governor, who has traditionally been a vocal supporter of public education.

    There will also be moments of celebration as we recognize the success stories of students, schools, and education leaders in Missouri who are awarded or recognized for their outstanding achievements.

    Missouri Parent will continue to educate lawmakers around the economic benefits of investments in public schools, especially in early childhood education. We’ll also talk about the continued role of public schools in teaching good citizenship and responsible community involvement.

    Finally, you can count on Missouri Parent to write more about — and to stand up against — tax cuts and tax credits that harm your child’s access to high quality education in Missouri’s publicly-funded education system. We call this campaign #MissouriMath and ask you to tell your families, friends, and elected officials about it.

    Thank you for your support in 2014. We’re looking forward to continuing our rally cry for public education in 2015, and hope you’ll come with us, sharing our blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts with other parents and community members you know who are passionate about public education

  • Four Big Wins for Public Schools in Missouri in 2014



    Thank you for helping us achieve some big successes this year on behalf of our state’s students. Here are four big wins for public schools in Missouri in 2014:

    We Fought For — and Won Back — Missouri A+ Schools Funding
    Funding for the Missouri A+ Schools Program was threatened this year. We shared information with you on what the A+ Program is and why it matters to our high school students. And when funding issues faced A+ we explained those, too.

    Thanks to you, the Missouri A+ Program has had most of its at-risk budget restored. You stood up for Missouri’s high school and college A+ scholarship students, affecting the education of more than 12,000 students. Thank you!

    We Defeated Amendment 3 (#MoNoOn3)
    Constitutional Amendment 3, which appeared on the November 4th General Election ballot, would have been detrimental to Missouri’s public schools. We shared what teachers had to say about Amendment 3, how Missouri’s educational associations felt about the amendment, and the many ways the amendment would have been bad for our kids.

    Thank you for going to the polls to defeat Amendment 3. At Missouri Parent, we advocate hard for the policies we believe are best for our students. Without voters like you — voters who go to the polls to make change happen — we wouldn’t have seen such remarkable success in 2014. Together, we stood strong: #MoNoOn3.

    Win Four Seats in the Missouri Legislature for Representatives Who Stood Strong Against Rex Sinquefield
    In August, four representatives who stood strong against Amendment 3 were up for re-election to the Missouri House. Those representatives were Paul Fitzwater (R - Potosi), Nate Walker (R - Kirksville), Jeff Messenger (R – Republic), and Lyle Rowland (R – Cedarcreek).

    The Missouri Club for Growth, a lobbying group funded in part by Rex Sinquefield, invested more than $600,000 in Fitzwater, Walker, Messenger, and Rowland’s opponents. (Source)

    Missouri’s voters did not let big dollar campaigns fool them, though: these four champions for public education won re-election to the Missouri House. Thank you for electing lawmakers who support public education.

    Secured the Highest Level of State Funding for K-12 Education in Missouri’s History
    While Missouri’s Foundation Formula remains painfully underfunded, Missouri did see higher levels of funding this year than ever before in public education. House Speaker Tim Jones says in this end-of-session press conference that funding for Missouri schools reached an all-time high:

    “We made sure that we provided historic levels of funding for K-12 education,” Speaker Jones said, “and also funded higher education at higher levels this year.” (Source)

    Thank you for your continued advocacy for public school in 2014. Parents, students, supporters and readers came together in 2014 to have a strong positive influence on students across the state. These four wins for public schools would never have been possible without you. Thank you!

    Keep learning more, advocating for Missouri’s K-12 students, and gaining insightful tips and information on raising kids who are successful in public schools: Bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • December 15th is Bill of Rights Day


    Did you know that December 15th is officially “Bill of Rights Day?” It’s true. According to Missouri Revised Statutes: Bill of Rights Day, December 15th was established as a day for Missourians to “reflect upon the meaning, importance and uniqueness of this document.”

    What Do You Remember About the Bill or Rights?
    If you had to summarize the Bill of Rights or tell us why the document was created, could you? Many Americans forget history and civics details when they’ve grown up, and history classes from middle school and high school seem like they happened entirely too long ago.

    To sharpen your memory, and to give you something to talk about with your kids after school today, here’s a pop quiz for you about the Bill of Rights. How many of these questions can you answer correctly? Scroll to the bottom of this post to check your answers!

    Pop Quiz:
    1. Who wrote the Bill of Rights?
    2. When was the Bill of Rights written?
    3. Which U.S. Constitutional Amendments make up the Bill of Rights?
    4. What document influenced the Bill of Rights?
    5. At its most basic, what is the Bill of Rights?
    6. How many of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights can you name?

    Answers are at the bottom of this post.

    If you struggled to answer these questions, you’re not alone. According to the American Society of News Editors:

    “When asked to name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, 68 percent of Americans name the freedom of speech, 29 percent name the freedom of religion, 14 percent name the freedom of the press, 7 percent name the right to assemble and 1 percent name the right to petition,according to the 2014 State of the First Amendment Survey, commissioned by the First Amendment Center and the Newseum. Twenty-nine percent of respondents cannot name any of the five freedoms.” (Source)

    Learning about the Bill of Rights in public schools is an important part of learning about United States history, policy, and civics. That’s why public schools statewide will read the Bill of Rights aloud today.

    Click the image below to download a PDF of the Bill of Rights

    Talking About the Bill of Rights at Home
    Today your child’s school will read the Bill of Rights as part of Missouri Bill of Rights Day. If you work for a state or local government office, the Bill of Rights will be read at your job. We encourage you to use this opportunity to reflect on the meaning, importance, and uniqueness of the Bill of Rights, and how the Bill of Rights is relevant today.

    Tonight after work, talk with your kids about which of the first ten Constitutional Amendments they think impact their lives the most on a daily basis.

    If your kids are old enough to consider career paths, ask them how the Bill of Rights influences their field of interest. For instance, if your son or daughter is interested in becoming a business owner, how does the First Amendment apply to their ability to advertise their company?

    If you’d like to take the conversation deeper, you can talk with your kids about how the Fifth Amendment played a role in the recent tragedies in Ferguson.

    December 15th, Bill of Rights Day, is a day set aside by law for the reflection on one of the most important documents in America. If you and your kids talked about the Bill of Rights today, leave a comment here or on the Missouri Parent Facebook Page letting us know what Amendments your kids value the most.

    Stay in-the-know on Missouri’s public education system and receive more tips like the ones in this post by bookmarking the Missouri Parent Blog or following us on Facebook and Twitter.


    Answers to the Bill of Rights Quiz:
    1. James Madison
    2. 1791
    3. The first ten amendments make up the Bill of Rights.
    4. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason, strongly influenced James Madison when he wrote the Bill of Rights.
    5. The Bill of Rights is, at its most basic, a list of limits on the power of the United States government.
    6. 10

    Check out The Bill of Rights for the full text for the Bill or Rights, including all 10 U.S. Constitutional Amendments.

  • Missouri’s Low Income Housing Tax Credits


    Missouri struggles to support public education. Year after year, lawmakers make choices about general revenue expenditures like those that support Missouri’s K-12 public schools. They also make decisions about tax credits, like Missouri’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). Year after year, the Foundation Formula for public schools remains underfunded by almost exactly the same amount of money that goes to LIHTCs.

    Learn More: Understanding the Foundation Formula

    Compared to other states, Missouri is incredibly generous with LIHTCs. Only 14 states offer LIHTC programs and of them, only California and Georgia spend more money on those low income housing tax credits than Missouri does. (Source)

    On the surface, this may not seem like a problem, but the reality is that LIHTCs aren’t an investment in Missouri or Missouri’s future. Studies have shown little to no return on investment for tax credits. To make matters worse, for every dollar spent on LIHTCs, more than half is lost to accounting, taxes, and middlemen.

    According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, only 43 cents of every dollar spent on low income housing tax credits (LIHTC) is spent constructing new housing. “The rest of the money is lost in an accounting haze or flows to federal taxes, investors, and middlemen.” (Source)

    LIHTCs are the single biggest category of tax credits in the state. The Missouri Tax Credit Review Commission identified LIHTCs as the single most expensive tax credit to the state. (Source)

    Unlike LIHTCs, education is an investment with a high return. Education, especially early education has proven time and again to bring money back to those who invest in it.

    According to the Economic Policy Institute:

    “States can build a strong foundation for economic success and shared prosperity by investing in education. Providing expanded access to high quality education will not only expand economic opportunity for residents, but also likely do more to strengthen the overall state economy than anything else a state government can do.” (Source)

    The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) cites early childhood education as a good investment for governments. According to UNICEF,

    “Efforts to improve early child development are an investment, not a cost. Available cost-benefit ratios of early intervention indicate that for every dollar spent on improving early child development, returns can be on average 4 to 5 times the amount invested, and in some cases, much higher.” (Source)

    LIHTCs provide little to no return on investment, while education offers a 400-500 percent return. Our lawmakers support LIHTCs but refuse to fund Missouri’s schools fully. This situation sounds to us like another example of #MissouriMath.

    If you’d like to learn more about tax credits and Missouri public schools, come back often to the Missouri Parent Blog. We’ll continue to share information about legislation and funding issues that related to public education. Bookmark the blog or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates.

    Learn more:
    Tax Credits Don’t Attract Businesses to Missouri
    What Exactly is a Tax Credit?

  • Child Development in the First Five Years Part 2: The Importance of Rest

    This post is Part 2 in a four-part series on how rest, nutrition, and a healthy home life help babies, toddlers, and preschoolers grow into healthy, successful kindergarten students. You can read the first post here.

    Research shows that rest plays a big role in a child’s mental, emotional, and physical development. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says that sleep improves learning, helps children pay attention, and aids in creative thinking.

    Children who don’t get enough rest, according to the NHLBI, may have trouble getting along with others, and might struggle to stay awake and pay attention in school. (Source)

    When children live in lower socioeconomic environments, these problems are compounded. The American Psychological Association (APA) says that children living in lower socioeconomic conditions suffer more from lost sleep than kids do who live in middle-class or upper-class homes:

    “Social class moderated the link between children’s sleep and cognitive functioning on standardized ability tests. Children of middle and lower class had similar performance when sleep was optimal, but when sleep was poor, lower SES children’s cognitive performance suffered.” (Source)

    It’s not surprising that poor sleep affects a child’s alertness the next day. It’s more surprising to learn that research shows a correlation between poor sleep patterns now and a child’s academic performance two years later. Children who sleep in early childhood are more likely to be successful when they start school years later.

    Parents Can Help Young Children to Sleep Well

    A number of factors contribute to poor sleep in young children. Some of those factors, like minimizing cigarette smoke in the home, are relatively easy for parents to control. Factors like reducing family conflict, however, might be more difficult to address.

    The APA recommends that parents pay attention to the physical environment a child sleeps in, as well as to the psychological environment around them. Physical things like a comfortable bed affect sleep, but it’s also affected by more complex factors like family conflict:

    “Clean, comfortable bedding, adequate heating and cooling, and reduction of airborne toxins (e.g. tobacco smoke; allergens) all facilitate good sleep. In the psychosocial realm, parental management of bedtimes, monitoring of caffeine, restricting media use, noise abatement and reducing precipitators of anxiety (e.g. family conflict), are all ways to improve sleep.” (Source)

    Getting a good night’s rest is critical for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to grow into healthy kindergarteners who are mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to start school.

    Rest isn’t the only critical ingredient to good health during the first five years. In our next post, we’ll take a look at the importance of nutrition. Come back for the next post in this four-part series on early childhood development.

    Missouri Parent is a free service to all Missouri parents publishing updates on research, policy, and funding issues that affect public education in the state. If you found this post helpful, we encourage you to bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog and to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

    Learn More:
    Child Development in the First Five Years
    Now for Later: A Campaign for Early Childhood Education in Missouri
    Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten in Missouri
    Missouri Updates to 10 by 20
    Tax Breaks Don’t Benefit Students

    photo credit: el7bara via photopin cc

  • Missouri's A+ Program Benefits Thousands Each Year



    A potential budget cut facing the Missouri A+ Schools Program would directly affect approximately 15,000 Missouri college students beginning in Spring 2015. Learn more about the A+ Program, its history, and its funding today on the Missouri Parent Blog.

    The History of the A+ Program
    The Missouri A+ Program is a reimbursement-based scholarship program for graduating high school students that helps them pay for college tuition and general fees at participating public community colleges and vocational/technical schools.

    The program was established in 1993 as part of Senate Bill 380, which was also called The Outstanding Schools Act. When it began, the A+ Program was designed specifically to help those students who might otherwise not have attended college by helping them graduate high school and earn a two-year degree.

    The program had three primary goals:
    -To increase high school graduation rates
    -To develop more challenging high school curriculum
    -To prepare students to pursue an advanced education, high-wage employment, or both after high school graduation (source)

    Before the A+ Program was created, Missouri had a 75% high school graduation rate; 25% of high school students dropped out before receiving a degree. Last year, Missouri had the 8th highest graduation rate in America at 80.7%. (source)

    The A+ Program helped more than 12,000 students go to college last year, and it is anticipated to help nearly 15,000 students attend college next year. More students are enrolling in the A+ Program every year, and many of them truly need the assistance the program provides.

    Cassville High School’s A+ Program Sponsor Tyne Rabourn told the Cassville Democrat that her district has “a few students that might have to stop going to school” if A+ funds are reduced. (source)

    What Factors Impact A+ Funding?
    The amount of money received by A+ students varies from student to student because A+ reimbursements are only applied after all of each student’s available non-loan federal assistance money has been applied to his or her account. (source).

    Federal assistance impacts the amount of A+ funding individual students receive, but it’s the Missouri General Revenue that determines how much money is available to the A+ Program as a whole. According to the Missouri Department of Higher Education, tuition reimbursements “may be reduced if there are insufficient state appropriations.” (source)

    This is why the A+ Program has recently made statewide news: the Missouri General Revenue is expected to earn less money in 2015 than originally projected, and because the Missouri Constitution forbids the state from operating in the red, the governor has adjusted 2015 spending projections so that they don’t exceed income projections.

    Unfortunately, the state’s decreased revenues could affect graduates of more than 500 Missouri high schools. That’s an estimated 15,000 Missouri community college and vocational school students whose tuition reimbursements might be lower than they’ve planned for in the Spring of 2015.

    Why is A+ Program Funding Threatened?
    You might remember a catch phrase and hashtag called “#FridayFavors” that was used in the Missouri news a few weeks ago. The Friday Favors were a collection of tax break bills designed to help stimulate the Missouri economy by offering tax incentives to big businesses.

    Not all of those tax breaks passed, but those that did were good for businesses. Unfortunately, they aren’t so good for schools, parks, and other public works. As Governor Nixon tweeted before Friday Favors veto session, “#FridayFavors not accounted for in budget would reduce state & local revenues as well as dedicated funds for education, conservation & parks.”

    State Budget Director Linda Luebbering also warned of the dangers of new tax break bills to public education:

    “This is very significant from the standpoint that you have to reduce services and programs in order to make up for that loss. The biggest single beneficiary of state general revenue is K-12 education.”

    Another big beneficiary of the Missouri General Revenue are the thousands of public college students in Missouri. Missouri’s A+ students are seeing the effects of the Friday Favors budget cuts as their scholarship funding comes under threat.

    What You Can Do
    There is no question that increased high school graduation rates are good for Missouri. And it’s tough to argue against an infrastructure that helps Missouri students earn their associate’s degrees. And yet, the Missouri General Assembly passed tax break bills that threaten both of these things.

    If you believe that the A+ Program is important for Missouri’s students and Missouri’s economic future, please contact your legislator today to let them know that the A+ Program matters.

    If you are an A+ Program alumni who’s A+ scholarship helped you earn a degree from a Missouri community college or vocational school, contact your legislator to let them know how the A+ Program impacted your life and your livelihood.

    Click Here to Tweet a Message to the Missouri General Assembly and Governor Nixon.

    It’s up to us—Missouri’s parents, educators, and students—to let our elected officials know that public education is vital for K-12 and college students.

    To stay up-to-date on legislative and funding issues affecting public education in Missouri, bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.


  • Education & Technology: A Meeting of the Minds


    On October 17th and 18th, educators and technology gurus gathered together for a two-day conference called the St. Louis Tech for Schools Summit. The Summit gave teachers, edtech companies, and entrepreneurs the chance to share best practices, test out technology products, and exchange expertise.

    The event was organized by EdSurge, an independent news research company devoted to covering education technology and its role in schools. While conferences are, in fact, part of the revenue model at EdSurge, the St. Louis Tech for Schools Summit was absolutely free for educators.

    Opportunities for entrepreneurs and teachers to come together are more common these days than they have traditionally been in public schools. In January, a relatively new organization called Startup Weekend Education will come to Kansas City, Missouri, while programs like Missouri DECA have encouraged business thinking in education for decades.

    What made the St. Louis Tech for Schools Summit unique is that it gave educators—who have classroom and subject area knowledge and expertise—the opportunity to talk directly to edtech companies and entrepreneurs about the products and services on the market for students. As EdSurge says, the Summit is a chance to “try out some of the most innovative technology being built for schools”. (source)

    To see a list of the specific priorities articulated by the Summit’s district partners, click here.

    There’s something intriguing and potentially very valuable about bringing educators together with businesses in a meeting of the minds on educational technology. In an educational landscape that is weighted either for big business or for schools (but rarely for both), EdSurge has created a unique opportunity to bring the strengths and experiences of both industries together for mutual benefit.

    EdSurge also offers detailed research documents (for a fee) on educational technology topics ranging from edtech fundraising to trends in the field. Its Product Insights, which synthesize feedback on technology products from hundreds of educator reviews into one concise document, might be particularly useful for edtech decision makers in public schools.

    To learn more about trends, funding issues, and legislation affecting Missouri schools, bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog, visit us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

  • Going to School Every Day Matters



    Did you know that missing just two days of school each month could cause your child to fall behind? It’s true. Developing good attendance habits early a child’s academic years helps children succeed in school and eventually in the workplace. That’s why attendance awareness is celebrated all month long, nationwide, every September and every day of the school year.

    It’s Never Too Early
    It’s never too early to begin practicing good attendance: studies show that children who miss too many days of kindergarten and first grade can struggle in school—and with reading—later on.

    You can help your child succeed by ensuring that her or she is present in the classroom as often as possible as early as possible.

    Excused or Unexcused: Absent is Still Absent
    Absences—regardless of whether they are excused absences or unexcused ones—affect learning. And it’s not just consecutive absences that matter: sporadic absences add up. Missing just one or two days each month can mean missing nearly 10 percent of the school year!

    Help your child avoid excused absences by scheduling doctor’s, dentist’s and other appointments after school hours or on days when your child is off school.

    Learn how attendance impacts the MSIP5 ratings of your school here.Good Attendance is Everyone’s Responsibility
    Even if your own child rarely misses a day of school, he or she could suffer academically if other students in his or her classroom are regularly absent. Chronic absenteeism slows down instruction for the whole classroom because teachers are forced to repeat material.

    Ask your child’s principal what the school’s attendance rates are. Even if your child attends regularly, it’s important to know how many students in your child’s school are missing 10 percent or more of the school year.

    It’s Okay to Ask for Help
    If your family is struggling with attendance problems, it’s okay to ask for help from your child’s school or from your community. Access to health care, unstable housing, poor transportation, and lack of food are very real problems facing thousands of Missouri families. Many schools offer assistance, and there are countless community agencies that exist to help your family overcome challenges.

    To learn more about the importance of attendance and how you can help your child (or students in your classroom) miss fewer days of school, visit the Attendance Awareness Month website.

    To learn more about how you can help your child be successful in Missouri public schools, come back to the Missouri Parent Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!


    photo credit: Renato Ganoza via photopin cc


  • MoVIP Program Fills Gaps for Students in Unaccredited Schools


    The Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MoVIP) offers approximately 250 virtual online classes for K-12 students across Missouri. The program’s mission is “to offer Missouri students equal access to a wide range of high quality courses, flexibility in scheduling, and interactive online learning that is neither time nor place dependent.”

    A Free Opportunity for Certain Students
    The program can help fill the gap between those students in schools whose accreditation has been suspended and their peers in fully accredited schools. That’s because the state requires provisionally accredited or unaccredited schools to pay for its students to take MoVIP courses; Students in unaccredited schools can take online courses through MoVIP absolutely free.

    Free doesn’t mean low-quality.MoVIP works with a variety of leading courseware providers, and all courses are taught by Missouri-certified teachers. The courses are an excellent opportunity for all Missouri students, and are an especially powerful tool for students in unaccredited schools.

    The Importance of the Foundation Formula
    When unaccredited or provisionally accredited schools or districts pay for their students to take MoVIP courses online, they can be reimbursed by the State of Missouri through the Missouri Foundation Formula.

    The Missouri Foundation Formula is a law passed in 2005 to help ensure that all of Missouri’s elementary and secondary school students—not just those in high-tax-revenue suburban areas—have access to adequate educational resources.

    Learn more about the Missouri Foundation Formula

    Spending Tax Dollars on Education, Not Transportation
    Statewide, conversations about accreditation and school transfer are highly controversial. The stakes are high, for students and for taxpayers; students should have access to a high quality education, and the Foundation Formula is already underfunded.

    The MoVIP program is a solution that doesn’t require students to spend countless hours (or taxpayers to spend thousands of dollars) on transportation to better schools nearby. And the courses, which are available to students anywhere there is a high-speed internet connection, range from Kindergarten social studies to Advanced Placement (AP) Macroeconomics.

    More than 250 courses are offered, including:

    · Core subjects for elementary and secondary students
    · 40+ Advanced Placement (AP) courses for high school students
    · Foreign Language courses like Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish, and Latin for elementary, middle, and high school students
    · Dozens of language arts courses for middle and high school students
    · Art, music and photography courses
    · 60+ middle and high school math courses
    · Finance, accounting, and business courses
    · Dozens of opportunities in STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) subject areas.

    More About Online Education for Missouri K-12 Students
    MoVIP courses are available to all K-12 students in Missouri, including public schools, private school, and homeschool students. To learn more about the program, its courses, and how to enroll in courses, visit MoVIP’s website.

    MoVIP is currently registering students for the Fall 2014 semester. Course have a variety of start dates ranging from September 24th through November 19th, and students must register for courses 7 calendar days prior to the course’s start date.

    Continue to learn about educational resources available to K-12 students in Missouri by Liking MOParent on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and coming back regularly to the Missouri Parent Blog.


  • Reading Lists & Famous Missouri Authors


    Not long ago, we talked about how reading is one of the most important things a student can do to keep his or her learned skills sharp. Even though summer has come to an end, it’s not too late to make the most of summer reading lists.

    The Huffington post recently shared a list of ten summer reading list books that will change your life. Among them were Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and others.

    While these are all excellent suggestions for summer reading, we could easily add ten more books that were written by well-known Missouri authors like Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Maya Angelou.

    Below are six of Missouri’s most famous authors, and at least one recommendation from each for your “After Summer” reading list.

    Maya Angelou
    Did you know that Maya Angelou was a Missourian? Angelou was born in St. Louis, and she was regarded for more than her poetry. Angelou published books of essays, books of poetry, and autobiographies, the most well-known of which was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

    Langston Hughes
    Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, and was a star of the Harlem Renaissance. He published more than 60 books, including poetry collections, children’s books, and short stories. Though better known for poems like The Negro Speaks of Rivers, he also published a well-known collection of poems for young people called The Dream Keeper.

    Mark Twain
    Samuel Longhorne Clemens, who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain, was born in Hannibal, Missouri. Two of his best-known books are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is often called “the Great American Novel”, but is also one of the most-challenged and most-banned books of all time. Be sure you understand the context of this book before you read it with your son or daughter.

    Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Wilder spent the last 60 years of her life in Mansfield, Missouri, where she penned the children’s book series Little House on the Prairie. The books, later turned into a long-running and family-friendly television series, goes into detail about the day-to-day life of the Ingalls family living on their Kansas homestead in the late 1800s.

    T.S. Eliot
    Like Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes, Eliot was known for his poetry. Eliot’s most famous works include Four Quarters, The Wasteland, and The Hollow Men. Eliot’s works are staples of Modernist poetry.

    Kay Thompson
    You may not recognize Kay Thompson’s name, but chances are good that you recognize the name Eloise, from her series of children’s books about the antics of a six-year-old by the same name: Eloise, Eloise in Paris, Eloise at Christmastime, and Eloise in Moscow. Thompson was born in St. Louis, Missouri.

    Who is your favorite Missouri-born author? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

    Reading is one of the best things students can do to keep their skills sharp. As Summer blends into Fall, MOParent hopes you’ll encourage your kids to continue to read—and maybe even to read a few books by famous Missouri authors—all year long.


  • Missouri Schools Should Be Prioritized Above Tax Cuts



    Governor Jay Nixon vetoed 33 bills during the 2014 legislative session. Ten of those bills, which his administration calls “#FridayFavors”, were vetoes of tax break bills that could reduce state and local tax revenues by more than $776 million annually, $425 million of that at the state level.

    These tax breaks are good for corporations and bad for schools. TWEET THIS

    Businesses would save $425 million in tax deals, while schools, which rely heavily upon Missouri General Revenue, would see a reduction of around $119 million in funding. Urban and rural schools, which traditionally see lower levels of local funding, would be among the hardest hit by the Friday Favors. TWEET THIS

    The Kansas City Star calls the tax breaks unwise, explaining their risk to schools:

    “It would be unwise to slash into revenues so deeply that it threatened funding for public schools, universities and services for six million residents.”

    The Star is not alone in its concern about tax breaks that would reduce state-level funding for education. Missouri Budget Director Linda Luebbering told KOMU News:

    “This is very significant from the standpoint that you have to reduce services and programs in order to make up for that loss. The biggest single beneficiary of state general revenue is K-12 education.”

    Legislators will reconvene on September 10th in veto session for a chance to override Gov. Nixon’s vetoes. If you’re concerned about funding for Missouri’s schools, reach out to your representative immediately. Let him or her know that your child’s education should be a higher priority than saving a fast food chain or other large corporation a few dollars in state taxes.



    photo credit: nicolasnova via photopin cc

  • Missouri Governor Vetoes Tax Breaks – How Will #MOLeg Respond?



    On the last day of the 2014 legislative session, the General Assembly passed several last-minute tax breaks to benefit several businesses and corporations. Governor Jay Nixon reacted strongly in favor of public education by vetoing those tax breaks, which would directly affect state-level funding for education in Missouri.

    As a precautionary measure (in case his vetoes are overridden), the Governor also adjusted the General Revenue to account for the $425 million decrease in the state’s tax revenues that the proposed tax breaks would create.

    The Governor, who has received tremendous criticism for this decision, was acting within his powers: The state constitution forbids it from operating at a deficit. A $425 million reduction in general revenues requires a $425 reduction in spending to keep the budget balanced—a reduction that directly affects K-12 and higher education students statewide.

    Each year, 45% of Missouri’s General Revenue is spent supporting K-12 and higher education institutions. If the General Revenue is reduced by $425 million, Missouri students will receive a proportionate reduction in support. In short, big business will save $425 million, and schools will receive around $119 million less per year than they already do in state-level educational support.

    Ironically, although it was a Republican-led majority that pushed for these tax breaks, Republicans have launched a high profile and well-publicized attack against Governor Nixon, calling students his “lowest priority”.

    House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka is one of the many Republicans speaking out:

    “This is a governor who tells the public he wants to invest in our young people, but then is all too willing to make school funding his first target and show that public education is his lowest priority…”

    In just a few days, Missouri’s lawmakers will reconvene in the capital to attempt to override Governor Nixon’s vetoes. If that happens, anti-tax advocates will win, and Missouri’s students will lose. If you believe that students should have priority over big business we encourage you to contact your local representative immediately to let him or her know that Governor Nixon’s vetoes should be supported—not overridden.




  • Do Friday Favors Tax Cuts Really Matter to My 9-Year-Old?



    On the final Friday of the 2014 legislative session, Missouri lawmakers passed a series of bills offering tax breaks to several corporations and businesses. Governor Nixon vetoed them, calling them favors to big businesses, or “#FridayFavors”. 

    As the days draw nearer for the Missouri Legislature to reconvene for their veto session on September 10th, you will be hear this nickname repeatedly in news, conversation and here on Missouri Parent.

    Why did the governor veto those bills? In part, because Missouri’s General Revenue budget, which funds K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, can’t afford to lose any more income. The “Friday Favors” would mean a projected $776 million decrease in Missouri’s state and local government general revenue. TWEET THIS

    The reason this matters to a child—no matter how old—is that if he or she attends public school in Missouri, he or she is among the group of Missourians who will suffer the most if the Governor’s vetoes are overridden on September 10th: Missouri’s students.

    The tax breaks offered by the General Assembly will directly affect the state’s General Revenue budget—45% of which is dedicated exclusively to spending on our state’s schools.

    Even with the passage of a recent appropriations bill, which increased state education funding by $115 million, the Missouri Foundation Formula (Missouri’s Foundation Formula explained) is still underfunded by more than $500 million.

    Taking another possible $119 million away from Missouri’s schools via tax cuts is not the answer for the next generation of Missourians. If you have a child in school in Missouri, “Friday Favors” could mean that:

    · Student-to-teacher ratios will get worse as teachers and other staff are laid off to save money. TWEET THIS
    · Students with disabilities will have less access to high quality staff, buildings, and supplies. TWEET THIS
    · Young, at-risk students will receive decreased support from the Early Grade Literacy Program. TWEET THIS
    · Students who participate in career or technical education will have access to fewer resources. TWEET THIS
    · Early childhood education programs like Parents as Teachers and the Missouri Preschool Program will receive less funding. TWEET THIS
    · Less college tuition assistance will be available for students through the A+ Program. TWEET THIS
    · Funding for after school programs like tutoring will be reduced. TWEET THIS
    · Less support will be available for schools like those in Joplin that are damaged by extreme weather. TWEET THIS

    Lawmakers might be able to offset the impact these changes will have on their children by paying for privatized extracurricular activities, tutoring, and literacy programs, or by paying for private school altogether. The average Missouri parent, however, doesn’t have those options. That’s why these tax breaks matter so much.

    If your child will be affected by any of the impacts listed above, Missouri Parent strongly urges you to contact your local representative.


    Let him or her know that your child matters, and that you want Governor Nixon’s vetoes to be upheld when the General Assembly reconvenes on September 10th for veto session. We also ask you to share this information with your friends and fellow parents across Missouri.

    The legislature may have the raw numbers to override the Governor’s vetoes but the votes will be close. Your call to your local representative and senator may be the one which protects thousands of students in Missouri.

  • Smart Students Come From Missouri

    According to this map created by FindTheBest which compiles SAT, ACT, AP, and NAEP test scores and compares them across the states, Missouri public schools rank high in achievements by high school students.

    The Missouri score of 4.48 on a 1-5 scale puts us above half of our border states and in the top third of all states. 

    In this study, students in New Hampshire set the high mark at 5.0 and Mississippi students came in at 2.97.

  • INFOGRAPHIC: The Facts About Women and STEM

  • Exploring College While in Middle School

    Here we are towards the end of May and your Facebook timeline, and maybe even your personal schedule, are filled with high school graduation activities. Many of those graduates will soon begin their higher education journeys.

    Some may have started those journeys while still in high school.

    A program, called College Immersion, is seeking to create those journeys with even younger students. The program focuses on connecting middle school students with college campuses by having them attend specially designed college classes for one week.

    The study began at the public Queens College in New York in 2007 and a second study took place at the private St. John’s in 2010. Both studies continue to this day.

    While a voluntary program, middle school students who have been invited to participate are considered ‘at-risk’ due to behavior, familial background, or recent immigration status. The study notes “that research on the critical nature of early adolescence, the need to build a solid academic foundation early, and the signs of dropping out that can be seen in middle school, create unique opportunities for partnerships between middle schools and universities.”

    While the first day or so on the college campus can be rough for the middle school students, finding show by the end of the week the students are excited about college and look to change their secondary education plans to include more preparation for higher learning.

    The study posits that even small exposures to life in college at a young age, a week or even a day, can impact a younger student's perception of college and their ability to continue their education post-high school graduation.

    If you have a graduating senior this year, when did you begin their exposure to college studies and college life? We urge you to leave your answers in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

    You can read the entire study here.

    Image via 

  • Money Saving Tips for First-Time College Students and Parents

    As we near the end of another school year, many of our readers and their graduating seniors are experiencing the transition from K-12 education to college life.

    A big change everyone in this transition will experience is the cost of living increase. Here are a few tips for your family to keep expenses under control:

    Textbooks Are Expensive
    One of the biggest sticker shocks of anyone’s life is when they discover the price of college textbooks. One tactic to save money on needed class materials is to buy them as early as possible to avoid the higher prices some procrastinators pay. Another is to look online for used or rental copies of needed books. In cases like this, sites like Amazon and Big Words can become a student’s best friend.

    Busses Aren’t Just For School
    Public transit is generally available in most university and college towns. Using these affordable and available resources can help to save money which would otherwise go to payments, insurance, and upkeep of a personal car. For those trips home on the weekend there are options such as Greyhound, Megabus, and ride share programs available.

    Cover Yourselves
    From unruly roommates to untrustworthy acquaintances, student property can be at risk when away at school. A good renter’s insurance policy can end up saving you thousands of dollars in replacement costs for broken or stolen electronics or equipment.

    Enjoy these days in your new education journey with your graduating student and if you have any additional ideas for first-time college parents to save money, feel free to share them in the comments below or on our Facebook and Twitter profiles.

  • School Funding in America’s Top-Performing States

    American public schools were projected to spend $11,180 per student during the 2013-14 academic year (source). Missouri fell below the national average with a projected $9,721 per pupil expenditure (source). Today we’ll talk about whether that spending difference has an impact on achievement in Missouri’s public schools.

    Researchers have articulated loose correlations between school funding and student performance for years. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) gathers some of the data that researchers use in understanding those correlations.

    The NAEP is the nation’s longest-running comparative testing program, but it does more than test students; it also gathers comparative data on schools, districts, and states.

    The NAEP’s primary tests are administered in — among other content areas and grade levels — 4th and 8th grade reading and math. NAEP tests are administered in all 50 U.S. States, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense schools. Of those 52 locations only 14 earned higher-than-national-average percentages in all four primary NAEP content areas: 4th grade math, 8th grade math, 4th grade reading and 8th grade reading.

    12 of those 14 states invests significantly more money per pupil in public education than Missouri does. Additionally, the average spending among the 14 highest achieving states was $11,871 per pupil. That’s almost $700 above the national average and more than $2100 — or approximately 22% —more than Missouri’s public school students receive.

    The larger correlation between school funding and student performance may be a loose one, but when the funding for the nation’s top performing states is compared against Missouri’s public education funding, the story becomes clearer: school funding makes a difference in student performance.

    Of the 14 states who performed above the national average in 4th and 8th grade math and reading none has a higher percentage of students on free or reduced lunches than we do in Missouri. In other words, Missouri’s are facing financial challenges at home and at school that make it difficult for them to compete on the national stage.

    School funding has long been debated in Missouri, but nine years after the Missouri Foundation Formula for public schools was passed, the state still fell $620 million dollars short of full funding after the 2014 appropriations process. If we want Missouri’s students be competitive nationally, we must fund our schools at nationally competitive levels.

    To continue to learn about Missouri’s funding for public education and the legislative issues that affect that funding, subscribe to Missouri Parent emails: Just enter your name, email address, and zip code in the form at the top of this page.

    To learn what you can do to ensure that Missouri’s public school students receive the funding necessary for them to be competitive now and in the future, subscribe to the Missouri Parent Blog and follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

    More on Funding for Missouri Public Schools:

  • Highlights of #MOTransfers Debate in MO House

    The Missouri House of Representatives debated and passed SB 493 relating to transfers of students in unaccredited schools to accredited schools in Missouri on April 30th. The bill passed 91-64 and returns to the Senate. Below are tweeted highlights from reporters and witnesses to the debate.

  • Missouri High School Students Awarded for Citizenship

    The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recently recognized 15 high school seniors for their exceptional citizenship. The 2014 Outstanding Achievement in Citizenship awardees are:

    • John Bantle, Rockwood Summit High School
    • Theresa Abby Bergman, Oakville High School
    • Seth Boeke, Stockton High School
    • Alexander Jackson Bollinger, Fort Zumwalt South High School
    • Talor Crawford, Webster Groves High School
    • Jessica Dennis, Lee’s Summit North High School
    • Sophia Etling, Parkway South High School
    • Nora Faris, Concordia High School
    • Charles Darren Green, Malden High School
    • John Korenak, Lindbergh High School
    • Shelby Linneman, Brentwood High School
    • Kaitlee Metcalf, Hume High School
    • Nathan Rickard, Francis Howell High School
    • Danica Ridgeway, Jefferson City High School
    • Lauren Wilbert, Carl Junction High School

    State Board of Education President Peter F. Herschend (left), State Board of Education member Dr. O. Victor Lenz, Jr. (right), and Missouri Bar President Jack Brady (center left) with all of the 2014 Missouri Citizenship Awardees following the awards ceremony on April 14, 2014, in Jefferson City. — at The Missouri Bar.

    This year’s recipients received their awards at an April 14th luncheon in Jefferson City. Missouri Bar President John Brady and State Board of Education President Peter Herschend presented seniors with their awards.

    The Outstanding Achievement in Citizenship award, which is organized by DESE with assistance and financial support from The Missouri Bar, awards students for exemplary community service and academic and extracurricular achievements in civics and government. Nominations are reviewed by a panel of educators and by members of the Missouri Bar’s Advisory Committee on Citizenship Education.

  • The Declaration for the Right to School Libraries

    Around the country, school libraries are celebrating National School Library Month this April. As part of that celebration, many libraries are participating in the Declaration for the Right to School Libraries initiative, lead by the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Association of School Libraries (AASL).

    The ALA and the AASL believe that school libraries are integral to literacy and lifelong learning, and that school libraries “level the playing field” for students who don’t have internet access at home.

    The Declaration for the Right to School Libraries helps “raise public and media awareness of the critical importance of a fully-staffed and well funded school library program to parents, teachers, school administrators, and the community at large.” (source)

    The Declaration for the Right to School Libraries was inspired by ALA President Barbara Stripling’s cornerstone campaign, the Declaration for the Right to Libraries. The eleven tenants of the Declaration for the Right to School Libraries are:

    • School Libraries Change Lives
    • School Libraries Empower the Individual
    • School Libraries Support Literacy and Lifelong Learning
    • School Libraries Strengthen Families
    • School Libraries are the Great Equalizer
    • School Libraries Build Communities
    • School Libraries Protect Our Right to Know
    • School Libraries Strengthen Our Nation
    • School Libraries Advance Research and Scholarship
    • School Libraries Help Us to Better Understand Each Other
    • School Libraries Preserve Our Nation’s Cultural Heritage

    To read the full Declaration, visit the ALA website.

  • Happy National Library Week!

    Libraries across Missouri join schools, campuses and communities nationwide as they highlight the value of libraries, librarians and library workers during National Library Week, April 13-19, 2014.

    National Library Week, which was established by the American Library Association (ALA) as a national observance in 1958, includes National Library Workers Day (April 15th), National Bookmobile Day (April 16th), and Celebrate Teen Literature Day (April 17th). (source)

    This year’s National Library Week theme is “Lives change @ your library®.” If the library has changed your life, share your story with the ALA for your chance to win a Kindle Fire. Submit your story:
    · On Twitter using the hashtags #LivesChange and #NLW14
    · To the ALA via
    · Create a photo that tells your story and share it on the Lives change @ your library Flickr group or on the ALA’s Twitter or Facebook pages using the hashtags #LivesChange and #NLW14.

    Follow the American Library Association online:
    · Pinterest
    · Flickr
    · Facebook
    · Twitter

    Missouri libraries celebrating National Library Week Include:

    Daniel Boone Regional Library – Boone & Callaway Counties and Columbia

    Farmington Public Library

    Henry County Library

    Kansas City Public Library

    Kimberling Area Library

    Missouri River Regional Library – Cole and Osage Counties

    Missouri Southern State University

    Neosho-Newton County Library

    Poplar Bluff Public Library

    Pulaski County Library District

    Ray County Library

    Springfield-Greene County Library District (Springfield, MO)

    St. Joseph Public Library

    St. Louis Public Library

    James Memorial Public Library - St. James

    Truman State University – Pickler Memorial Library

    Washington, MO Celebrates National Library Week

    Webster Groves Public Library

  • Gallup Poll Finds American Students “Not Success-Ready”

    A recent Gallup Business Journal story warns readers that “most…students in the U.S. aren’t success-ready”.

    The April 10th article cites data from Gallup’s fall 2013 State of America’s Schools report, which surveyed 616,203 public school students in the 5th through 12th grades. Only 33% of the survey’s respondents were deemed “success-ready”, meaning that they were “hopeful, engaged, and with thriving well-being.” (source)

    It’s important to note that while the Gallup pole provides valuable insights, it was only completed by a small percentage of the total U.S. student population. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), approximately 55 million Pre-K through 12th grade students were enrolled in public and private schools in the U.S. in the fall of 2011. Assuming that the same number of students was enrolled in the 2013 school year, the approximately 600,000 students polled by Gallup represent only about 1.1% of the total student population in America.

    If the NCES’s projections are accurate, more students were enrolled in public and private schools in the U.S. in 2013 than in 2011, lowering the Gallup poll’s percent representation of American students a bit more. It should be pointed out that the Gallup poll also only represents public school (not private school) students.

    Still, the State of America’s Schools report offers an intriguing perspective on how prepared (or not) our children are for the future: It’s not common to see student success measured in qualitative, personal terms like “hope” and “engagement”. According to Gallup, “The primary application of the Gallup Student Poll is as a measure of non-cognitive metrics that predict student success in academics and other youth development settings.” (source)

    Perhaps the most fascinating insight offered by the Gallup poll is that when a student has a teacher who makes him or her feel excited about the future, that student shows significantly higher rates of hopefulness and engagement in his or her own education.

    To learn more, download the State of America’s Schools: The Path to Winning Again in Education report from Gallup’s website or read the story in the Gallup Business Journal that we’ve cited here.

    Image via Getty.

  • Missouri Announces 2014 Gold Star Schools

    The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has announced its 2014 Gold Star Schools. Eight Schools have been recognized by the state:

    Concord Elementary School (Lindberg Schools), St. Louis County, MO
    East Elementary (Ozark R-VI School District), Ozark, MO
    Festus Elementary School (Festus R-VI School District), Festus, MO
    Henry Elementary School (Parkway C-2 School District), St. Louis County, MO
    Lincoln College Prep (Kansas City 33 School District), Kansas City, MO
    Long Elementary School (Lindbergh Schools), St. Louis County, MO
    Mason Ridge Elementary School (Parkway C-2 School District), St. Louis County, MO
    North Glendale Elementary School (Kirkwood R-VII School District), Kirkwood, MO

    The Gold Star Schools program is a state-level recognition program administered by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that honors schools that are high performing and/or are high performing while serving a significant portion of disadvantaged students.

    Established in 1991, the the Gold Star Schools program aligns with the national Blue Ribbon Schools program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Recipients of the Gold Star Schools aware are nominated for the Blue Ribbon award, as well.

    Eight schools were also recognized as Gold Star Schools in 2013.

  • SPENT: Playing the Minimum Wage Game

    If you’re trying to help your child understand just how quickly one month’s pay can disappear, an online game called SPENT might be a good tool for you to know about. Created by McKinney and the Urban Ministries of Durham, SPENT challenges players to make ends meet for one month earning minimum wage.

    The game begins by presenting you, the player, with a believable scenario: You’ve become one of the 14 million Americans who are unemployed, and you’re running out of money fast. You need a job, and only three are available to you. In any one of those three jobs, you’ll earn a wage that’s roughly equal to minimum wage.

    Once you’ve chose a job, your bank account shows one full month of wages. SPENT presents you with either/or choices that will affect your bank balance. Examples include enrolling in employer-provided health insurance, choosing a place to live where rent is affordable but your commute isn’t too expensive, and deciding whether to send your child to a classmate’s birthday party (a gift will cost $10 – can you send your child to the party without one?).

    Your bank balance reflects your choices, and the game provides qualitative feedback on the choices you make. For example, if you choose a warehouse job that involves heavy lifting but pays well, the game will point out to you that the pay is good but the job will take its toll on your health.

    SPENT has the potential to be a powerful tool for parents of teenagers who don’t understand why they should have a plan for life and career after high school graduation. It could also be helpful for the parents among the 1.7 million Missourians who are earning an hourly wage: SPENT might be away to show your kids just how easily a month’s paycheck is spent.

    Note: Of the estimated 6 million people living in Missouri, approximately 3.7 million of them are between the ages of 18 and 65 (source). Nearly half of those working-aged residents earned an hourly wage, and approximately half of them earned less than the minimum wage (source).

  • Celebrate the Arts in March

    March is Youth Art Month, an annual observance of the value of art and art education for children and a time to encourage public support for quality school art programs.

    In Missouri, Youth Art Month is celebrated with a student art exhibit in the Capitol Rotunda. Each participating art teacher is allowed to submit a limited number of student artworks for display, so if your child’s artwork has reached the Capitol, you and your child should be incredibly proud.

    Six state-level Youth Art Month awards are given each year. Those awards are: The Governor's Choice Award, The Governor's Mansion Award, a lower elementary division award, an upper elementary division award, a middle school award, and a high school award.

    Finally, each year, Youth Art Month includes a national Youth Art Month Flag competition. Sargent Art sponsors the winner of the flag award (along with their art teacher and a guest/parent) on a trip to New York City.

    Why Celebrate the Arts?

    The Arts Prepare Students for School, Work, and Life
    In a 21st Century global economy, the arts equip students with a creative, competitive edge. A comprehensive arts education fosters the creativity and innovation needed for a more competitive workforce.

    The Arts Strengthen the Learning Environment
    A study by the Arts Education Partnership found that schools with large populations of students in economic poverty can be transformed into vibrant hubs of learning when the arts are infused into their culture and curriculum.

    Additionally, studies have found that 8th graders from under-resourced environments who are highly involved in the arts have better grades, are less likely to drop out by 10th grade, have more positive attitudes about school, and are more likely to go on to college.

    The Arts Can Attract and Retain Teachers Who Love to Teach
    Having the arts in schools has been found to improve teacher morale, satisfaction, and attendance by fostering havens for creativity and innovation; places where students want to learn and teachers want to teach. The arts can help retain educators.


  • Your School’s Most Successful Fundraiser

    What’s the most successful fundraiser you have seen in your child’s school?

    You’ve probably got a fundraiser or two under your belt. Maybe you volunteered to help coordinate your child’s candy bar sales for a sports team or you helped sell Girl Scout Cookies when your daughter was young. Maybe you’ve worked a charity golf tournament or prepared sweet treats for a bake sale.

    Fundraisers are part of how schools, clubs, and other organizations earn the money they need to run well. And as an active Missouri parent, you’ve earned your fundraising stripes.

    That’s why we want to hear from you:

    • What was the most successful fundraiser you’ve seen in your child’s school?
    • What do you think is the most important part of making a fundraiser successful?
    • Are there any fundraisers that you simply dread being part of? What are they, and why do you dread them?

    Are you looking for new school fundraising ideas? This website offers a list of them. Here are a few of our favorites:

    • A School Spirit Fundraiser: Sell school apparel like t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, jackets, flags and banners.
    • The Hassle-Free Fundraiser: Also known as the anti-fundraiser, invite parents to donate instead of having to buy candy bars…again.
    • Trivia Nights: It’s hard not to have fun at a well-organized trivia night.

    Leave a comment on the Missouri Parent Blog or on our Facebook page today!

  • What Does a Common Core Classroom Lesson Look Like?

    In October 2013, NBC’s Education Nation and The Teaching Channel presented three Common Core workshops as a follow-up to its NBC News Education Nation Summit.

    3 Common Core Workshops from The Teaching Channel:

    Grades K-5 English Language Arts (ELA), Literacy & Mathematics
    Grades 6-12 ELA & Literacy
    Grades 6-12 Mathematics

    During the Common Core Teacher Institute, model teachers from across the country gave demonstrations of lessons in each of these areas. All of the workshops are available as videos on NBC’s Education Nation website, and Common Core Instructional Practice Guides are downloadable for each lesson as well.

    If you’re a parent who isn’t sure what Common Core lessons might be like for your child in the classroom, the links below will give you a better idea.

    If you’re a teacher, the lessons below (debrief videos and instructional guides are also available online) might help inspire your 2014 Common Core lessons.

    K-5 ELA, Literacy & Mathematics Lessons
    When Charlie McButton Lost Power: A Read-Aloud Lesson
    (ELA & Literacy, Grade 2)
    Presented by Catherine Schmidt, Striving Readers Elementary Training Coordinator for Washoe County School District, Reno, NV

    Understanding, Modeling, and Creating Equivalent Fractions
    (Mathematics, Grade 4)
    Presented by Kisha Davis-Caldwell, Elementary Mathematics Coach in Howard County, MD and National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescent Mathematics

    The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Close Reading of a Non-Fiction Text
    (ELA & Literacy, Grade 5)
    Presented by Sayuri Stabrowski, Director of Instruction and 8th Grade Reading Teacher at KIPP Infinity Middle School in Harlem

    Grades 6-12 ELA & Literacy Lessons
    Meeting our Monsters: A Lesson in Text Synthesis
    (ELA & Literacy, Grades 6-12)
    Presented by Sarah Brown Wessling, teacher at Johnston High School in Johnston, IA, National Board Certified Teacher, and 2010 National Teacher of the Year. Wessling is also a Teacher Laureate on The Teaching Channel and is host of the PBS show Teaching Channel Presents.

    How are Mitochondria Connected to the Aging Process?: A Text-Based Lesson in Science
    (Literacy in Science, Grades 11-12)
    Presented by Veeko Lucas, teacher at Iroquis High School in Jefferson County Public Schools, KY.

    "The Significance of the Frontier in American History": A Text-Based Lesson in History
    (Literacy in History, Grade 10)
    Presented by Kathy Thiebes, member of the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) design team and teacher at Centennial High School in Gresham, OR.

    Grades 6-12 Mathematics Lessons
    Recognizing Linear Functions
    (Mathematics, Grade 8)
    Presented by William McKinney, teacher at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, CT.

    Ferris Wheel: Trigonometric Functions
    (Mathematics, High School)
    Presented by Tiffany Utoft, Integration Project Manager for the Thompson School District in Northern Colorado.

    Proportional Relationships
    (Mathematics, Grade 7)
    Presented by Joseph Almeida, math teacher at KIPP STAR College Prep Charter School in New York City and Teach for America National Teacher of the Year.

    For these resources and more, visit The Teaching Channel’s website.

  • What Does It Take To Prepare A Student for the Future?

    In October 2013, NBC’s Education Nation and the Teaching Channel presented the 4th Annual NBC News Education Nation Summit, which included an opening ceremony, a student town hall, a teacher town hall, a Common Core teacher institute, panels and master classes, and an innovation challenge which awarded $75,000 to a winning education start-up company.

    The overarching theme of the summit was “What It Takes” for America to ensure that students are prepared for college, career and beyond. Here’s what a few people had to say:

    “For student success, I believe it takes a passion: You have to decide who you want to be and how you want to get there. That’s the most important thing.” – Tom Brokaw

    “For student success, we need high, lofty expectations. We need parent engagement. We need to have teachers that do spectacular work being rewarded for their efforts. We need to embrace technology to ensure that every child learns.” – Jeb Bush (source)

    Missouri Parent wants to know: What do you think it takes to prepare Missouri’s K-12 students for college, career, and beyond? Do you think that early childhood education is critical? How about funding for Missouri’s public schools? Leave a comment on the Blog or on our Facebook Page today.

  • Spring Break is a Time for Action

    This is the week the Missouri Legislature takes its annual spring break. This usually signifies the halfway mark of the legislative session and allows our elected officials to reconnect with their constituents. Spring break is also a great time for you to discuss important public education issues with your state representatives and senators.

    So far this session there has been lengthy discussion on issues such as education funding, transfers of students from unaccredited school districts and tax cuts which would greatly impact your local schools.

    Missouri Parent has carefully watched and reported on these topics through our website and social media. You have probably read and shared our content with your fellow parents.

    When it comes to education funding, the legislature has chosen to ignore the budget recommendations of Governor Nixon and only commit to an additional $122 million towards the Foundation Formula. This legislative proposal, while appreciated, still leaves the state more than $478 million behind in funding our public schools. Our position: Work to fully fund the Foundation Formula. TWEET THIS

    Regarding student transfers, of the many bills which have been filed and debated, Missouri Parent only fully supports HB 2037 filed by Rep. Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs). Thank Rep. Lauer HERE. This bill creates a proactive system of dealing with struggling school districts, protects the students who are left behind in our few failing districts, brings education professionals in as the problem solvers instead of hired gun bureaucrats and protects the investments made by Missouri’s taxpayers into all of our schools. Our position: Fix broken schools and protect students first. TWEET THIS

    Finally, when it comes to tax cuts, we stand with Governor Nixon and legislators who will only support tax cuts which take effect when the Foundation Formula is fully funded. The Governor vetoed last year’s risky tax cut idea and will probably do the same to any bill which does not protect funding for public schools. Our position: Fully fund public schools before any tax cuts become reality. TWEET THIS

    We ask you to take a moment this week to contact your local legislators and ask them to support public schools at the local and state level. When the legislators come back next week, discussions will run fast and furious to pass all the required legislation by their deadlines in May. Your input may be the voice they need to hear to truly fully fund, protect students, and build the future of our public schools in Missouri. TWEET THIS

  • The Four Cs of Education


    The National Education Association asked a variety of leaders what 21st Century skills were most important for kids to gain during their K-12 education. The answers have become known as the “Four Cs”.

    The Four Cs Are:

    “Students are able to work effectively with diverse groups and exercise flexibility in making compromises to achieve common goals.”

    Collaboration Means:

    • Ability to work well within teams
    • Flexibility in achieving common goals
    • Assuming shared responsibility for collaborative work

    “Students are able to generate and improve on original ideas and also work creatively with others.”

    Creativity is:

    • Using creation techniques like brainstorming
    • Creating new and worthwhile ideas
    • Refining and improving on original ideas
    • Communicating new ideas effectively to others
    • Demonstrating originality and inventiveness
    • Viewing failure as an opportunity to learn

    “Students are able to communicate effectively across multiple media and for various purposes.”

    Communication can be defined as:
    • Being able to clearly articulate ideas orally, in writing and nonverbally
    • Listening effectively
    • Using media & technology effectively

    Critical Thinking
    “Students are able to analyze, evaluate, and understand complex systems and apply strategies to solve problems.”

    Developing critical thinking skills is:

    • Being able to reason effectively
    • Understanding “systems thinking” (how parts of a whole interact with one other)
    • Ability to make judgments and decisions
    • Ability to solve problems in both conventional and innovative ways

    Incorporating the “Four Cs” is a way for educators to help ensure that K-12 students are learning the 21st-Century skills that they’ll need — hand in hand with fundamental academic content knowledge in math, language arts, and science — to succeed in college and career.

    Download the NEA’s Preparing 21st Century Students for a Global Society: An Educator’s Guide to the “Four Cs”.

    Image via Getty.


  • Pledge to Talk to Your Teen

    Watching your child grow up is hard. Seeing your little girl or boy mature into a young adult who wants space to make his or her own decisions isn’t easy. And no matter how hard you’ve tried to instill the confidence and values in your child that he or she will need to make good decisions, you still worry.

    Teen dating is a personal subject for Missouri parents. Only you and your child will know when he or she is ready to date, and what the “right” rules are for your family and teen dating. No matter what your house rules are for dating, it’s important to talk with your son or daughter about healthy relationships.

    February was Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month but the discussions should constantly take place dedicated to teaching relationship skills, educating young people about dating violence, and preventing the devastating cycle of domestic abuse.

    Sadly, 1 in 3 teens will experience some form of domestic violence (sexual, physical, or verbal) from a dating partner during their teen years, but only 1 in 4 parents has ever talked to their kids about domestic violence.

    Even if your first instinct is to lock your son or daughter up until they turn 30, the reality of raising a teenager is that you can’t always be there to protect them. One of the best things you can do to help your son or daughter stay safe is to talk with them — and to make sure that they know that they can talk with you — about dating and relationships.

    It’s Time to Talk Day is devoted to opening the conversation about dating and domestic violence. Tim Gunn, Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, and other celebrities have participated in the past, and this year, you can participate, too.

    Go to It’s Time To Talk Day’s website to pledge to talk to your son or daughter about healthy relationships and teen dating this February.

    A long list of general resources on dating, abuse, and domestic violence prevention and reporting is available here, and the site also offers specific resources to schools/educators and to faith-based leaders.

    Image via Getty.

  • Flipped: Powerful Questions To Ask Your Child

    Recently, educator Recebba Alber shared a thoughtful blog post on called “5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students”. The post was the learning curve she experienced as a teacher who wanted to ask thoughtful questions of her students.

    Her post got us thinking about what would happen if you flipped those 5 questions around at home, asking them in conversations with your kids.

    Below are Alber’s questions, paired with hypothetical times and ways when you could use the same questions while talking with your son or daughter. If you try any of these out, let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear from you.

    1. “What do you think?”

    • When discussing a current event.
    • After watching the news together.
    • When your child tells you about a social situation at school.
    • When you talk about the differences between how a friend’s family does things (meals, curfews, homework time) and how yours does.

    2. “Why do you think that?”

    • As a follow-up question to “What do you think?” to help your child verbally communicate his or her logic.
    • When your child shares his or her opinion with you about something at school or in extra-curricular/after school activities.
    • When your child expresses a strong opinion about a peer’s attitude, perspective, or personality.

    3. “How do you know this?”

    • When your child makes an assumption about a situation (at school, socially, or in extra-curricular/after school activities).
    • When your child states a fact about a current event.
    • When your child talks about social situations at school (example: “Johnny did this” or “Susie said that”).

    4. “Can you tell me more?”

    • When your child shows enthusiasm about a subject, whether that “subject” is an academic one, a hobby, or even a professional a sports team.
    • As a follow-up to any of the above questions.

    5. “What questions do you still have?”

    • As a follow-up to a conversation when you’ve helped explain something to your son or daughter.
    • As you’re helping your child with homework.
    • In conversations you’re helping your child have with other adults (examples: in a conference with a teacher, questions you’re asking of a healthcare provider, or interactions with a coach or other mentor). You’ll encourage your son or daughter to assert himself or herself in order to gather information.

    Image via Getty.

  • Navigating Parenthood from Pre-K through High School

    A new web-based tool from NBC News’ Education Nation helps parents track and support kids’ progress at every step of their Pre-K through 12th grade education. The site includes an academic growth chart, parent tips for supporting and encouraging kids’ academic achievement, and a helpful parent teacher conference guide.

    Growth Charts
    Right now, the site offers academic “Growth Charts”, which include benchmarks and tips, including key concepts and skills that students should learn at each grade level from Pre-K through 12. Additional Growth Charts for Social Development and Health & Wellness are expected to be published later in 2014.

    The site’s Academic Growth Charts are separated by grade level, and each includes an overview, as well as a section on English Language Arts (ELA) and math.

    “Your 2nd grader”, it says in its 2nd grade overview, “will be learning to understand and discuss information from a range of sources and she will also begin learning to express herself effectively in writing. She’ll continue to build upon the math skills she learned in 1st grade.”

    In addition to explaining what students should learn each year, the site also offers grade-specific and subject-specific parents tips.

    Parent Tips
    Parents can find resources here for helping their kids with Math and ELA studies. For example, fourth grade students are encouraged to help their kids with math by:

    • Encouraging a positive attitude toward math
    • Reading math problems aloud
    • Integrating math problems into everyday activities
    • Keeping an eye out for math concepts
    • Highlighting how math is used in cooking
    • …and more.

    Parent Teacher Conference Tips
    The Toolkit offers general Parent Teacher Conference tips, as well as grade-specific parent teacher conference guides, and a handy before- and after- conference parent checklist.

    See also:

    Making the Most of Parent Teacher Conferences

    Talking to Your Child About Parent Teacher Conferences

    The site enlisted the help of educational experts from all over the U.S., including two Missouri teachers; Cathy Cartier, a high school English teacher from the Affton School District in St. Louis and Dr. J. Michael Pragman, the Director or Research, Evaluation and Accountability with the North Kansas City School District.

    The NBC Education National Parent Toolkit might be a helpful resources for you as you monitor your son or daughter’s growth and development from Pre-K through 12th grade.

    If you visit the toolkit, we’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment on the blog or on the Missouri Parent Facebook Page.

    Image via Getty.

  • Having Fun at the Intersection of Science & the Arts Part II

    Perhaps reading a blog post like this?

    This post is Part II of a two-part post that brings science and the arts together into fun, easy, at-home projects you can do together with your son or daughter. You can find Part I of this post here

    The experiments that can be done using easy-to-find supplies, and in many cases use things you probably already have in your home.

    Thirsty Celery
    Watch stalks of celery change color as you teach your child that plants need water to survive. This experiment is easy to do using basic kitchen supplies, but it does need time to work its magic. Allow anywhere from an hour to two days of periodic observation with your child to get the most out of the project.

    Colorful Carnations
    The Colorful Carnations experiment teaches your child about how water is absorbed through the root system of a plant all the way to the petals of the flower.
    Do this experiment at home using white carnations, water, food coloring, and a knife.

    Visual Trickery
    Using water, glue, a pencil or straw, colored and white paper, and tempura paints, learn together about blind spots, refraction, after images, and color combinations through this Visual Trickery experiment from Scholastic.

    Ghost Writing
    Make your own invisible ink and then write and read invisible messages in this experiment. Talk with your child about he or she is still able to write letters or draw pictures even when he or she can’t see them while writing or drawing.

    For this project, you’ll need lemon or grapefruit juice, milk, Q-tips, white paper and a light.

    Icy Art
    This project, which teaches the properties of water (freezing, melting, and evaporation), is fun for younger kids. The only supplies you’ll need are water, an ice cube tray, crayons, construction paper, paper towels, and newspaper.

    Homemade Sidewalk Chalk
    Homemade sidewalk chalk requires just a few more supplies than the other experiments and projects in this post, but it’s a fun way to teach your child how colors mix together, and how liquids change to solids.

    Did you try any of these experiments with your kids? Did they learn something new? Leave a comment today on the Missouri Parent Blog.

  • Having Fun at the Intersection of Science & the Arts Part I

    Is your child interested in creative classes like art and music, but science just isn’t as interesting to him or her?

    This two-part post will highlight some of the overlaps in science and the Arts while offering suggestions for hands-on activities you and your child can do together at home. Each of these activities is designed to explore science through from a creative or artistic lens.

    Color Drops

    Color and texture are two of the fundamental elements of art. This project, which uses basic household supplies like water, food coloring, coffee filters, cups and eyedroppers, is an easy way to introduce your son or daughter to art and science at the same time. Learn more about Color Drops here.

    The Ice Tray Experiment
    Practice mixing colors with The Ice Tray Experiment from PBS.

    The Ice Tray Experiment is a great tool for helping your child understand how dark and light colors are a result of the reflection of light.

    The Color-Changing Milk Experiment
    Like The Ice Tray Experiment, this project can be done at home using supplies that you probably already have in your kitchen. The Color-Changing Milk Experiment provides teaching opportunities around color and chemistry, making it a great project for older elementary school students.

    Come back to the Missouri Parent Blog for five more experiments at the intersection of science and the Arts.

  • BAM! The CDC Connects with Kids through Games, Cartoons, and Activities Online

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the country’s health protection agency, providing information and resources to help protect citizens from health and safety threats. But did you know that the CDC hosts an entire website that’s devoted entirely to the health of our nation’s young people?

    The BAM! Body and Mind website includes videos, games, and other content designed specifically for kids. Content is organized under six categories: Diseases, Food & Nutrition, Physical Activity, Your Safety, Your Life, and Your Body.

    The site offers a range of research-supported information presented in kid-friendly formats. A few examples include:

    Cartoons Like “The Immune Platoon” and “The Ad Decoder
    Games Like “Dining Decisions
    Activity Cards for Sports & Activities and Activity Safety

    Of course, the CDC offers information on youth health & safety that’s designed to be used by adult readers, too. You can find the CDC’s Adolescent and School Health pages here.

    If student health and nutrition in Missouri’s public schools is something that you’d like to learn more about, check out these posts from the Missouri Parent Blog:

    Creating a Healthier Home in the New Year
    9 Missouri Schools Earn Extra Credit for Healthy Choices
    Making Sure Missouri’s Kids Eat Breakfast
    The Summer Food Service Program: Preventing Summertime Hunger
    Free Printables That Teach Healthy Eating Habits 

  • Free Printables That Teach Healthy Eating Habits

    From 2008 to 2011, Missouri showed one of the largest declines in the nation in childhood obesity rates according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (source).

    According to the Missouri Foundation for Health, however, Missouri is still one of the heaviest states in the nation with more than 31% of our 10-17 year olds and more than 30% of our adult population qualifying as overweight or obese (source).

    If you’re a parent or a teacher in Missouri who wants to teach your kids about healthy eating and active living, Nourish Interactive has some fun resources available to you absolutely free.

    Dozens of nutrition, meal planning, and active living printables are available for download from the Nourish Interactive website. Some of the printables are in color, some are in black-and-white, but all are fun, free ways to teach your children (or your students) about healthy food choices.

    Choose from learning sheets, nutrition-fitness worksheets, writing activities, healthy coloring sheets, and nutrition sheets for ages 0-13, or search by grade level, pre-k through 5.

    These free printables can help kids learn about the food groups, vitamins, minerals and nutrition vocabulary. And for parents who want to take nutrition education one step further, there are printables about kids’ gardening, kids’ cooking, healthy goal-setting, and fitness tracking. And as an added bonus, each printable is downloadable in English and in Spanish.

    Here are a few of our favorite printables from Nourish Interactive:

    Chef Solus Color My Plate Drawing Page
    Fitness and Nutrition Alphabet Words Using Letter A
    (there’s one of these for every letter in the alphabet!)
    Compare Food Labels Worksheet
    Five Food Groups Tracking Sheet - Color the Stars
    Childrens’ Lunchbox Notes - General Nutrition

    If childhood nutrition interests you, check out these past posts from the Missouri Parent Blog:

    Creating a Healthier Home in the New Year
    9 Missouri Schools Earn Extra Credit for Healthy Choices
    Making Sure Missouri’s Kids Eat Breakfast
    The Summer Food Service Program: Preventing Summertime Hunger

  • America’s Oldest and Largest Arts Education Program: Reflections

    The oldest and largest arts education program of its kind in the United States is the Parent Teacher Association’s (PTA) “Reflections” program.

    The PTA believes that every child deserves a quality arts education, which is why it’s encouraged Pre-K through 12th grade students to bring themes to life through film productiondance choreographyliteraturemusic compositionphotography, and visual arts since 1969.

    The PTA believes that participation in the arts:
    · Levels the playing field for underserved students
    · Develops the whole child
    · Nurtures creativity and teamwork
    · Connects families and schools to one another and to their communities

    Each year, hundreds of thousands of students enter the Reflections program through their local PTAs. Entries are divided by grade level (Pre-K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and an all-grades category called “Special Artist”), and local winners go on to compete at the district/region and state levels. State winners are considered for National PTA Reflections awards, including:
    · Outstanding Interpretation Awards
    · Awards of Excellence
    · Awards of Merit

    The 2013-14 Reflections program theme is “Believe, Dream, Inspire.” Students can register for Reflections using this form on the Missouri PTA’s website. If your school’s PTA hasn’t yet registered to participate in the 2013-14 Reflections program, you can find the PTA Unit Participation Form here.

    Interested in learning more? Visit the 2012-13 or 2011-2012 online Reflections galleries. You can also learn more on the National PTA’s website or on the Missouri PTA’s website.

  • Adaptive vs. Fixed Form Assessments: What’s the Difference?

    Missouri’s public school students will transition to an entirely online Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) testing system in 2014-15. As you learn more about how your child will be assessed through the new MAP tests, you may hear the terms “adaptive” and “fixed-form” testing. Today on the Missouri Parent Blog, we’ll explain the difference between the two testing styles:

    Adaptive Testing
    Adaptive testing, also called computer adaptive testing (CAT) or “tailored testing”, is a method of testing that actively adapts to the test taker’s ability level during a computerized assessment.

    In adaptive testing, a computerized algorithm adjusts future questions based on a student’s performance on past questions. In other words, the test bases the difficulty of future questions on whether a student has answered past questions correctly.

    Adaptive testing provides a more accurate measure of student achievement than traditional, fixed-form testing does; specifically for the highest- and lowest-performing students.

    The Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) Course Level Assessments (CLAs) for 3rd through 8th grade English language arts and mathematics use adaptive testing.

    Fixed-Form Testing
    In fixed-form testing, all students receive the same future questions, regardless of performance on past questions. If you took paper-and-pencil assessments as a student, then you’re familiar with fixed-form tests.

    In Missouri, End-of-Course (EOC) assessments are fixed-form tests. This includes EOCs for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.

    To learn more about the Missouri Assessment Program, see these posts from Missouri Parent:

    What is the Missouri Assessment Program?
    Missouri Public Schools to Use CTB/McGraw-Hill 
    How Will Missouri Assess the Common Core?
    5 Ways Your Child’s School is Evaluated for Accreditation

    Photo via

  • Chelsea Clinton: My Favorite Teacher

    Chelsea Clinton Shares a Memory of a Favorite Teacher from NBC News on Vimeo.

    Chelsea Clinton’s fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Porter. Standing barely five feet tall, Mrs. Porter left a big impression on Chelsea. In fact, the impression she left has lasted more than 20 years.

    What did Mrs. Porter do that was so impactful? According to Chelsea, fourth grade was a year when what she’d learned in reading, science and math all came together into projects that required her to use her mind (and her imagination) in new ways.

    What Missouri public school teacher or teachers have left a lasting impression on you or your child? Leave a comment on the Missouri Parent Blog or on our Facebook Page letting us know who that teacher was and what kind of difference they made in your child’s (or your own) life.

    Chelsea Clinton was in Kansas City recently. Photo via David Eulitt, Kansas City Star.

  • Social Media: Block It or Teach Around It?

    Should schools block access to social media or teach students to use it responsibly? Tweet this

    Is there a healthy middle ground?

    Abigail Walthausen is a writer and high school English teacher who recently published an article in The Atlantic that made us curious to know what you think:

    Should schools continue to block the parts of the Internet that are deemed distracting, or should they teach students to work effectively amidst those possible disruptions?

    Walthausen’s article encourages schools and teachers to embrace the “many-headed hydra that is social media”, and to give students “guidance in becoming productive citizens of the web”.

    Citing psychologist Larry Rosen and writer Amanda Ripley, Walthausen encourages educators to teach students how to actively manage internet-based interruptions, and to think of social media not just as a distraction, but as something that can be integrated meaningfully into daily life. The logic? That later on, these young people will be more valuable as employees if they’re able to balance focused work and social interaction (in real life or online).

    Walthausen’s primary criticism of the way most schools handle Internet-based distractions is that they use content-blocking software that is clunky and broad. Instead of filtering content in a nuanced way (protecting students from dangerous content, while leaving access to harmless content), most of the filtering software used in schools blocks entire websites or types of websites from students. Walthausen calls this “brute-force technology”.

    “Brute-force technology” filtering means that many students and classrooms are blocked from entire categories of websites, such as all blogging software or all of YouTube. “These broad filters aren’t actually very helpful,’ says Walthausen, “because we need much more nuanced filtering”.

    Walthausen’s bottom line is that filtering in schools isn’t inherently a bad thing, but that filters are less important than teaching students to manage Internet distractions. According to Walthausen, schools should teach students to “live responsibly and productively on the Internet”.

    What Do You Think?
    Do you think that schools should use Internet filters at all grade levels, or is there an age or grade level at which the focus should shift from filtering content to teaching students to work productively in its midst? Should educators push for more nuanced filtering software so that the worst content is filtered while non-dangerous content is made available to students?

    We want to hear from you. Leave a comment today here on the blog or on our Facebook Page.

  • Missouri Public Schools to Use CTB/McGraw-Hill

    Beginning with the 2014-15 academic year, Missouri’s public schools will use CTB/McGraw-Hill to administer updated online statewide assessments to measure Missouri students’ progress toward state standards. The change will begin in the 2014-15 school year.

    Missouri’s relationship with CTB/McGraw-Hill is not new; the state has used the assessment company for almost two decades:

    "TheState of Missourihas been a strong, longstanding partner for nearly 20 years, and we are proud that it has chosen CTB/McGraw-Hill to serve its public school students and educators in assessing students' academic proficiency," saidEllen Haley, president of CTB/McGraw-Hill.” (source)

    The most notable changes to the state’s assessments are a shift from paper to online testing and the addition of both Interim Assessments and End-of-High School (EOHS) Summative Assessments.

    Missouri’s new contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill includes:
    · Interim Assessments (NEW)
    o English language arts interim assessments
    o Mathematics interim assessments
    · Grade Level Assessments (GLAs)
    Learn more about GLAs here.
    o English language arts
    o Mathematics
    o Science grade-level
    (development, administration, scoring and reporting)
    · End-of-High School Summative (EOHS) Assessments (NEW)
    (administration, scoring and reporting)
    o English language arts
    o Mathematics
    o Science
    · End of Course (EOC) Assessments
    (development, administration, scoring and reporting)
    Learn more about EOCs here.
    o English language arts
    o Mathematics
    · End of Course (EOC) Assessments
    (administration, scoring and reporting)
    Learn more about EOCs here.
    o Science (Biology)
    o Social Studies (American History, Government)
    All of the new assessments will be administered online, enabling schools to receive detailed student performance feedback in as little as 10 days after testing is complete.

    The State Board of Education approved the Department’s proposed FY15 budget, which included $18 million in additional funds for student assessments and teacher resources — in September 2013, including additional funds for the new CTB/McGraw-Hill assessment contract. The budget is subject to the normal appropriations process.

    Assessment costs to school districts will not change in 2014-15.

  • 3 Resources for Paying for College in Missouri

    Paying for college may seem like an overwhelming prospect, but there are websites and other resources in Missouri to help you. Whether your child is heading to a community college, a technical school, or a four-year university in Missouri, the resources listed here are worth checking out.

    1. The Missouri Department of Higher Education
    The MDHE’s website offers helpful information on planning for & paying for college in Missouri. The site has a long list of resources specifically for students and parents, including scholarship search tips, a Facebook page, and information about Missouri’s A+ Program.

    2. MDHE Reminder Emails
    Each month, the MDHE sends out a PDF with helpful updates on everything from the FAFSA to ACT dates and scholarship opportunities.

    MDHE’s emails are designed for parents, high school juniors and seniors, and nontraditional students. Sign up for MDHE reminder emails here.

    3. FAFSA Frenzy
    FAFSA Frenzy is a program that assists students and families in completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

    The FAFSA is the primary application used by federal, state, and institutional financial assistance entities in determining an individual’s eligibility for grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships.

    In February, March, and April 2014, there will be 81 FAFSA Frenzy events in 44 Missouri counties. If you attend a FAFSA Frenzy event, your family will receive:
    · Free professional assistance completing the FAFSA
    · Free information about federal and state aid programs
    · A chance to win a fall 2014 scholarship for a Missouri postsecondary institution

    Learn more about FAFSA Frenzy here.

  • Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri Partner with Missouri Schools to Prevent Violence

    No parent or teacher wants to worry that his or her students are subject to bullying or violence. That’s why the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri has been working with Missouri schools for more than a decade through an anti-violence education program called PAVE (Project Anti-Violence Education).

    Missouri schools can leverage the PAVE program for free, and it benefits boys and girls, both.

    PAVE in the Classroom
    A trained facilitator will come into the classroom to work with boys and girls K-12.

    PAVE Girl Power Groups
    These eight-week programs bring together smaller groups of girls in grades 7-12 to focus on issues related to aggressive behavior and peer abuse specifically between girls.

    The PAVE Full Service Experience
    The full-service PAVE option brings facilitators into the classroom up to four times and includes facilitation of at least one Girl Power Group.

    The topics covered in PAVE programs vary depending on the age of the students involved. 3rd graders, for instance, talk about bullying, anger management/violence, abuse, conflict resolution, and peer pressure. 9th and 10th graders, by contrast, discuss healthy relationships, cyber bullying and Internet safety, bullying, and inclusion/diversity.

    Teachers are receptive to the PAVE program: 98% reported that students demonstrated better control of their tempers in conflict situations in the classroom after PAVE, and 97% said that PAVE helped students do better at following classroom rules, reducing interruptions that impact learning in the classroom.

    More than 300,000 young people in Eastern Missouri have benefited from the PAVE program already, and in 2012-13, more than 100 schools in Eastern Missouri used the PAVE program.

    To learn more about PAVE and how the Girls Scouts of Eastern Missouri can help your child or your school, visit their website or contact Michelle Johnson at 314-592-2344 or

    More Missouri Parent Posts on Bullying:
    Infographic Shows Seriousness of Cyber Bullying
    Bullying in Schools: How Adults Can Help

  • Learn About the Missouri Foundation Formula

    This is Part II of a two-part post explaining the Missouri Foundation Formula. For Part I, please click here

    Previously, we discussed two of the four key components of the Missouri Foundation Formula: Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA) and The State Adequacy Target (SAT). Today, we’ll explain the third and four components of the Formula: The Dollar Value Modifier (DVM) and Local Effort.

    The Dollar Value Modifier (DVM)
    The Dollar Value Modifier is an index of the relative purchasing power of a dollar across the state of Missouri. In other words, the DVM accounts for the various costs of living in different communities.

    The DVM comes into play in the Foundation Formula by providing more money to schools that operate in areas with higher costs of living.

    It’s important to understand that while schools in more expensive parts of the state receive additional funding to help cover their operational costs, schools in areas with lower costs of living do not experience a removal of funding. Funds in the Foundation Formula are never reduced as a result of lower cost of living in a school district.

    Local Effort
    While the WADA, SAT, and DVM help determine the total target amount of money that it should cost to adequately and equitably educate Missouri’s public school students, Local Effort describes the portion of that total cost that can be generated by local sources like property taxes.

    After calculating WADA, SAT, and DVM, the state subtracts Local Effort. The difference is the amount of money that the state must provide in order to ensure that the spending target is met for each student.

    The result of this final piece of the Foundation Formula is that in communities where more school funding can be generated locally, the state offers less fiscal support. The reverse is also true: in areas where less local funding is available for schools, the state’s Foundation Formula helps make up the difference to ensure that enough funding is provided so that students across the state — regardless of local wealth — receive an adequate public education.

    This two-part post was intended to give you a broad understanding of what the Missouri Foundation Formula is and why it matters for Missouri’s public schools. To learn more about recent advocacy for full funding of the Formula, read our post, Exciting News for the Missouri School Funding Formula.

    To receive regular updates on Missouri’s education policies and education news, follow Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter. For updates delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for Missouri Parent emails at the top of this page.


  • Understanding the Missouri Foundation Formula

    The Missouri Foundation Formula was passed in 2005 to help ensure that all of Missouri’s elementary and secondary education students have access to adequate educational resources.

    The formula is used to establish a concrete spending target — the amount of money that should be spent (at minimum) in order to educate the average K-12 student in Missouri per academic year.

    The four basic pieces of the Missouri Foundation Formula are:
    · Weighted Average Daily Attendance
    · The State Adequacy Target
    · The Dollar Value Modifier
    · Local Effort

    Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA)
    Weighted Average Daily Attendance accounts for the average daily attendance of students in each school district as compared to the total number of hours that each student could possibly be in school during that academic year in that district.

    A detailed weighting system is then used to account for the fact that some students simply need more help (and in turn, require more resources from their districts) than others do to achieve the same academic and/or behavioral results.

    The state has identified three categories of students whose attendance in schools is weighted: those on free or reduced lunches, those with individualized learning plans and those who are deemed limited in English language proficiency.

    The State Adequacy Target (SAT)
    Two terms are used in context of the State Adequacy Target and it’s important to understand the difference between them.

    Adequacy means providing each student with an education that is “adequate”. In other words, adequacy accounts for meeting baseline educational needs.

    Equity, on the other hand, means that each school district receives total funding that is fair relative to the total funding received by other districts.

    The SAT helps the state to educate students adequately by funding districts equitably. This is where the concrete educational spending target that we mentioned in the first paragraph of this piece comes into play. When the Missouri Foundation Formula is fully funded, the SAT will ensure that each student in the state of Missouri receives (at minimum) the equivalent of the target education investment for that academic year.

    For example, in Missouri, the target for 2013 and 2014 was $6,717.17 per student. When the Foundation Formula is fully funded, each student in the state will see a total investment in his or her education equivalent to at least $6,717.17 per academic year.

    The SAT accounts for the cost of meeting all of the criteria of the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP), which is the state’s accountability system for schools and school districts. (Read more about the MSIP here.)

    To Be Continued…
    Come Back for Understanding the Missouri Foundation Formula, Part II 

    Have Missouri K-12 public school updates delivered straight to your inbox! Sign up for Missouri Parent email updates at the top of this page. You can also follow Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Every Kid Needs a Champion

    The late Rita Pierson followed in the footsteps of both her parents and grandparents by pursuing a 40-year-long career in education.

    Pierson taught elementary school, junior high, and special education. She also worked as a counselor, a testing coordinator, and an assistant principal. And in this inspiring Ted Talk, Pierson encourages teachers that relationships are the key to student learning:

    “We know why kids drop out…But one of the things that we never discuss — or that we rarely discuss — is the value and importance of human connection; relationships.

    Questions to Consider:

    · Pierson says that kids don’t learn from people they don’t like. Do you agree? Have your children learned better from teachers they liked than from the teachers they didn’t like?
    · Pierson admitted that there were years when, she “had classes that were so academically deficient that I cried.” If you’re a teacher, you might be able to relate. What advice would you give other teachers?
    · Do you agree with Pierson that relationship-building — teachers connecting with students on a “real, human, personal level” — is a key to educational success?
    · What do you think of Pierson’s mantra: “I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I’ll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful and I am strong, and I deserve the education that I get here. I have things to do, people to impress and places to go…You say it long enough, and it starts to be a part of you.”?
    · Pierson asks how powerful our world would be if every child had “a champion”. Has your child had a teacher who was a champion for him or for her?

    We’ve love to hear from you: Leave a comment today on the Missouri Parent Blog or Facebook Page.

  • Career & Technical Education in Missouri Schools

    One of the subjects raised during the House Interim Committee on Education’s 2013 Public Hearings was the importance of career and technical education (CTE) in Missouri.

    CTE programs are offered in agriculture, business, health sciences, family consumer sciences, skilled technical sciences, and marketing and cooperative education. The goal of CTE is to bring together academic and occupational skills training to prepare students for the job market.

    Across Missouri, there are more than 50 area career centers and over 400 comprehensive high schools, as well as a technical college, a dozen community college districts, and seven four-year institutions that help deliver CTE to students.

    Two state agencies; the Department of Social Services and the Department of Corrections, are active in the delivery of CTE programs in Missouri.

    In 2011-12, nearly 3,000 adults, more than 80,000 postsecondary students and more than 180,000 secondary students participated in Missouri CTE programs. The majority of those 2011 graduates (82% of postsecondary graduates and 92% of secondary graduates) were either employed, continuing their training, or serving in the military after graduation. (source)

    CTE plays an important role in Missouri public education. As Missouri Parent tracks legislative updates and educational policies related to CTE, we’ll keep you informed on the Missouri Parent Blog.

  • Protecting Your Kids Against Eye Strain

    Eye strain can occur after too much time on a computer, tablet, video games, or too much time watching TV.

    Don’t think you or your child could suffer from eye strain? According to the Vision Council, neither does 70% of the rest of the population, but it takes as little as two hours a day of looking at a screen to strain your eyes.

    Tips for Preventing Eye Strain:
    · Turn down the brightness on your child’s monitor(s)
    · Keep the screen clean
    · Be conscious of your child’s computer ergonomics (Check out this post from Apple to learn how)
    · Make sure your child takes frequent breaks from the screen
    · Use the 20-20-20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, your child should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds
    · Set computer screens up 20-26 inches from your eyes and a little bit below eye level
    · Avoid glare on screens from competing light sources (windows, desk lamps, bright overhead lights, etc.)
    · Encourage your kids to spend time playing away from their devices
    · Limit screen time: Kids shouldn’t spend more than 2 hours or so each day, combined, on screens
    · Take your son or daughter for regular eye exams

    Have you or your child experienced eye strain first hand? What suggestions would you offer to other Missouri parents? Leave a comment today on the Missouri Parent Blog or on our Facebook Page.

  • Connecting With Your Kids on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

    Every January we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and it’s very likely that your son or daughter’s classroom will do activities leading up to or on that day to honor Dr. King.

    Use MLK Day to Ask Your Child Specific Questions
    All too often, we ask our kids, “how was your day?” and get a simple, “good” or “fine” in response.

    You can combat this on holidays like MLK Day. In the days leading up to the holiday, ask your child what his or her teacher or school has planned to honor Dr. King.

    When you pick your child up from school in the days before the holiday, ask your son or daughter what they did in school that day to recognize MLK Day. Some examples of activities teachers might use in the classroom that day are:

    · Timelines: of the civil rights movement, of Dr. King’s life, etc.
    · Speech Writing Activities: inspired by Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
    · Story Time: the teacher may read books to the class about Dr. King
    · Book Reports: older students might be asked to read a book written about Dr. King or to choose a book by an African American writer to write a book report on for class
    · Nonviolent Conflict Management: older students might study and discuss Dr. King’s nonviolent approach to confrontation
    · English Language Arts Assignments: students may be asked to write poems, stories, or essays on relevant themes (peace, diversity, civil rights, equality)

    Is Your Knowledge a Little Rusty?
    Want to dust off your knowledge about Dr. King before talking with your kids? Here are a few highlights of Dr. King’s life and the impact he made in the Civil Rights Movement:

    · Dr. King believed in nonviolent resistance.
    · Dr. King was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully fought racial discrimination in state and federal law.
    · Dr. King fought against segregation laws.
    · In 1963, King organized his famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to support President John F. Kennedy’s civil rights bill (which, once passed, became the Civil Rights Act of 1964).
    · Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech was given in Washington, D.C. at the march.
    · Dr. King received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was the youngest person ever to receive the honor.
    · Dr. King was a Baptist minister.
    · Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in April 1968. He was just 39 years old when he died.
    · Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was created as a federal holiday in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan.
    · Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was observed for the first time in 1986.
    · Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day wasn’t recognized in all 50 states until 2000.
    · Dr. King is among only three individuals to be recognized with a national holiday. The others are George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

    Photo via Life Magazine

  • Missouri Says Goodbye to the GED

    Missouri is one of several states to replace the GED test with one of two new high school equivalency exams in 2014.

    At the end of 2013, Missouri moved away from the GED, adopting the HiSET exam as the state’s high school equivalency test. Updates to the GED test — and resulting increased cost for test takers — lead the state to consider GED competitors, including the HiSET.

    The HiSET test costs $95 — $25 less than the updated GED exam. The HiSET’s $95 cost includes a $60 registration fee and $7 for each of the five test sections. The $60 registration fee will allow individuals to take the test three times during a 12-month period.

    Examinees who do not pass the test the first time can retake the entire test or any of the test sections two more times within the 12-month period by paying an additional $7-per-section fee. The HiSET will cover the same content areas as the GED; reading, math, social studies, science, and writing.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to both the new GED and the HiSET exam. Both are computerized, which could pose challenges for test takers who aren’t as comfortable with technology as they are with paper and pencil work.

    On the other hand, all but the writing sections of the HiSET are scored immediately, allowing test takers to know right away whether they need to schedule a retake of the exam. If a section needs to be retaken, test takers can sign up on the spot.

    HiSET was developed by Education Testing Service. If the name ETS sounds familiar it’s because ETS is the nonprofit behind the development of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exams.

    40 million or so adults in America lack a high school education, and more than 700,00 of them took the GED in 2012. In recent years, the number of GED test-takers in Missouri has been on the rise: In 2003, only 9,322 Missourians took the exam. By 2012, there were 12,029 GED examinees in the state.

    For more information about obtaining a high school equivalency certificate, or for information about high school equivalency exam testing sites in Missouri, visit or call 573-751-3504. Schedule your Missouri high school equivalency exam here.

  • High School Graduation Rates & School Accreditation in Missouri

    David H. Hickman High School graduating seniors listen to fellow senior Zophia McDougal speak at Mizzou Arena on Saturday, May 21, 2011. (Clint Alwahab/Missourian)

    One of our ongoing goals at Missouri Parent is to help you — the Missouri public school parent — to understand the MSIP5, or the Missouri School Improvement Plan. Today, we’ll tell you how MSIP5 uses high school graduation rates to help determine school accreditation.

    MSIP is Missouri’s accountability system for reviewing and accrediting public school districts. It was introduced in 1990, and it’s currently in its 5th cycle, or MSIP5.

    Want a quick overview of MSIP? Read this short blog post.

    Over the last several weeks, we’ve detailed each of the 5 Performance Standards that are evaluated under MSIP5. Graduation Rates are the fifth MSIP Performance Standard. Each of those five Performance Standards is part of the total Annual Performance Report (APR) score earned by a school or district under MSIP5. The state uses those APRs to help determine the accreditation status of each school or district.

    When Missouri refers to Graduation Rate in its Performance Standards, it’s referring to the rate of students who successfully complete high school or an education program that meets the state’s requirements for high school equivalency.

    Four-year graduation rates, 5+ year graduation rates, and alternative/non-traditional graduation rates (like the GED or the new HiSET exam) are all examples of successful high school completion under MSIP5.

    One important thing to understand about Missouri’s school systems is that not all of them continue through the 12th grade. If a school or a school district only provides K-8 education (as opposed to K-12 education), that school or district is not held accountable for high school graduation rate-based performance standards under MSIP5.

    As with most MSIP5 metrics for school success, Graduation Rate follows a complex formula. The overarching expectation of Missouri’s schools is to reach a 92 percent five-year graduation rate by the year 2020. For accountability purposes, the state set an 82 percent graduation rate goal for the year 2012.

    For detailed information about MSIP5, visit the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education online.

    For more from the Missouri Parents Blog on MSIP5, see these posts:

    What is the Missouri School Improvement Program?
    5 Ways Your Student’s School is Evaluated for Accreditation
    Academic Achievement & School Accreditation
    What are Subgroups, and How Does Missouri Measure Their Achievement?
    15 Missouri School Districts Earn 100% on Annual Performance Reviews

    Photo credit: Columbia Missourian

  • Why Arts Education Matters in a Visual Age

    In 2009, the National Art Education Association published a white paper explaining the importance of arts education for America’s “digital native” students. Now, in 2014, the information from the NAEA’s paper holds as true as ever.

    Why Visual Arts Education Matters:

    • Students in art classes learn a “remarkable array of mental habits not emphasized elsewhere in schools” (including observing, envisioning, innovating, and reflecting)
    • Observation — taught in art classes — is a skill needed by naturalists, climatologists, doctors, and other STEM field workers
    • Visual arts encourage using mental imagery to problem solve — a skill used by chemists and architects to create new models
    • Visual arts instruction teaches students to value diverse perspectives and cultures — something that’s increasingly important in a global society
    • Quality art instruction helps students see patterns, learn from their mistakes, and envision creative new solutions 
    • Visual arts education has been shown to motivate students who might otherwise be at risk of dropping out of school
    • Quality arts instruction teaches visual-spatial abilities, self-reflection, and experimentation — skills that are not well-addressed in other areas of school curriculums

    Today’s students live in a world that is largely defined by interaction with visual communications like advertising, mobile apps, video games, and photo sharing. The skills taught in quality arts classes help students think critically about the visual information they’re receiving nearly 24/7.

    Those critical thinking skills will help guide today’s students not just to consume information, but to design it. Quality arts education is a critical aspect of students’ K-12 education, guiding students not just to be consumers of visual information, but to be designers and creators of visual information in the future.

    To learn more about arts education in Missouri, visit the Missouri Art Education Association website.

    To read the full NEAE report, click here.

  • Another Snowpocalypse? 5 Snow Day Science Projects for Your Kids

    Snow days are the source of giddy excitement for kids, but for parents, they can be an unwelcome break in routine. How do you keep your kids busy when they’ve come in cold and wet from playing in the snow? Here are five easy ideas for simple science projects you and your kids can do together when it’s too cold to stay outside.

    The Snowy Day Science Lesson
    Based on the children’s book by Ezra Jack Keats, Scholastic has put together an easy project that you can do at home (or in the classroom) with young elementary school students to teach them about snowmelt.

    Materials: snow, pans or dishes, pens/pencils

    Researchers at the University of Waterloo, Cananda, have launched a global initiative that uses Twitter to gather snow depth information from all over the world. The next time it snows in your neck of the Missouri woods, measure the snowfall and tweet it. Check out the SnowTweets website for information on how to format your tweet, and get more information here about measuring snow depth.

    Materials: ruler, Twitter account, Internet connection

    Make a Snow Gauge
    Using a ruler and a coffee can, collect fresh snowfall and measure its depth in this experiment from the Parenting Squad. When the snow has stopped falling, bring your coffee can indoors and allow the snow to melt. Did the depth of the snow change when it melted?

    Materials: coffee can, ruler

    Growing & Exploding (Ice Expands)
    This project is another simple exploration of frozen and melted water that uses materials you already have at home. Learn about how water expands when it’s frozen using your own freezer or by taking advantage of Missouri’s bitter cold outdoor winter temps.

    Materials: empty can, plastic bottle, water, marker

    Make Frost
    Teach your kids how frost develops using this fast, easy project.

    Materials: empty soup can, crushed ice, salt, paper, water

    Did you enjoy this post? Check out these posts on the Missouri Parent Blog with other seasonal science projects you can do at home:

    Spooky Science Projects for Halloween Part I
    Investing Autumn with Your Student Part I
    Investigating Autumn with Your Students Part II
    Science, Math, and…Pumpkins?

  • Creating a Healthier Home in the New Year

    Did you know that kids who eat healthy and are active do better in school?

    The National PTA says, “Studies have shown that children's physical well-being has a significant effect on their learning and long-term success. When children are well-nourished and physically fit, they are more ready to learn.” (source)

    So what can you do at home to make sure your child’s ready to learn?

    Healthy Eating at Home
    Healthy eating means understanding your child’s nutrition needs and planning accordingly. It’s not easy, but you can do it. Here are a few tips:

    • will help you learn about fruits, grains, vegetables, proteins, and dairy, and the role each plays in well-rounded meals.
    • Learn about empty calories, and try to steer your family towards foods that aren’t filled with them.
    • Plan meals in advance to resist the need to hit the drive-thru midweek.
    • Save high calorie (high temptation) foods for special occasions; don’t keep them in the house all the time.
    • Choose healthy snacks like fruit, veggies, pita, yogurt, nuts or trail mix. Here are some ideas to get you started.
    • Invite your child to plan meals with you.
    • Include your child in grocery shopping trips.
    • Invite your child to cook with you.

    Active Living as a Family
    Living an active lifestyle makes your body — and your child’s — stronger by building strong bones, muscles, and joints. (source) And researches have even linked physical fitness with better school attendance and fewer disciplinary problems. (source)

    “Active living” might sound like something that’s far from your family’s reach, but every little bit helps. Here are some ideas:

    • Take family walks or bike rides after dinner or on the weekends.
    • Play Frisbee, catch, or soccer together.
    • Enjoy the trails at one of Missouri’s amazing State Parks.
    • Invest in a family membership at a community or civic center, health club, or the YMCA.
    • Limit screen time (TV, computer, video games, etc.) to 1-2 hours per day — for your kids and for yourself.
    • Say “yes” the next time your son or daughter asks you to play a game, visit a local park, or do another physical activity.
    • Plan (and then plant) a spring garden together. 
    • Encourage your child to try a youth sport or other organized physical activity. If team sports don’t interest your child, try dance, martial arts, or yoga.

    “Youth are 65% more likely to join organized physical activities when encouraged by their parents,” according to (source)

    Active lifestyle and a healthy diet can help your child succeed in school in 2014. Do you have healthy resources you’d like to share with other Missouri parents? Leave a comment and a link today!

  • What are Subgroups, and How Does Missouri Measure Their Achievement?

    The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education calculates an Annual Performance Report score (APR) for every school and every district in the state.

    The Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) is the framework for the State’s APRs, and the resulting APR scores are used — along with other information — to determine each district’s accreditation status.

    Not sure what MSIP is? Read this short post.

    Under MSIP, there are five distinctive Performance Standards; Academic Achievement, Subgroup Achievement, High School Readiness (K-8) (or College and Career Readiness for K-12 schools), Attendance Rate, and Graduation Rate.

    Each of these five Performance Standards earns a Status Score, a Progress Score, and a Growth Score. Those scores are included in each school’s APR scoring matrix. We’ll talk more about Status, Progress, and Growth Scores in a future post.

    Today, though, we’ll talk about Performance Standard #2: Subgroup Achievement.

    Why Subgroups?
    To ensure inclusion and to differentiate between the needs of schools, Missouri issues and reports the academic achievement of those students who fall into a “subgroup” that has historically performed below state standards.

    According to the Department of Education, “A review of Missouri data identifies five significant gaps in subgroup performance (African American, Hispanic, low income students, students with disabilities and English language learners).” (source)

    Measuring Subgroup Achievement
    The achievement of all Missouri students, including those who fall into subgroups, is assessed through the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) using MAP, grade-level (GLA), end-of-course (EOC), and MAP-alternate (MAP-A) assessments.

    A minimum of 95% of students must be assessed, and student performance must meet or exceed state standards or demonstrate the required improvement over time. For accountability (such as district accreditation) a super subgroup system ensures that students are only counted once, even if they fall into more than one of the state’s five subgroups.

    A weighted scoring system is used to ensure that subgroup achievement is sensibly and fairly evaluated and interpreted against non-subgroup achievement.

    Want to Learn More About MSIP5 and How Missouri’s Schools are Evaluated?
    What is the Missouri School Improvement Program?
    5 Ways Your Student’s School is Evaluated for Accreditation
    Academic Achievement & School Accreditation in Missouri
    15 Missouri School Districts Earn 100% of Annual Performance Reviews

  • Academic Achievement & School Accreditation in Missouri

    Missouri aims to reach a Top 10 ranking in the US in public education by the year 2020. In order to measure progress toward that goal, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education calculates an Annual Performance Report score (APR) for every school and every district in the state.

    The Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) is the framework for the State’s APRs, and the resulting APR scores are used — along with other information — to determine each district’s accreditation status.

    Not sure what MSIP is? Read this short post.

    Under MSIP, there are five distinctive Performance Standards; Academic Achievement, Subgroup Achievement, High School Readiness (K-8) or College and Career Readiness (K-12), Attendance Rate, and Graduation Rate.

    Each of these five Performance Standards earns a Status Score, a Progress Score, and a Growth Score. Those scores are included in each school’s APR scoring matrix. We’ll talk more about Status, Progress, and Growth Scores in a future post.

    Today, we’ll focus on the first of the five Performance Standards: Academic Achievement.

    As a parent, you probably already know that your child takes the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests in school. You may not have realized that his or her MAP scores are taken into consideration when determining the accreditation status of his or her school district.

    In fact, MAP scores are one of the primary measurements for a district’s Academic Achievement. These scores include grade-level assessments (GLA), end-of-course (EOC), and MAP-alternate (MAP-A assessments).

    In order for districts to achieve or maintain accreditation, their students must meet or exceed state standards or show demonstrated improvement over time on MAP, GLA, EOC, or MAP-A assessments.

    The state requires that 95% (or more) of the students within each school or district take MAP assessments. In order to account for the needs of students who fall into higher risk or special needs categories, MSIP5 also monitors Subgroup Achievement. We’ll explore Subgroup Achievement more in a future post.

    Was this post helpful? You might also enjoy:
    What is the Missouri School Improvement Program?
    5 Ways Your Student’s School is Evaluated for Accreditation
    15 Missouri School Districts Earn 100% of Annual Performance Reviews

  • What is the Missouri Assessment Program?

    The Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, is a series of assessments that are designed to see if all students in Missouri are meeting Show-Me Standards.

    For students in grades 3-8, MAP assessments cover English Language Arts, Math, and Science. High school students are tested in English Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies.

    The MAP isn’t just one test — it’s a series of assessments that includes End-of-Course Assessments, Grade Level Assessments, and MAP-Alternate Assessments. Today, we’ll explore each of these in more detail.

    End-of-Course Assessments
    End-of-Course Assessments (EOCs) are not given at the end of a grade level, but are instead administered at the completion of a course. EOC assessments are offered for Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, English I, English II, Biology, American History and Government.

    EOCs include two question types; multiple choice questions and performance events. Multiple choice questions appear on all of Missouri’s EOC assessments. Performance events — which are longer tasks that require students to work through problems, experiments, arguments, or writing — appear only on Algebra I, Biology, and English II EOC assessments.

    Beginning with the current school year, all EOCs are administered online. Exceptions are made for students who use Braille or Large Print. EOC assessments are only available in English, so accommodations (and certain exceptions) are also made for English Language Learners (ELLs).

    Grade-Level Assessments
    Students begin taking Grade-Level Assessments (GLAs) in the 3rd grade, and they continue taking them throughout high school.

    Students in the 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th grades take GLAs in English Language Arts and Math. Students in the 5th and 8th grades take those two GLAs as well as a science assessment. High school assessments include English I, English II, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, U.S. History, U.S. Government, and Biology.

    GLAs are made up of multiple-choice questions as well as “constructed response” questions. Constructed response questions require students to supply a response rather than being able to choose a response from a multiple-choice list.
    GLAs also incorporate TerraNova test questions, which allow Missouri student achievement to be compared to students taking the same test in other states.

    MAP-A Assessments
    MAP-A Assessments are also aligned with the Show-Me Standards, but are designed to measure student performance based on alternate achievement standards that require teachers to customize the assessment for each individual student.

    Only students with severe cognitive disabilities who meet certain criteria are given the MAP-A Assessment. Those students do not participate in GLA or EOC assessments.

    Communication Arts MAP-A Assessments are given to students in the 3rd through 8th and 11th grades. Math is assessed in the 3rd through 8th grades and again in the 10th grade. Science MAP-A Assessments are given in the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades.

    Was this post helpful? You might also enjoy:
    What is the Missouri School Improvement Program?
    5 Ways Your Student’s School is Evaluated for Accreditation
    Missouri’s Annual Performance Report Released
    15 Missouri School Districts Earn 100% of Annual Performance Reviews

  • 3 Empowering Coding Camps for Girls

    Research shows that graduates of college degree programs in science, technology, engineering, and math-related (STEM) fields are likely to earn significantly more income than their peers do who graduate from non-STEM programs.

    Unfortunately, girls make up only 24% of the STEM-related workforce. In this post, we talked about how women could help fill an untapped pool of talent in computer coding in the United States, earning better incomes along the way.

    Today, we’ll share three fantastic summer opportunities that are a great fit for girls who are interested in computing-related STEM careers. The best part? Two of these camps — sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Microsoft — are completely free for your daughter to attend.

    Microsoft’s DigiGirlz High Tech Camp – St. Louis
    Microsoft holds a special girls-only high tech camp that works to dispel stereotypes of the high-tech industry. The camp, called DigiGirlz High Tech Camp, gives girls the opportunity to listen to executive speakers, participate in technology tours and demonstrations, network, and learn through hands-on workshops.

    The program was established in 2000, and this August 6th and 7th, St. Louis will be one of seven cities in the nation to host the camp. The camp is free of charge, and interested girls can register here.

    Girls Gather for Computer Science: 4 Week Camp
    At the Girls Gather for Computer Science Camp (G2CS), 7th and 8th grade girls are invited to take an imaginative approach to computer science. The day camp is offered atPacific University in Oregon, and it’s offered at absolutely no charge to families.

    G2CS is supported by the National Science Foundation, which covers the cost of public transportation to and from Pacific University, meals, field trips, and an overnight trip. Applications to G2CS are due February 13th, and can be found online.

    App Camp for Girls
    This inspiring camp for 12- to 14-year-old creative software developers was brand new in 2013, and its 2014 schedule is still in the works. The App Camp for Girls was held in Portland, Oregon in 2012, although the camp’s organizers hope to grow the camp outside of the Pacific Northwest in future summers.

    In each of the camp’s week-long, girls-only sessions, girls brainstorm, design, code, and pitch their own apps. Camp supporters include Etsy and MacUpdate.

    Was this post helpful? You might enjoy these posts, too:
    What is the STEM Crisis?
    A Missouri University Advancing STEM Education for Public Schools

  • The World Needs Women Coders

    Click the image above for a full infographic "Girls in IT: The Facts"

    It’s true: the world needs women coders. And in the United States, in particular, women represent a largely untapped pool of talent in computing that could help fill a growing need for qualified job candidates who hold computing bachelor’s degrees.

    The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than 1.4 million computing jobs will be open by the year 2020. The U.S. will only be able to fill about 30% of those opening computer jobs with qualified college graduates — ones holding computing degrees. And of those degree holders, only 18% of them are women.

    What’s stopping young women from pursuing degree programs in computer-related fields?

    One study shows that women and men choose computing majors for very different reasons. Men pursue computer science because of interests in computer games far more often than women do, for instance. Women who pursue the field, on the other hand, show a more significant interest in helping others via their work.

    Both men and women show equal interest in computer science as a creative outlet, computing as a good career opportunity, and computing as providing good financial opportunities after college.

    So if women have the same practical desires (job security, good pay) as men do regarding careers in computing, then what pushes men to earn bachelor’s degrees in computer-related fields while simultaneously pushing women away from the same degrees?

    The barriers preventing girls from pursuing computing degrees are unique. Computing curriculums need to be relevant to women, and girls need to be better educated about the many ways that computing can become part of their careers. Parents, teachers, and schools can all help promote computer science as a professional opportunity for women and girls.

    Do you want to encourage a female student, daughter, or mentee to consider a career in computing? Here are some talking points in English and in Spanish from the National Center for Women & Information Technology that can help you get the conversation started.

  • 9 Missouri Schools Earn Extra Credit for Healthy Choices

    This fall, nine Missouri schools made nutritional improvements that earned national recognition through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC).

    The HUSSC is a voluntary certification initiative established in 2004 to recognize those schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity. (source)

    Congratulations to HealthierUS School Challenge Bronze Awardees:

    From Webster Groves School District:
    Avery Elementary School
    Bristol Elementary School
    Clark Elementary School
    Computer School
    Hudson Elementary School

    From the School District of Clayton:
    Glendridge Elementary School
    Meramec Elementary School
    Ralph M. Captain Elementary School

    From Springfield R-12:
    Harry S. Truman Elementary School

    More than 6,500 schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia have received HUSSC awards, which recognize schools that:

    · Improve the quality of the foods served
    · Provide students with nutrition education, and
    · Provide students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity (source)

    In order to be awarded through the HUSSC, each school must meet the program’s criteria throughout a 4-year certification process. To learn how to apply for the HUSSC award, visit the HUSSC website.

    Do you enjoy learning more about nutrition and meal planning in Missouri’s public schools? Be sure to read these posts on the MO Parent Blog:

    Making Sure Missouri’s Kids Eat Breakfast
    The Summer Food Service Program: Preventing Summertime Hunger

  • How Missouri Will Test the Common Core

    Missouri is one of 46 states to adopt the Common Core State Standards. Like many parents in Missouri, you may wonder how, exactly, Common Core Standards will be tested in our schools.

    Currently, three major testing systems have developed for the evaluation of Common Core Standards; ACT Aspire, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC).

    Governing, Advisory, and Affiliate States
    Missouri is a Governing State of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, meaning that we are fully committed to Smarter Balanced and that we have a vote in Smarter Balanced policy decisions.

    States can adopt Smarter Balanced as Advisory States, providing guidance and development, but without voting privileges. Or they can become Affiliate Members who have not committed to the consortium, but who do support Smarter Balanced.

    About Smarter Balanced
    Smarter Balanced is an adaptive testing system that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics.

    Smarter Balanced tests adapt questions based on correct and incorrect student answers. In other words, when a student answers a question correctly, subsequent questions will be more difficult. If a student answers a question incorrectly, subsequent questions will be easier.

    Other Smarter Balanced States & Territories
    Other states that have adopted Smarter Balanced include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    States are not required to select just one testing option. Some states, such as Colorado, North Dakota, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, have adopted both Smarter Balanced and PARCC. Several other states, including Arizona, New Mexico, Maryland, and Ohio, have yet to determine which consortium they’ll join.

    To learn more about Common Core State Standards and other policies and initiatives that affect your child’s public school education in Missouri, sign up at the top of this page for Missouri Parent email updates.

  • Talking to Your Child About Parent Teacher Conferences

    Earlier this week, we shared a blog post called “Making the Most of Parent Teacher Conferences”. Today, we’ll explore how conversations with your child before and after your parent teacher conference will help engage your son or daughter in the process.

    Before the Parent Teacher Conference
    One of the most important ways you can prepare for a parent teacher conference is to talk with your child.

    Start by reassuring your child that you and the teacher will be meeting because you both want him or her to enjoy learning and to succeed in school.

    Engage your son or daughter in the conversation before you meet with the teacher by asking open-ended questions and listening carefully to the answers.

    Some examples of open-ended questions include:

    What’s your favorite subject this year? (why?)
    What’s your least favorite? (and why?)
    What do you think of your teacher?
    Do you spend time with other teachers, too, for classes like PE, speech, art, or music?
    Tell me about the kids in your class.
    What’s lunchtime like at school?
    Who do you like to play with at recess? What kinds of games do you play together?

    Talking About Grades
    Ask your child about recent homework assignments, projects, assignments and test scores. Has he or she finished any units recently? Was there an end-of-unit project or exam? How did he or she do? Did he or she feel prepared for the test or quiz?

    Especially for older students, it can also be helpful to talk about the school’s grading scales, and whether there are grading curves on assignments or tests. Talk about upcoming standardized tests, advanced placement exams, the ACT or the SAT. Does your child feel prepared for those tests? Find out if there’s anything you can talk with his or her teachers about to help him or her feel confident about those tests.

    Talk to Your Son or Daughter After
    Once you’ve met with your son or daughter’s teacher(s), talk with your child again. Share any good news first, and then talk about any concerns your child’s teacher had. If you discussed improvement plans (informal or formal) with the teacher, share those with your child as well.

    You, your child, and his or her teacher(s) each play an important role in your child’s success in and enjoyment of school. Bringing your child into the conversation both before and after parent teacher conferences will keep him or her engaged in his or her education.

    If this post was helpful, consider signing up for Missouri Parent email updates, delivered directly to your inbox. Signing up is easy; all we need is your email address and zip code, entered at the top of this page.

  • Making the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

    No matter what grade your child is in this year, you’ll probably find yourself attending parent teacher conferences. Whether you’re a first timer or an old pro, we think the tips that follow will help you make the most of the time you spend with your child’s teacher(s) this year.

    The Basics: As with any other appointment or meeting, you’ll make the best impression when you arrive prepared and on time (or early!).

    Be open-minded: your child’s teacher sees a different side of your child at school than you do at home, and he or she may have feedback that surprises you.

    Have a good attitude. Remember that parent teacher conferences are a constructive opportunity, and that may mean that you receive unexpected or negative feedback on your child’s behavior or grades. Listen to what the teacher has to share, and then focus together on formal or informal improvement plans.

    Do Your Homework: Your son or daughter’s teacher will invest time and energy into planning his or her conference with you, and we encourage you to do the same.

    Scholastic recommends compiling a folder — beginning on the first day of the academic year or semester — of your child’s grades, informal reviews, larger project or homework scores, and any other notes or feedback you’ve received from the school.

    The national Parent Teacher Association also recommends making a list of questions, concerns, and subjects for discussion. Thing to consider include school-based topics like grades, but can also include behavioral, social or personal topics that are relevant to your child’s performance.

    Does your child have a special talent, hobby, or extra-curricular activity that might affect his or her motivations, energy levels, or focus at school? Maybe your son competes on the weekends in martial arts tournaments or your daughter spends hours at night writing computer code. If your child has special talents, interests, or hobbies, consider sharing them with his or her teacher.

    Finally, family dynamics and life changes (divorce, death of a family member or beloved pet, etc.) can affect a child’s school experience, and most teachers would like to know if those circumstances are part of the bigger picture of your child’s mental and physical health and well being.

    Ongoing Communication: Don’t be shy! Ask your child’s teacher what his or her preferred communication style is and how the two of you can stay in touch moving forward. From periodic phone calls or emails to formal improvement plans, you can have a truly positive impact on your child’s education.

    Extra Credit: For extra credit, drop your son or daughter’s teacher a thank you note after your conference.

  • Bringing 21st-Century Learning Home to Your Student

    Do you ever feel like it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the technology your child is using in school and at home? recently released a free PDF download that might help you decode — and even help you bring home — 21st century technology learning.

    The 10-page PDF is written specifically for parents, and it includes three kinds of information:
    1) Online resources and projects sorted by grade level
    2) Tips for bringing 21st century skills home
    3) A list of additional, helpful resources

    Activities for Every Grade Level
    This section introduces three online games or resources for each stage in a child’s education; elementary school, middle school, and high school. Edutopia provides an overview of each game or resource, many of which are paired with suggestions about how parents can get involved.

    One example, for middle school students, is an online tool that allows students to collaborate with kids from other parts of the world to compare water consumption. Parents are encouraged to get involved by leveraging children’s interest in the environment to explore conservation in their own households.

    Ten Tips for Bringing 21st-Century Skills Home
    Edutopia’s ten tips include a broad range of interests, including arts & crafts, communications, conflict resolution, gaming, volunteering, and opportunities like summer camps and Scouts badges.

    Each suggestion includes a link to an online resource (a blog post, a website, a video, or an online community), making it easy to bridge your child’s existing interests with the 21st-century skills he or she will need in college and career.

    Finally, Edutopia offers a list or resources for parents and teachers to use as you work together to bring 21st-century skills into your child’s education. These resources will help your child learn responsible digital citizenship, parenting and educational tools for parents, and even a few good resources for schools hoping to advance technology learning.

    How To Get It
    Download A Parent’s Guide to 21st-Century Learning free from

    For More Tools & Information
    If posts like this one are helpful, we encourage you to subscribe today to Missouri Parent email updates. It’s easy to do; just scroll to the top of this page and enter your email address and zip code. We’ll take it from there. 

    Who is Edutopia?
    Edutopia is where The George Lucas Educational Foundation’s vision to highlight what works in education comes to life. Edutopia is dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by documenting, disseminating, and advocating innovative, replicable, and evidence-based strategies that prepare students to thrive in their future education, careers, and adult lives.

  • Girls Are Bullied, Too

    Bullying is a problem for today’s kids, both in person and online. But did you know that girls are more than twice as likely than boys to be cyber bullied? (source) And girl bullies don’t fit the old-fashioned stereotype of a bully, either.

    The National Crime Prevention Council says that, “The typical girl who bullies is popular, well-liked by adults, does well in school, and can even be friends with the girls she bullies. She doesn't get into fist fights, although some girls who bully do. Instead, she spreads rumors, gossips, excludes others, shares secrets, and teases girls about their hair, weight, intelligence, and athletic ability. She usually bullies in a group and others join in or pressure her to bully.” (source)

    That sounds pretty different from the image many of us have in our minds of a bully, doesn’t it? Girls who bully aren’t necessarily bigger or stronger than their victims, but they can cause serious problems for the girls they pick on.

    And because girls tend to bully using their words (instead of physical tactics), their victims aren’t “safe” when they come home from school. Bullying continues online, via instant messages, and in email.

    If your daughter is being bullied, or if you think your daughter might be bullying other girls or boys, there are resources online that might be helpful for you to know about:

    This book list is from A Mighty Girl; “The world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident and courageous girls.” It includes more than a dozen books for you and your daughter that are specific to bullying among girls. The books are divided into age-appropriate categories, making it easier for you to pick out books that will help your and your daughter understand and manage bullying.

    The National Crime Prevention Council offers a wide variety of resources on bullying, including an entire section of its site that’s dedicated to bullying and girls. is another helpful resource devoted entirely to girls and bullying. The site defines bullying, helps parents to better-understand what bullying looks like (especially in girls), and explains why bullying hurts. There are tips on the site to help girls cope with bullying, and there are even a few online quizzes about bullying.

    For school counselors, teachers, administrators, or other adults who have a vested interested in ending bullying against girls, there are even conferences devoted entirely to ending girl bullying.

    For more from Missouri Parent on Bullying, see these posts:
    Infographic Shows Seriousness of Bullying
    Bullying in Schools: How Adults Can Help

  • Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day: Saturday, December 7, 2013

    December 7th is the 4th annual “Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day”, and hundreds of bookstores in the US, Canada, Australia, England and Germany are expected to participate.

    Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day was founded by author and mom of two, Jenny Milchman with the goal of sharing bookstores with kids.

    “Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day…is really about the fact that there is a physical immersion to reading a book and there is a physical immersion to choosing that book, or there can be, and when there is it becomes almost a completely different experience. It says something to a child in a way he'll never get if he just sees mom order a book online." (source)

    Here are just a few of the benefits of taking your child to a bookstore:

    · Sharing the excitement of books – and of an intellectually stimulating environment — with your kids.
    · Empowering your kids with decisions about which book or books to bring home.
    · Giving your kids literary role models like bookstore owners, workers, authors, and other readers.
    · Sharing the social side of reading with your kids. Reading isn’t always a solitary activity; sharing favorite books and exchanging reading recommendations is part of the fun of being a reader!

    “My hope,” says Milchman, “is that by drawing awareness to the pleasures of time spent in a bookstore at a young age, kids who take part will grow up to value and support bookstores in the communities of the future.” (source)

    · Do you and your family still visit brick-and-mortar bookstores, or do you shop for your reading material exclusively online?
    · Does your community have a local bookstore? Share the link with our readers to help promote local business!
    · Do your kids have digital readers (Kindles, iPads, etc.), or do they read traditional paper books?

    Leave a comment here or join the conversation on our Facebook Page.

  • Maximizing the Thanksgiving Holiday at Home

    As Thanksgiving approaches, you may have the chance to spend an extra day or two at home with your children. Here are a few ways you can turn maximize your time together on this year’s holiday.

    Play Games Together
    Instead of watching a movie or playing video games, break out a board game at the dining room table. There are hundreds of great games out there for kids and adults of all ages and interests. Whether your family prefers Monopoly or Shoots & Ladders; Boggle or Apples to Apples, board games encourage family interaction, reading, counting, strategic thinking, and other educational skills.

    Want to keep younger hands busy while you prepare your Thanksgiving feast? Try one of these printable workbooks. They’re free, fun, and educational, too:
    Thanksgiving Activity Book (Grades Pre-K – 9)
    52 Thanksgiving Printables
    Thanksgiving Mini-Actvity Book (Grades Pre-K – K)
    Mini-Book: I’m Thankful (Ages 6-7)

    Visit Your Local Library
    Visit your local library and pick out a few Thanksgiving-themed books to read together over the long holiday weekend. Here are a few recommended book lists from Scholastic:
    Books About Gratitude
    Books for Giving Thanks

    Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
    Fun Facts About the Parade
    11 Facts About the Macy’s Parade Balloons
    Check out the Parade Map Together

    Family Tree & Family Stories
    Before your family’s big gathering, take a few minutes with your kids to talk about who will attend and how they’re related to one another. Draw a family tree to help your children visualize more complex relationships like step-children or second cousins.

    Emphasize thankfulness by taking turns sharing reasons you’re thankful to spend your holiday with those family members and friends who’ll be there with you, or even to share favorite memories about each of those family and friends.

    Be sure to give your children a chance to share their favorite stories, too; sharing their memories out loud helps them learn to order events and articulate their thoughts in front of others.

    Does your family have any educational traditions? Leave a comment sharing your tradition with us on the Missouri Parent Blog, or talk to us on Facebook or Twitter.

  • Common Core State Standards Broaden Authentic Learning

    Common Core State Standards are designed to “be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.” (source)

    But what, exactly, does that mean? And fundamentally, how is that different than what traditional public education aimed to do?

    Today we’ll talk about what “authentic learning” is, why it helps prepare students for life after high school, and what the Common Core State Standards are doing to broaden authentic learning in our schools.

    What Is Authentic Learning?
    Authentic learning encourages students to explore problems across multiple disciplines. With an emphasis on higher order thinking skills, authentic learning moves beyond the memorization of facts, pushing students to gain a deeper understanding of ideas and information. Authentic learning allows students discover information and answers rather than simply being told what the answers are.

    Preparing Students For Life After High School
    Unlike traditional rote learning, authentic learning teaches students the critical thinking and problem solving skills that are valued by universities and employers.

    The Microsoft Partners in Learning blog says that authentic learning “…is based in ‘real’ problems, learning by ‘doing’, and learning that is social. These are all elements of on–the-job learning that are hallmarks of modern careers…” (source)

    What Is Common Core Doing to Broaden Authentic Learning?
    Expectations are high in the Common Core. Students are expected to demonstrate independence, to build strong knowledge in specific content areas, and to be able to explain or provide evidence for how they came to conclusions or solutions.

    They are expected to adapt their communications to their audiences, tasks, purposes and disciplines, and they’re also expected to understand and appreciate other perspectives and cultures.

    And yet, the standards are not a curriculum. While the CCSS articulate what students should be able to do at each stage in their academic development, they don’t tell teachers how to teach. This flexibility allows teachers to incorporate their own strategies into content-area curriculums. When teachers have that freedom, authentic learning is a natural outcome.

    As a literature teacher at the Riverside Virtual School in Riverside, California said, “If you are designing real and engaging learning experiences for your students, then you are probably already teaching the Common Core Standards.” (source)

    Missouri is one of 46 states and the District of Columbia to adopt the Common Core State Standards. You can learn more about the Common Core Standards by reading these posts on the Missouri Parent Blog:

    How Does Common Core Affect Your Kids? There’s an App for That
    Common Core Standards: Not a Federal Initiative
    Teaching is the Core of Common Core

  • A Homework App To Keep Your Student Organized

    Gone are the days when keeping track of schoolwork meant carrying a separate notebook or day planner. If your son or daughter has a smartphone, iPad, or other mobile device, the myHomework App could be a helpful way to help him or her keep schoolwork organized.

    The myHomework App tracks homework, tests and projects, and sends reminders to let students know when upcoming assignments, projects and tests are due. Students can also use the app to track their schedules (time, block, and period based schedules are all supported).

    As with most apps, myHomework syncs between devices. For example, if your child uses a smart phone, a tablet, and a desktop computer, he or she can add information to any of those devices and then sync it between them seamlessly so that details on all devices are kept up to date.

    If that weren’t handy enough, myHomework also integrates seamlessly with an app for teachers called helps teachers manage their syllabi, digital classroom resources, and classroom assignments. Park Hill South High School in Kansas City, Missouri, is one of many schools across the country using it.

    Students using myHomework can “join” a teacher’s class, allowing the student to have instant access to the classroom syllabus, resources, and assignments directly from his or her mobile device. If students don’t use myHomework, they can still log in to their teacher’s classroom from any web-friendly device using the mobile-friendly website.

    Students and teachers can find myHomework and in the Apple App Store, on Google Play or in the Windows Store. Both apps are available for Kindle, Windows 8, iPhone, iPad, and Android.

    Technology is innovating our classrooms, and it’s changing the way our students learn, organize, and manage their schoolwork and their lives. If you’ve discovered great apps for your students, leave a comment for us. We’d love to share your recommendation with other parents across the state.

  • Infographic Shows Seriousness of Cyber Bullying

    Click the partial image above for the full infographic.

    A professor of social media from the Syracuse University has put into an info-graphic what many parents already know: that cyber bullying is very real, and that it’s very dangerous.

    Dr. William J. Ward teaches at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. In this infographic designed by Eric Phillips, he highlights some startling facts about cyber bullying:

    · 1 in 6 teens are cyber bullied
    · Girls are more than twice as likely as boys to be cyber bullied
    · Whites are more than twice as likely as blacks to be cyber bullied
    · Bullying is illegal in all but one U.S. state
    · Cyber bulling victims are more like to commit suicide than are victims of offline bullying
    · Only 1 in 10 victims reaches out for help

    Cyber bullying is a real and potentially dangerous problem for kids and teens, but you can help. Read this Missouri Parent blog post on how adults can support bullied students. This post on managing online peer pressure might also be helpful to you.ty

  • Google Play for Education

    It’s no secret that Google is a powerhouse in technology, but did you know that Google is taking serious steps towards improving educational technology in the classroom?

    Google’s Play for Education — which will house apps and videos that are searchable by grade level, subject area, and other criteria — is one the company’s newest ventures, and it has the potential to be a great resource for parent at home and teachers in the classroom.

    The format of Google’s Play for Education isn’t that different from it’s general app store, Google Play, or than its competitor, the Apple App Store. Developers share their apps on the storefront, and consumers download them.

    The difference is that the apps and videos available on Play for Education, which will be entirely focused on K-12 education, will be vetted by educators and used in pilot programs before being made available for purchase.

    According to

    “Google's [Play for Education] submission process requires all applications marked as suitable for K-12 to first pass through a network of non-affiliated educators for evaluation before then being measured against the Play for Education store's requirements for classroom use. If selected, developer's applications will be made available to the many pilot programs currently underway across the country, with an eventual full-scale rollout when Play for Education officially launches sometime this fall.” (source)

    Google is now accepting submissions from developers who’d like to be part of the Play for Education storefront. The full site is slated to be available to teachers sometime later in 2013.

    “It’s education everywhere at all times, which is what a teacher’s dream is,” said one teacher from Hillsborough, New Jersey, about using Play for Education on tablets in her classroom.

    For school districts or classrooms interested in using Play for Education, Google plans to offer bulk purchasing discounts. Google has incorporated other school- and teacher-friendly perks to Play for Education as well, including bulk hardware purchasing and purchase order usage (rather than teachers using credit cards to purchase classroom apps).

  • Bullying in Schools: How Adults Can Help

    The National Education Association (NEA) has launched a national campaign against bullying, and it’s not just aimed at kids. The Bully Free Starts With Me campaign invites adults, including parents, to pledge to help bullied students. Whether you work or volunteer at your child’s school are otherwise active in your community’s youth and family programs, you can help.

    According to NEA, “Bullied students that go it alone because they don’t know who to turn to are far more likely to fall behind in their studies, get sick and/or depressed, miss school, and drop out. But research tells us that one caring adult can make all the difference in a bullied student’s life.” (source)

    If you’re inspired to make a difference in the life of a bullied child, take NEA’s Bully Free pledge. By doing so, you’re “promising students that they can talk to you and you will listen, stand up for them, and that they are not alone.” (source)

    “I agree to be identified as a caring adult who pledges to help bullied students. I will listen carefully to all students who seek my help and act on their behalf to put an immediate stop to the bullying. I will work with other caring adults to create a safe learning environment for all the students in my school.”

    As an advocate, your role is to listen to the bullied student who reaches out to you, and to take action to stop future bulling. Not sure exactly what that means? That’s okay; NEA provides advocates with the online resources needed to support bullied students.

    Join the Bully Free It Starts With Me campaign and take NEA’s pledge today. You can also access the NEA’s Bullying Prevention Kit — developed by educators for educators — here.

  • Teaching is the Core (of Common Core)

    Missouri is one of 45 states nationwide that has adopted Common Core State Standards, providing a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn in school.

    Common Core State Standards were created by an independent, bipartisan group of leaders who wanted to provide a set of common standards across all states that would ensure that students are ready for college and career.

    Both Missouri and New York adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, and New York has since put together this video, explaining how Common Core Standards put teaching at the core of learning.

    Teaching is the Core from EngageNY on Vimeo.

    The teachers interviewed in the video emphasize the positive interaction of students with the materials they’re learning, and with one another through Common Core.

    One teacher commented that she sees fewer “passive learners” than before, and Peter Mesh, a 5th grade teacher in Wynantskill New York, says, “ “When we have a lesson that’s focused on the Common Core instructional shifts, the students are much more engaged with each other.”

    Students in the video call Common Core work more difficult than their schoolwork before Common Core:

    “It’s a lot harder. You have to work hard; you have to stay on top of your work”, says a 12th grade student named Bridget from Unadilia, New York.

    Lorie Ostrander, a Network Team Member Curriculum Coordinator at Boards of Cooperative Educational Services in New York says, “The bars have been raised. College and career readiness is different than it used to be.”

    The Common Core State Standards “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn”, and are “designed to be robust and relevant to the real world.”

    After watching the New York State Common Core video, do you think that students are engaged by Common Core learning? Do you think that Common Core has pushed New York’s teachers and administrators to hold their students to higher standards of learning? Leave a comment today on the blog!

    Want to continue to better-understand Common Core and how it can help Missouri’s students to be competitive academically and in life after high school? Sign up today for Missouri Parent email updates, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!

  • Libraries Change Lives — Or Do They?

    Do you agree with the above graphic?

    The Declaration to the Right to Libraries is the cornerstone document of the American Library Association, and it says all of these things. The Declaration to the Right to Libraries hope to create sustained support for America’s libraries; academic, special, school, and public.

    One Missouri library recently made the news. Funding is limited in Boonville, Missouri, where the public library is too small and becoming too old to support its local community.

    The Declaration to the Right to Libraries is one way to help promote your local and school libraries. You can sign the declaration online, or you can check with your local library to find out whether there will be a signing ceremony in your town.

    We want to hear from you:

    When’s the last time you or your child used your library?

    Do you and your children still use the library for school work, or do you rely mostly on the Internet?

    Leave a comment today here or on Facebook, and sign up at the top of this page for MOParent email updates!

    We've signed the declaration. Have you?

  • 4 iPad Apps for Aspiring Astronauts

    Astronomy and astrophysics might be above the heads of the average parent, but you can still encourage your children to soak up knowledge about space. Here are four terrific iPad apps that will help you to explore the sky with your kids:

    Star Chart
    This free app is an educational augmented reality tool that helps you and your kids to understand the nighttime sky.

    Just point your device’s camera at the stars, and the app will tell you exactly what you’re seeing in the sky.

    Star Chart has been downloaded more than 7 million times on iTunes, and has an average customer rating of 4.5 stars. Developed by Feel Great Publishing Limited and available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

    The Planets app shows 2D and 3D views of constellations and planets in the sky. Apple customer reviews call the app “simple and intuitive”. Others call it a “great aid for teaching”, and say that it’s a “fantastic application for teaching the solar system to kids.”

    Planets has an average 5-star Apple customer rating, and has been downloaded more than 8 million times. The app – developed by Q Continuum — is free, and is compatible with iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

    Hubble Space Telescope Discoveries
    This highly interactive and free eBook features stunning Hubble telescope images and videos from Hubble’s 20+ years of space observations. Learn about — and see photos of — comets, planets, the death of stars, the birth of new solar systems, and more.

    The Hubble Space Telescope Discoveries interactive eBook has an average 5-star Apple customer rating, with outstanding customer comments. The eBook was published by the Space Telescope Science Institute with contributions from and

    We should also mention Edwin Hubble, for whom the Telescope is named, was born in Marshfield, MO. A miniature version of the telescope can be found at the Webster County Courthouse.

    In case you didn’t know (we certainly didn’t), exoplanets are planets that orbit stars outside of our solar system. As new exoplanets are discovered, this app will alert you and your kids!

    3D models allow you to explore the Milky Way’s known exoplanets, and an augmented reality feature like the one used in Star Chart (above) allows you to point your phone or iPad at the sky to find exoplanets.

    Exoplanet is free for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, and Apple customers give the app an average 5-star review.

    Have you found other interactive astronomy apps that you’ve used with your kids? Leave a comment, and share your recommendations with other Missouri parents!

    Do you enjoy posts like this one? Sign up today for Missouri Parent emails to receive updates directly to your inbox. And be sure to like Missouri Parent on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

  • Athletic Success in Missouri Begins in PE Classes

    It’s been an exciting month for sports in Missouri!

    The hockey Blues have set a new franchise record, going 4-0 in the first four games of the season. Mizzou football is still ranked in the NCAA Top 10, MU Girls Volleyball and the Kansas City Chiefs are undefeated, and it is Homecoming season at schools of every level across the Show-Me State.

    And, of course, how can we talk about local sports without congratulating the St. Louis Cardinals on their National League title? The Redbirds have made it to the World Series again! (Congrats go to the Royals for a winning season as well! Perhaps another I-70 Series is in Missouri’s future?)

    With the state buzzing due to exciting big league sports news, it is a great time to talk about physical education (PE) and our school-aged students. Specifically, about why physical activity is an important part of public education for Missouri’s kids.

    To help keep our students healthy, the State of Missouri requires that all school districts incorporate at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week for students in grades K-6, and at least 45 minutes per week for students in grades 7-8 (the state encourages districts to reach at least 225 minutes for 7th and 8th grades). High school students are required to earn 1 physical education credit in order to graduate from high school. (Source)

    The National Association for Sports and Physical Education says that PE helps students in a number of ways, including:

    · improved physical fitness (strength, flexibility, etc.)
    · motor skills development
    · self discipline
    · improved judgment
    · stress reduction
    · strengthened peer relationships
    · improved confidence and self-esteem

    Although obesity rates among kids have dropped over the last several years in Missouri, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still concerned.

    “Obesity in early childhood increases the risk of high cholesterol, high blood sugar,and many other health problems.” – Thomas Frieden, CDC

    One recent study conducted at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, reinforced existing theories that physically healthy students outperform unhealthy ones cognitively. The New York Times referenced the study in a September 2013 story on physical fitness and academic success:

    “…the children who were in better aerobic condition significantly outperformed the less-fit group, remembering about 40 percent of the regions’ names accurately, compared with barely 25 percent accuracy for the out-of-shape kids.” (Read the full story here.)

    What do you think?
    · Do you think that PE is an important part of your child’s public school education?
    · Does your child stay more focused when he or she has had plenty of physical activity?
    · Does your student’s school incorporate the state’s recommended physical activity each week?
    · Does your student enjoy the PE classes or is it something they do because they have to?

    Leave a comment today on the Missouri Parent Blog or Facebook Page, and if you like our content, please consider subscribing for Missouri Parent email updates at the top of this page!

  • Spooky Science Projects for Halloween Part II

    It’s almost Halloween, and what could be spookier than creating your own fog or more ghastly than making a ghost move magically (or magnetically, in this case)?

    Here are four easy, educational Halloween science projects that you can do together with your kids at home.

    For more Halloween science fun, check out “Spooky Science Projects for Halloween Part I”.

    Ghostly Magnetism
    Using just paper, cardboard, paper clips, and a magnet, turn magnetism into a creative Halloween conversation. Talk with your kids about which metals are magnetic, and play with magnetic push and pull using both sides of the magnet.

    This tutorial will show you how it’s done!

    Make Your Own Fog
    Create your own spooky Halloween effects, and learn a little bit about chemistry in the process. Because this non-toxic DIY fog project uses dry ice, be sure to protect your hands by wearing warm gloves!

    Learn about what dry ice is and how to handle and store it here.

    The Decomposing Pumpkin
    Let the science fun continue after Halloween ends! Use a nature journal with your son or daughter; documenting what he or she thinks will happen as his or her Halloween pumpkin decomposes.

    Then, day by day, have your son or daughter observe (see, touch, smell, etc.) the decomposing pumpkin, making notes in his or her journal about their findings.

    Bubbling Brew
    Do you have a wannabe witch or a fledgling chemist at home? Then this bubbling brew is a must-make Halloween mess! The ingredients are simple, the colors are bright, and the brew washes up easily.

    For more science fun at home, check out these Missouri Parent blog posts:

    Spooky Science Projects for Halloween Part I
    Investigating Autumn with You Students Part I
    Investigating Autumn with You Students Part II

    For regular updates on K-12 education, subscribe today to MOParent email updates at the top of this page.

    Did you try one of these science projects at home with your kids? Let us know how it went! Leave a comment or share a photo of your family’s science experiment on our Facebook Page. You can also follow MOParent on Twitter.

  • Halloween Books That Aren’t About Halloween

    These books might sound like Halloween reads, but in fact, they’re not about Halloween at all. These books are fun Halloween alternatives for families who prefer fun, silly, or imaginative books in the Halloween season.

    Creepy Carrots!
    by Aaron Reynolds
    Creepy Carrots! is a clever and funny Caldecott Honors picture book written for readers ages 4-8. Teaching the lesson that greediness isn’t good, Creepy Carrots is just a little bit scary and is a whole lot of fun.

    According to the School Library Journal, “This age-appropriate horror story takes children’s fears seriously and then offers them an escape through genuine comic relief.”

    The Monstore
    by Tara Lazar
    This funny children’s book about a young boy and his pesky little sister is filled with silly monsters for sale in a monster store. Zany and colorful illustrations make this imaginative book even more fun for 4-7 year-old readers.

    The Graveyard Book
    by Neil Gaiman
    Neil Gaiman reinvents The Jungle Book in his graphic novel, The Graveyard Book. Written for 9-11 year-old readers, Gaiman spins the tale of a boy named “Nobody” who’s raised from infancy by ghosts, ghouls, and other residents of a cemetery.

    The Graveyard Book was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a 2009 Newbury Award winner, a Hugo Award winner, and a Locus Award winner.

    The Princess Academy
    by Shannon Hale
    For all the little who wanted to dress up as a princess on Halloween, The Princess Academy is a more grown-up, young adult fairy tale of a prince, a young lady, adventure, strength, and friendship.

    The Princess Academy is written for 9-11 year-olds, and was a 2006 Newbery Honors book.

    The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root
    by Christopher Pennell
    This quirky and magical book is illustrated in pen-and-ink drawings. Written for kids ages 9-12, The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root is a good book for your son or daughter to try reading aloud to you.

    Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt says that Pennel, “casts a spell with his irresistible adventure”, and Booklist calls the book, “An enchanting, fast-paced fantasy in the vein of E. B. White.”

    Come back to Missouri Parent often for more ideas on books you can read, activities you can do with your kids at home, and ways you can advocate for your child’s public school education.

    Sign up today for Missouri Parent email updates, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

  • 3 Great Sites for Web-Based English Language Arts Instruction

    Computer-based learning tools have come a long way since the Carmen Sandiego and Oregon Trail games of the 80s and early 90s. Today, students and teachers have access to highly developed online tools — some of them completely free — for everything from arithmetic practice to customized grammar lessons.

    Here are just of few of those highly innovative tools that can be used by students and teachers to supplement classroom English language arts instruction:
    This free, web-based learning platform helps kids improve grammar and writing skills by customizing lessons to each student’s individual interests. Kids tell what they’re interested in (hobbies, for example), and it generates unlimited grammar practice around those subjects.

    The site also adapts instruction to questions that students get right and wrong. Teachers can give online quizzes and assignments through the site, and a progress-tracking feature helps them to monitor their students’ improvement over time.

    Just for fun: has a language bloopers page. Visit it with your your son or daughter and see how many of these real-life errors you can identify.

    SAS Curriculum Pathways
    SAS Curriculum Pathways is another free online tool for students and teachers. Although the user interface is a little clunkier than, the site offers a tremendous variety of English language arts instructional tools.

    SAS Curriculum Pathways is flexible, offering apps, audio tutorials, and web lessons.
    Subject areas include reading strategies, a variety of literature, punctuation, grammar, and even a writing tutorial program, and its services include online instruction and quizzes. offers free, personalized vocabulary solutions. Its predictive technology sends new vocabulary words to your son or daughter based on what words it thinks your son or daughter might not yet know.

    Students can also choose from specific vocabulary lists that range from SAT word lists to current events-based lists like, “President Obama’s Speech at the United Nations”. Some, like “Martin Scorsese on Cinema,” are even pop culture-centered. is more functional than it is cool, but its fun factor is stronger thanks to leaderboards that track high scores for individual uses and for entire schools.

    Has your child used web-based tutorials or other digital learning tools that you’d like to share? Leave a comment here or on our Facebook Page!

    Would you like to receive email updates directly in your inbox? Sign up at the top of this page for MOParent Emails, and be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.



  • Spooky Science Projects for Halloween Part I

    Earlier this month, we posted five fun & easy fall science projects that you can do at home with your kids. Today we’re back with more ideas — this time for spooky science projects and experiments that are perfect for Halloween!

    Make Your Own Fake Blood

    This project is just gross enough to be fun! Make two different kinds of blood using basic kitchen materials. One blood type shows how blood works as it clots and heals the body. The other blood type isn’t quite as realistic, but it will look great for spooky Halloween effects. Both recipes can be found here

    Creepy Layers (Density!)
    This creepy layers tutorial guides you through an experiment in the mass of liquids and how their different densities result in colorful layers. Add small objects like plastic spiders, paper clips, or small, waterproof toys to the liquids to see where — or if — they float in the layers.

    Ghostly Glow-in-the-Dark Goo
    This project uses just five ingredients, and you probably already have four of them in your kitchen! Little fingers will love this gunky, gooey concoction, and with just a little bit of kid-friendly paint, it will even glow in the dark!

    Come back tomorrow for Spooky Science Projects for Halloween Part II to learn how to make a ghost move using magnets, how to make your own fog, and to get the recipe for a bewitching, bubbling brew!

    For more science fun at home, check out these Missouri Parent blog posts:

    Investigating Autumn With Your Kids Part I
    Investigating Autumn With Your Kids Part II
    Science, Math, and…Pumpkins? 

    If you like reading posts like this one, sign up today for Missouri Parent email updates! You can also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

  • Investigating Autumn with Your Students Part I

    Fall is a season of anticipation. Excitement hangs in the air as the temperatures cool off and the leaves blow down from the trees. Taking time to explore the change of seasons will make fall even more fun for your family.

    Science is all around us this time of year, from weather patterns to apple picking to the decomposition of leaves in the backyard. You don’t need to be a scientist to explore the science of autumn with your kids.

    Today and tomorrow we’ll share five easy science projects that you and your kids can do together at home.

    1. Leaf Hunting
    Take a walk through your neighborhood, a park, or your own backyard, collecting leaves together with your kids. Bring your collections home and compare the leaves you’ve gathered. How many types of leaves did you find? Can you identity the trees they came from?
    Variation for Younger Kids: Collect as many different colored leaves as you can. Talk about those colors and about how the leaves are the same or different (for example, how many blades are there on each leaf?)

    2. Sprout-Your-Own Indian Corn
    Place a cob of Indian Corn in a small dish (a rectangular baking dish works well) filled partway with water, and leave the dish in a sunny location.

    Write down your hypotheses about what will happen to the corn (Will the cob grown new corn? Will it float or sink? Will the corn mold?), and come back each day to see if your hypotheses held true.

    3. Apple Tasting
    Apples come in a variety of colors and flavors, and their peak season is the fall! Purchase or pick several types of apples, comparing how they look and feel with how they might taste. Slice each apple into pieces and taste the together. Talk about their textures (crunchy, mushy), flavors (sweet, tart) and colors.

    Questions for Kids: Where do you feel sweetness on your tongue and where do you feel sour flavors? Do red apples all taste the same? What about green apples? Why do you think this is?

    Come back tomorrow for two more easy fall science experiments; “Dew Into Frost” and “Fall Decomposition”.

    For more tips and tricks that making learning fun for kids, like Missouri Parent on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or sign up for MOParent email updates at the top of this page!

  • Science, Math, and…Pumpkins?

    Pumpkins aren’t just great for Jack-O-Lanterns, they’re learning tools, too. This fall, spend a little time exploring pumpkins together with your kids — You might be surprised at how many ways you can apply math and science to this favorite fall fruit!

    Exploring Pumpkins
    Before carving this year’s Jack-O-Lanterns, measure your pumpkins together. Measurements can include weight, height, and circumference. Pumpkins are also great for lessons in buoyancy. You can even estimate and then count the number of seeds inside the pumpkin for practice counting high numbers.

    Pumpkin Buoyancy:
    Do you think your pumpkin will float if you place it in a bathtub filled with water? Do you think that it will float after you’ve carved it? Experiment by filling the bathtub or sink with water and placing the pumpkin in the water when it’s whole and again after it’s been carved. Was there any difference?

    This just seemed like a fun photo to share with you for this topic!

    Pumpkin Weight:
    How much does your pumpkin weight before carving? How much does it weigh after you’ve carved it? How did the pumpkin’s weight change?

    Pumpkin Measurements:
    How tall is your pumpkin at its tallest point? How tall is your pumpkin if you don’t count the stem? What is your pumpkin’s circumference? Will those measurements change when you carve your pumpkin? Why or why not?

    Pumpkin Seeds:
    Do all pumpkins have seeds inside? How many seeds do you think your pumpkin will have inside of it? After cutting your pumpkin open (so that you can see the seeds) has your guess changed? How many seeds are really inside the pumpkin? Was your guess greater than or less than the number of seeds inside your pumpkin?

    For Bonus Points: Can you find 3 ways to use the seeds from your pumpkin? A hint: you can eat them!

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to explore our other fall science posts:

    Investigating Autumn With Your Kids Part I
    Investigating Autumn With Your Kids Part II
    Spooky Science Projects for Halloween

    For more tips on making the most of your child’s education, sign up today for Missouri Parent email updates, tweet with us, or like us on Facebook!

  • Investigating Autumn with Your Students Part II

    Today is Part II of a two-part blog post featuring five fun and easy science projects you can do at home with your kids this fall.

    Be sure to check out the first three experiments we shared yesterday, and if you enjoy posts like these, sign up today for Missouri Parent email updates at the top of this page!

    4. Dew Into Frost
    Each fall in Missouri, a day comes when the morning dew turns to morning frost. Each morning this fall, look up the outside temperature with your son or daughter. Speculate whether the grass will have dew or frost, and then look outside!

    Questions for Kids: Based on the temperature outside, so you think the grass will have dew or frost on it? Why do you think that? If the grass has frost on it, do you think we’ll need to wear jackets to school? What about if there was snow? What causes the dew to change to frost?

    This project from is an easy at-home experiment that teaches kids why frost forms.

    5. Fall Decomposition
    Choose three fall foods (corn, pumpkin, squash, apples) and place them in your backyard. Make a hypothesis about which food will decompose first, and about how long it will take each food to decompose completely. Observe the foods each day, documenting their decomposition in a science journal or with a camera.

    For Bonus Points: Include a fourth food item that’s man-made (a granola bar, a fast food hamburger a pre-packaged cake or other treat) and compare the rate of its decomposition with the rate of decomposition of the corn, pumpkin, etc. Which decomposes first? Why do you think that is? Talk about how the ingredients in man-made foods might slow down decomposition compared to foods that are entirely natural.

    For more tips and tricks that making learning fun for kids, like Missouri Parent on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or sign up for MOParent email updates at the top of this page!

  • International Walk to School Day – October 9, 2013

    Across the United States, more than 3,000 organizers will host International Walk to School Day events on October 9th. Will your school be one of them?

    International Walk to School Day is celebrated in more than 40 countries worldwide. The program began in 1997 and has since grown from a single-day program to driving a year-round campaign advocating for safe pedestrian routes to school.

    Schools from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. will participate in International Walk to School Day 2013, but so far only 21 of those are in Missouri.

    It’s not too late for you to register your community for International Walk to School Day. One Illinois school waited until just before the big day to organize their event:

    “This was the first time our school participated in Walk to School Day and we got started only a few days before the event. We received lots of positive feedback from all the families that participated and are encouraged about doing it again next year.” 

    Why Participate

    Walking to school is good for the environment, and it’s also fun and healthy

    According to the International Walk to School Day website, “Walking and bicycling to school enables children to incorporate the regular physical activity they need each day while also forming healthy habits that can last a lifetime.”

    When students in your neighborhood walk together, it promotes a strong sense of community. And when you walk together with your kids, you’ll feel closer to your community, too.

    How to Participate
    · Walk from home or from a neighborhood meet-up spot.
    · Designate a community meet-up spot for families who live in rural areas. Make sure there’s plenty of parking, and encourage parents to walk with their kids from the designated meet-up spot to school.
    · Upload Your Photos [] of International Walk to School Day!
    · Visit the Walk to School website for more ideas!

    Missouri’s 21 Walk to School Day schools are located in Belton, Blue Springs, Bolivar, Columbia, Eldon, Independence, Kansas City, Lake Saint Louis, New Haven, St. Louis and University City. For details on each of those events, and to see if communities have registered new events, visit the Walk to School website.

    More Helpful Walk to School Day Links
    Planning Tips []
    Tips for First-Timers []
    Ways to Participate []
    Pedestrian Safety Tips []
    Pedestrian Safety Resources []

    Is your child’s education important to you? Follow Missouri Parent on Facebook or Twitter, and sign up for Missouri Parent email updates at the top of this page.

    Don’t Miss MOParent’s Back to School Safety Month post on Walking & Biking to School.

  • Is Curiosity the Key to Learning?

    Click the image above to view Ramsey's full TED talk.

    A 35-year-old high school chemistry teacher at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco was diagnosed with an aneurism that lead to open heart surgery.

    This teacher, named Ramsey Musallam, learned something about teaching as he underwent surgery for his life-threatening aneurism. He found himself comforted by his surgeon’s confidence, and he asked his surgeon where he acquired this confidence.

    “First, his curiosity drove him to ask hard questions about the procedure; about what worked and what didn’t work,” said Musallam.

    “Second, he embraced and didn’t fear the messy process of trial and error — the inevitable process of trial and error,” Musallam continued. “And third, through intense reflection he gathered the information that he needed to design and revise the procedure. And then, with a steady hand, he saved my life.”

    So what does this have to do with teaching? Musallam says that his doctor’s confidence inspired him to write down three rules of his own — rules to spark learning in his students.

    Ramsey Musallam’s Three Rules to Spark Learning:
    1) Rule #1: Curiosity comes first.
    2) Rule #2: Embrace the mess. (Trial and error is an important part of what teachers do every day)
    3) Rule #3: Practice reflection. (Teaching deserves care, reflection, and revision.)

    “Questions and curiosity are magnets that draw us towards our teachers. And they transcend all technologies or buzz words in education. But if we place these technologies before student inquiry, we could be robbing ourselves of our greatest tool as teachers; our students’ questions.”

    -Ramsey Masallum, high school chemistry teacher

    Musallam calls other teachers to inspire learning rather than simply reciting information to students.

    “...if we as educators leave behind this simple role disseminators of content and embrace a new paradigm as cultivators of curiosity and inquiry,” says Musallam, “we just might bring a little bit more meaning to their [our students’] school day.”

    What Do You Think?
    As a Missouri parent, have you witnessed your child’s curiosity sparked by great teachers?

    Do you believe that teachers can make learning more meaningful sparking curiosity?

    Leave a comment today on the MOParent Blog, Like us on Facebook, or Follow us on Twitter. And for educational updates delivered directly to your inbox, subscribe today to Missouri Parent emails.

  • Private Foundation Brings Music to Mid-Missouri Schools

    Do you believe that music in an important part of child’s education? One mid-Missouri organization does, and it’s making an impact on students in our state.

    The Roots N Blues N BBQ Foundation has partnered with a program called Blues in the Schools to bring blues music to mid-Missouri students.

    “Schools are cutting back on music and art and a lot of other areas which we feel are very important for children,” says Steve Sweitzer of Thumper Entertainment. Thumper Entertainment, producer of Roots N Blues N BBQ. “Blues in the Schools program fills that need.”

    Blues in the Schools began at Grant Elementary School in Columbia in 2007, and has since expanded to reach 12 mid-Missouri elementary schools. Blues in Schools hopes someday to expand its program to reach fourth graders across the state.

    The program teaches fourth graders about the origins, history and traditions of blues music through first-hand instruction from award-winning musicians. An artist in residency program even brings a professional musician into the classroom to teach students class blues songs and help them write their own blues song.

    The highlight of Blues in the Schools is that the fourth graders in mid-Missouri who participate in Blues in the Schools get to perform blues music live at the Blues N Blues N BBQ Festival, which draws more than 50,000 fans each year.

    What do you think about music education in schools?

    Have you seen any great music education programs in your part of the state?

    We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment today, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and sign up for Missouri Parent email updates at the top of this page.

  • Passionate California Student Speaks Out Against School Reform

    A student from the state of California put the education reform debate into perspective in live and in real-time during a community event in California featuring educational reformers Michelle Rhee, George Parker, and Steve Perry.

    Standing in front of a packed auditorium and speaking directly to Rhee, Parker and Perry, Hannah Newwhen asked educators to “listen to the students”. Newwhen argued fiercely against school reform:

    “I felt like this whole event was looking at the education policies issues as a reformers versus teacher’s unions kind of issue, and as a student, standing here and watching this battle is really disheartening. Because it’s a lot deeper than that, and these are our [students’] every day realities. This is more than a reformers versus teacher’s union battle; this is a social justice issue.”

    Newwhen received resounding applause from the audience before she was cut short because the moderator had “run out of time.”

    In a follow-up blog post called “What I would have said if I had gotten more time”, Newwhen continued her arguments against high stakes testing and educational reform:

    “Students are not data points on a graph you can talk about but never listen to. They are humans with hearts, minds, and stories of their own. They are resilient and beautiful and insightful. They deserve better than high stakes tests that don’t capture their humanity…”

    Newwhen went on to voice her views on schools, poverty, and policies that are written without student input:

    “[Students deserve]…better than charters that exclude and criminalize certain youth, better than the poverty that creates an opportunity gap well before they begin school, better than limited curriculum that doesn’t allow them to explore other options, better than policies that instill fear and oppress critical thought, better than budgets that leave their schools and classrooms dilapidated and unbearable, better than decisions that are made without their input.”

    Newwhen left her readers with a call to action to refocus school reform on students.

    “We can do better than current reform. We can do much better because our youth deserve much better,” she said.

    Missouri Parent would like to hear your thoughts on the issues:
    - Do you think that the education policy debate has become a “reformers versus teacher’s union issue”?
    - If you’re a Missouri student, do you feel that students’ perspectives are being heard and respected by policy makers, educators, and reformers?
    - What do you think about high stakes testing; do you think that high stakes testing ignores the humanity of Missouri’s students?
    - Leave a comment letting us know what you think, and if you want to stay up-to-date on school reform issues and how they affect Missouri’s public schools, subscribe to the MOParent Blog at the top of this page.




    Inspired Education

  • Helping Your Teen Manage Online Peer Pressure

    It’s no secret that your teen’s friends influence his or her behavior, but did you know that the photos that those friends post on social media profiles can influence the choices your teen makes about smoking and drinking?

    A recent study at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine showed that kids who see friends smoking and drinking in photos shared on social media sites are more like to smoke and drink.

    "The evidence suggests that friends' online behaviors are a viable source of peer influence," said researcher and post-doctorate fellow at the National Cancer Institute, Grace Huang, PhD.

    "This is important to know, given that 95 per cent of 12 to 17 year olds in the United States access the Internet every day, and 80 per cent of those youth use online social networking sites to communicate."

    Although it’s common sense that a teen’s online friends could apply direct or indirect peer pressure to students, the USC study the first of its kind to study peer pressure and social networks. Thomas Valante was the study’s principal investigator:

    "To our knowledge, this is the first study to apply social network analysis methods to examine how teenagers' activities on online social networking sites influence their smoking and alcohol use."

    The study showed that the size of a teenager’s social network wasn’t directly associated with their likelihood to engage in risky behaviors. When teens saw online pictures of friends drinking or smoking, however, they were more likely to smoke and drink, themselves.

    The study also revealed that if a teen’s close friends don’t drink, that teen is more susceptible to the pressure of seeing peers post online photos of themselves drinking.

    If your teen uses social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, setting realistic rules and expectations — and having open communications with your child — can help mitigate the peer pressure your child experiences online.

    Read Missouri Parent’s tips for keeping your teen safe on social media [Link to “Three Ways to Keep Your Teenager Safe on Social Media” post] for specific suggestions that can help you and your teen navigate online peer pressure together.

    Are resources like these helpful as a Missouri parent? Let us send email updates directly to your inbox by subscribing to MOParent emails. You can sign up at the top of this page.

  • Three Ways to Keep Your Teenager Safe on Social Media

    A recent study revealed that kids — even those whose closest friends don’t drink or smoke — are more likely to drink or smoke when they see pictures posted online of their social media friends smoking or drinking.

    While you can’t ever keep your teen 100% safe online, there are things you can do to mitigate the risk that your child will make unhealthy choices based on social media peer pressure.

    Honest Conversations
    Begin by realizing that your child faces traditional peer pressures like the ones you faced as a teen, but that a near-constant barrage of social media messages is also influencing him or her 24/7.

    Let your teen know that you recognize the pressures (online and off) to drink and smoke, and that you understand how intense those pressures can be.

    Listen to what your son or daughter has to say, and keep an open dialogue going with him or her about what’s happening at school, with friends, and online.

    Don’t Try to Outsmart Your Teen
    If your teenager knows more about technology than you do, attempting to outwit him or her on social media won’t help anyone. Instead, talk with your teen about the benefits and risks of social media use.

    Talk about the legal, academic, and social repercussions of sharing inappropriate or illegal pictures and statuses on social media.

    Talk about how online actions can affect real-life reputation, and remind your son or daughter that real friendships aren’t based on encouraging risky behaviors or online vulnerability.

    Profile Accessibility
    Make sure that you know what social media sites your teens uses, and that you have full access to view each of those profiles. Routinely — and openly — sit down with your teen to look at his or her online accounts together. Check security settings, talk about what your son or daughter has recently posted, and encourage your teen to share things with you that they’ve seen and enjoyed lately.

    Look together at what your child’s friends are posting, too. Talk to your son or daughter about how those things make him or her feel. Are there friends whose profiles make your child smile, laugh and feel good? What about friends whose pictures and updates make your child feel intimidated, pressured, or “not good enough”?

    You’ve helped your child navigate real life pressures and friendships since they were small, and you can help your teen do the same online.

    Come back to the MOParent Blog regularly for parenting tips, educational policy updates, and information about Missouri’s public schools. We can even send updates directly to your inbox! Just submit your email address and zip code at the to top of this page.

  • How Does Rural Living Affect Your Access to the Internet?

    Photo by Al Bauschardt

    Did this blog post load slowly on your home Internet connection?

    Do you avoid looking at photos or watching videos online because it takes too long?

    Do you kids go into town to do homework with a friend who has high-speed Internet at their house?

    You might be among the 42% of rural Americans who don’t have broadband.

    Given the cost of high-speed Internet in rural areas, broadband seems like a luxury for many Missouri families. Unfortunately, high-speed Internet is anything but a luxury for families with school-aged kids. In fact, it’s an important part of kids’ success in school.

    According to a Federal Reserve study cited by the Federal Communications Commission, students with a computer and broadband at home earned 6%-8% higher GPAs that students who didn’t.

    According to a June 2013 White House report called, “Four Years of Broadband Growth”, less than 20% of rural Missourians have access to Internet at speeds great than or equal to 25 Mbps.

    What does this mean for Missouri’s students? It means that there’s a growing divide between the resources available to rural students and those in urban and suburban areas. And in a state like Missouri, where 37% of our families are rural, the divide is greater than it is in major metropolitan centers like Washington, DC or New York City.

    Have you seen a divide in your own town’s access to Internet?

    Has your son or daughter been given homework assignments that were difficult to complete from home because of slow Internet speeds?

    We want to hear from you.

    Leave a comment telling us how slow Internet has affected your child, your family, or your community.

    Subscribe today to Missouri Parent email updates by entering your email address and zip code at the top of the page. 

    And be sure to visit us on Facebook!

  • The Missouri House Interim Committee on Education Public Hearing Schedule+

    The Missouri House Interim Committee on Education is taking a month-long tour across the state to hear from you — the Missouri public — on K-12 education in the state of Missouri.

    Missouri Parent encourages you to take an active role in your child’s public education by learning more about the hot-topic educational issues facing Missouri’s kids, and by sharing your ideas with the Missouri House Interim Committee on Education at one of the following hearings:

    Note: Not all Committee hearing details are published at this time. As Missouri Parent learns more details, we’ll share them on our Facebook Page.

    Education Hearing Times & Locations

    Monday, September 23 - Cottleville
    Time: 2:00 pm
    St. Charles Community College
    Social Sciences Building Auditorium
    4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive
    Cottleville, MO
    Monday, September 23 – Kirkwood

    Time: 7:00 pm
    St. Louis Community College at Meramec Campus
    Student Center Meeting Rooms SC200/SC201
    11333 Big Bend Road
    Kirkwood, MO
    Tuesday, September 24

    - Cape Girardeau
    Time: 2:00 pm
    Southeast Missouri State University
    Shuck Music Recital Hall
    River Campus
    1 University Plaza
    Cape Girardeau, MO

    Tuesday, September 24- Poplar Bluff

    Time: 7:00 pm

    Three Rivers Community College
    Tinnin Fine Arts Center School
    2080 Three Rivers Blvd.
    Poplar Bluff, MO
    Wednesday, September 25
    - Point Lookout
    Time: 1:00 pm
    College of the Ozarks
    Keeter Center
    One Opportunity Avenue
    Point Lookout. MO
    Wednesday, September 25- Joplin

    Time: 7:00 pm
    Missouri Southern State University
    Corley Auditorium
    3950 Newman Road
    Joplin, MO
    Monday, October 21- Hannibal

    Time: 3:30 pm
    Hannibal-LaGrange College
    Hannibal, MO
    (Specific location TBD)

    Tuesday, October 22 - Maryville
    Time: 1:00 pm
    Northwest Missouri State University
    Maryville, MO
    (Specific location TBD)

    Tuesday, October 22 - Kansas City
    Time: 7:00 pm
    Kansas City, MO
    (Specific location TBD)

    Wednesday, October 23 - Warrensburg
    Time: 1:00 pm
    University of Central Missouri
    Warrensburg, MO
    (Specific location TBD)

    To receive legislative updates directly in your inbox, subscribe today to Missouri Parent emails by submitting your email address and zip code at the top of this page.

  • Where Does Missouri’s Public Education Funding Come From?

    Click the graphic above for a downloadable PDF.

    Missouri’s K-12 public schools receive funding from federal, state, and local sources. Today on the MOParent Blog, we’ll explain these three levels of funding.

    Federal Funding for Missouri Public Schools
    The United States government funds K-12 public education in a number of ways, including Title I, Reading First, Improving Teacher Quality Grants, English Language Acquisition assistance, and No Child Left Behind programs.

    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides funding to states in order to educate children with disabilities, and No Child Left Behind requires that the federal government support certain educational activities.

    Overall, Missouri receives a little more than 10% of its public education funding from federal sources.

    State Funding for Missouri Public Schools
    Approximately one-third of Missouri’s K-12 public education funding originates at the state level.

    According to the U.S. Department of Education (June 2005), the average state funds 45.6% of its own K-12 public education programs. Missouri is funding public schools at a rate nearly 14% below the national average.

    Missouri’s public education funding comes from a number of sources, including taxes, gaming, and the Missouri Lottery.

    Local Funding for Missouri Public Schools
    More than 59% of K-12 public education funding comes from local sources in Missouri. Nationally, the average is approximately 37% (U.S. Department of Education, June 2005). Missouri’s local districts are providing nearly 22% more funding than the national average.

    What Does This Mean for Our Students?
    The good news is that because Missouri’s elementary and secondary schools receive funding from federal, state and local sources, a single policy change will only affect part of the state’s educational funding.

    The bad news it that because Missouri already falls well below the national average for state funding to K-12 public education, policies that reduce state-level educational spending are detrimental.

    To learn about one recent threat to Missouri’s state education budgets, see this post on Missouri House Bill 253.

    Stay tuned to the blog as in the future we will discuss state-level funding sources.

    Did this post help you understand how your child’s school is funded? Stay up to date on Missouri’s educational funding and state educational policy by subscribing today to the MOParent Blog.

  • Making Sure Missouri’s Kids Eat Breakfast

    Even the best parents sometimes find their kids leaving in the mornings without a well-rounded meal in their bellies. To help ensure that kids are eating wholesome breakfasts, many Missouri schools offer the School Breakfast Program.

    Like the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program offers nutritious breakfasts in public schools, nonprofit private schools, and residential institutions across the state. Participating schools offer breakfasts that meet USDA nutrition standards, and eligible students can purchase meals at free or reduced rates.

    Studies show that eating breakfast helps students in school: Kids who eat breakfast have fewer behavioral problems, higher math grades, are more attentive in the classroom, and have lower absentee and tardiness rates.

    “Eating breakfast also has ramifications on school performance. ‘Study after study shows that kids who eat breakfast function better,’ Dr. Schneider says. ‘They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy. Dr. Marcie Beth Schneider, M.D., FAAP, is a member of the AAP’s Committee on Nutrition and an adolescent medicine physician in Greenwich, Conn.

    Quote taken from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

    The School Breakfast Program gives kids in the 89,000 participating schools nationwide the chance to start the school day off right with a healthy breakfast. Your child could be one of them.

    Your son or daughter can use the school breakfast program before school each day regardless of your family’s income. Families who meet free or reduced lunch requirements will also receive breakfast at free or reduced rates. If you’re not sure whether your family qualifies for free or reduced lunches, please see the income eligibility guidelines posted here, or contact your child’s school.

    You can apply for free or reduced lunches for your child at any time during the school year, so if your family experiences changes in your financial situation during the year, be sure to contact your child’s school.

    Just like the National School Lunch Program, school breakfasts are a national program with state and local administrators. The Missouri program is run by the Missouri National School Lunch Program office in Jefferson City, and your child’s school or school district should also have someone on staff who is responsible for the program at the local level.

    State Director
    School Food Services
    Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
    205 Jefferson Street
    Post Office Box 480
    Jefferson City, MO 65102-0480
    Phone: 573-751-3526
    Fax: 573-526-3897

    If you’d like to learn more about the resources available to you and your child through Missouri’s public schools, subscribe today to MOParent email updates at the top of this page.


  • Teaching from the Heart

    Stephen Rutherford, a science teacher who has spent 34 years in the classroom has a refreshing message for teachers.
    “Each teacher strives to make their teaching as meaningful as possible,” says Rutherford. “But what works for me is ‘teach from the heart’”.

    Standardized tests, national learning standards, and funding for schools are dominating public discourse on education, making it easy to forget that one of the most important attributes our teachers can bring the classroom is a passion their work.

    In 2008 the National Association for the Education of Young Children surveyed 43 early childhood educators about the personal characteristics that lead to effective teaching. “Passion about children and teaching” was ranked as the single most important trait a teacher could possess:

    “Probably more than anything else, teachers report that it’s important to have a passion for what you do.”

    Take a moment to think about your own favorite schoolteachers; the teachers who taught you the most, and whose classes you most enjoyed being part of. What things stand out in your memory? Were your favorite teachers kind? Were they knowledgeable? Were they excited to help you learn?

    We’d love to hear your stories. Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page telling us about a teacher who made a difference in your life or in the life of your son or daughter.

    If you enjoy posts like this one, and learning more about your son or daughter’s education, sign up for MOParent Email Updates today!

  • Engaging Students with Video in the Classroom

    Gone are the days when video was used as an end-of-the-semester reward or as a way to keep kids busy when a substitute teacher was called into the classroom. For kids in today’s K-12 classrooms, video isn’t just a distraction; it’s a tool.

    Creating video is easier and less expensive than it’s ever been. Many students, teachers and parents have video cameras built into their laptops, mobile phones or tables, and most digital cameras can also capture video.

    It’s also easier than ever to edit and share video. Tools like iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Animoto, YouTube and Vimeo are easily accessible, making it possible for teachers to use video to supplement classroom education or for students to complete video-based assignments.

    There are many reasons why teachers incorporate video technology into their classrooms:

    Video encourages engagement: Kids enjoy videos, and when video is used effectively, it can engage students, help them learn, and make classroom lessons more memorable. This teacher’s video, for instance, has his math students thoroughly engaged on the not-so-engaging subject of complex numbers:


    Video supports multiple learning styles: Students learn in different ways, and video — which uses sound, visuals, and movement — appeals to students of more than one learning style.

    Interactive, real-time video allows students to teleconference with students and teachers from other classrooms anywhere in the world. Field trips take on a whole new meaning when many museums and cultural sites offer virtual tours that teachers can use with their students in the classroom.

    Video nurtures creativity: When kids are asked to storyboard, film and edit their own videos, they’re given a chance to communicate what they’ve learned in the classroom creatively.

    Video is an important skill for digital literacy: In a world where “internet video accounts for 40% of all consumer Internet traffic” understanding how to effectively create and use video isn’t just a fun skill; it’s also a practical one.

    Stay current on technology, policy, and education news by signing up for Missouri Parent email updates.

  • How Does Common Core Affect Your Kids? There’s an App for That.

    Common Core Standards are a hot topic for educators and educational policy experts, but many parents are still unfamiliar with what Common Core Standards mean for their kids.

    This online app, designed by Stand for Children, is an easy and attractive way to explore Common Core in Missouri. Bold design, straightforward language, and intuitive navigation make it a good — even enjoyable — way to learn more about Common Core.

    Across the United States, 45 states, Washington D.C., four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted Common Core. Missouri is one of those states.

    The Standards are designed to prepare students for college and career by providing a consistent, clear set of expectations for what students should learn in math and language arts during each year of their K-12 education.

    “36% of Missouri's college freshmen aren't ready for college-level work and spend their tuition gaining remedial skills they should've received for free in high school. In the movement to enact college and career ready standards across the states, Missouri adopted the Common Core in 2010. Full implementation takes place during the 2013 - 2014 school year.”

    The Common Core Standards are not a curriculum, and they don’t tell teachers how to teach. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, “They simply raise the standards for what students should know at each stage in their academic careers.”

    The Stand for Children Common Core Interactive App customizes information about Common Core Standards to you (as a parent, teacher, or community member without school-aged kids), to Missouri, and to the grade your child is in this year. The site also offers easy-to-understand info-graphics and a helpful FAQ sheet.

    To learn more about Common Core, read these posts by Missouri Parent: Common Core: Not a Federal Initiative and Common Core Standards Teaching Persuasive Argument.

    You can also learn more about Common Core by signing up for Missouri Parent email updates or by following the Missouri Parent Facebook Page.

  • How Can the Missouri MOST 529 College Savings Plan Help Your Child?

    It’s never too early or too late to begin saving for your child’s college or trade school expenses. Whether your child just started Kindergarten or whether he or she will begin driving this year, the Missouri MOST 529 College Savings Plan can help you prepare for the future.

    The 529 savings plans are special investment accounts designed to help families save for higher education at eligible two- to four-year colleges, postgraduate programs, or secondary trade and vocational schools. Nearly all accredited colleges, universities, and vocational/trades schools in the United States are 529-eligible. Funds cover qualified expenses like tuition, books, and certain room and board fees.

    Any U.S. citizen can open a MOST 529 account, anyone can contribute to the fund, and there’s no enrollment fee. Accounts can be managed online, and contributions can be as little as $25 each. The maximum total contribution to a MOST 529 plan is $325,000.

    529 plans are tax-deferred, and as long as they’re used for qualified higher-education expenses, they’re exempt from federal income tax. Missourians can deduct $8,000 ($16,000 for married couples filing jointly) in annual contributions from their Missouri taxable income.

    Missouri even offers a MOST 529 Matching Grant Program that allows families with a 529 beneficiary who’s 13 or younger to qualify for a matching grant up to $500. Account holders need to submit a new Matching Grant Program application every year.

    Many Missouri businesses make MOST 529 plan contributions available through payroll deduction. Ask your human resource or payroll representative for more information. If he or she isn’t familiar with the MOST 529 program, a MOST 529 representative can be requested to speak with him or her using this form.

    Navigating your son or daughter’s education is a big job, and we’re here to help. Follow our Facebook Page, bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog, or sign up for our email updates for a regular stream of practical tips and information.

  • Your Opinion: What Should the Goal Be of Missouri’s Public Education System?

    Recently, we happened onto a blog post at Education Week that caught our attention. In the post, Tom Segel, an analyst for Rethink Education, asks teachers, professors, authors, and other educational advocates two seemingly simple questions:

    “In your opinion, what is the current goal of the American Public Education System? What should be the goal of the American Public Education System?”

    Today, we want to hear from you — the parents of Missouri’s public education students — about what you think public education’s goals should be. Leave a comment below this post or on the MOParent Facebook Page to Segel’s questions, above. Or use some to our own questions, below, as prompts for discussion:

    · When a child graduates high school, what would you hope they would have learned, achieved, or accomplished in Missouri public schools?
    · When your child graduates, what do you hope he or she is prepared to accomplish in the future?
    · How important is it for schools across the United States to share common standards for learning?
    · How much flexibility do you think schools should allow for student to focus on areas of strength or areas that need attention?
    · Is one of the goals of public education to be competitive with other countries’ public education achievements?
    · How important is “college readiness” in public education?
    · How important is “workforce readiness” in public education?
    · Do you think that understanding diversity (and learning to work with diverse groups of peers) should be a goal of public education?
    · What should public schools teach?
    o Should arts be taught in schools?
    o Should physical education be taught in schools?
    o Is it a teacher’s job to teach manners and study skills?

    We want to hear from you! Leave a comment today below or on our Facebook Page, and be sure to share this conversation with your friends and fellow Missouri parents!

  • What is Your Son or Daughter’s Learning Style?

    Children learn in different ways, and you can help your child succeed in school this year by exploring how he or she learns best.

    When you know what that learning style is, you’ll be able to better-help your child to develop effective study habits that will go with him or her from K-12 and beyond.

    Social Vs. Independent Learners
    Some children learn best when they have a peer, a teacher, a tutor, or a parent working alongside them, while other children learn best when they study quietly or privately.

    If your child is a social learner, he or she may enjoy talking with you about what he or she is learning. Your son or daughter might also enjoy sharing ideas (“light bulb moments”) with you. Independent learners, by contrast, may enjoy spending time alone, and may not need outside help to stay focused on the task at hand.

    If your son or daughter is a social learner, study groups, tutors, and one-on-one time with you will make studying more efficient and enjoyable for him or her. On the other hand, if your child is an independent learner, he or she might need a quieter, more private study environment.

    Visual, Aural, Verbal, Physical, and Logical Learners
    Have you noticed that your child learns better with images than with spoken words, or that your child learns better when information is read aloud to him or her than when he or she reads the same passage silently?

    It’s perfectly normal for your child to learn better in some ways than in others, and there’s no “right” or “wrong learning style. We’ll spend the next few days helping you understand five learning styles and how to leverage them to help your child in school.

    If you want to receive more tips on helping your child succeed in school this year, subscribe to MOParent email updates! We’ll send helpful tips, policy updates, and more directly to your inbox.

  • Knowing Your Child’s Learning Style Can Make Your Child Successful in School

    It’s a new school year, and you’re dedicated to making sure your child does well. No matter what grade your child is in this year, understanding how he or she learns is critical to helping him or her succeed academically.

    We have talked about social and independent learners before and today we’ll explore the idea that some children learn better visually while others learn better aurally; that some might study best verbally, while others might have the most success when they can touch or feel the things they’re learning.

    With a little bit of help from MOParent, you’ll be able to identify which learning style best suits your child.

    Visual Learners
    Does your child learn well when images are involved? Is he or she great at putting puzzles together, folding notes to friends in complex ways, or seeing a 2D diagram and easily understanding what the item would look like in 3D? Then he or she might be a visual learner.

    Aural (or Auditory) Learners
    Does your child learn musical instruments easily? Does he or she use melodies or rhythms to memorize facts before tests? Does your child seem to remember information better when it’s read aloud to him or her? Your child might be an aural – or auditory – learner.

    Verbal Learners
    Does your son or daughter learn well using mnemonics? Does he or she enjoy reading and writing new information? Does reading text aloud (especially dramatically) help your child remember information? You might have a verbal learner in your family.

    Physical (or Kinesthetic) Learners
    Does your child love to participate in physical activities like sports, gardening, building model airplanes, or doing hands-on science or craft projects? Does he or she remember things that he or she has done more easily than the things that he or she has read or heard? Your son or daughter might be a physical – or kinesthetic - learner.

    Logical (or Analytical) Learners
    Does your child look at seemingly random information and see patterns or trends? Does he or she tend to think linearly through problems? Does he or she enjoy strategy games? Does he or she notice it when you say something that isn’t logical? Your child may be a logical – or analytical - learner.

    I Think I Know My Child’s Learning Style, Now What Do I Do?
    Now that you have a better idea what your child’s learning style is, you’re probably wondering what those learning styles mean for your child.

    How can you best help your child prepare for tests? How can you help him or her develop good study habits that will carry over into the high school and college years?

    If you’re looking for more helpful information on studying with your child, helping him or her in school, and understanding what’s happening in Missouri’s public schools, subscribe to MOParent email updates today!

  • Tips and Tricks to Help Kids of Every Learning Style Part 2

    Over the last several days, we’ve explored learning styles, and how you can help your child succeed in school leveraging his or her unique learning style. Today, we’ll wrap up this series with tips and tricks for verbal, physical, and logical learners.

    Verbal Learners
    · Verbal learners may find note-taking to be distracting. Don’t assume that if your verbal learner takes few (or no) notes in class, that he or she isn’t paying attention.
    · Reading and writing will help your child to retain information.
    · Encourage your child to read information and then repeat what he or she learned back to you verbally.
    · Word games and reading supplementary materials are both great tools for the verbal learner.

    Physical (or Kinesthetic) Learners
    · Whenever possible, make learning hands-on for your physical learner.
    · Help your child visualize the way it may have felt to be in a particular situation (in a battlefield during the Civil War, for instance) when studying history or reading stories.
    · Flashcards are helpful for physical learners because they can be touched and felt.
    · Understand that your physical learner may learn better while standing or even pacing, rather than while sitting still at a desk or table. He or she may also need more frequent short breaks than children who aren’t physical learners.

    Logical (or Analytical) Learners
    · Create a structured learning environment for your logical learner: Reduce distractions by studying in the same place and at the same time each evening, and keep supplies handy and organized.
    · Focus on one task at a time. Changing between subjects or stopping mid-stream for an unrelated task (to complete a chore or eat dinner with your family) may be frustrating or distracting for logical learners.
    · Help your child understand why things happen or why information is meaningful. Don’t expect him or her to learn by rote.

    If you like receiving short, helpful pieces like this one, subscribe today for MOParent email updates!

  • 100 Years of Standardized Tests

    In the midst of complex debates over public education, standardized testing, and educational reform, this exam issued to Kentucky 8th graders 100 years ago seems comparatively straightforward. In truth, the test is surprisingly difficult.

    Click the image for the full exam, answers, and a history of the test.

    Can you name, for example the capitals of the states bordering the Ohio River? Do you know what the functions (or uses) of the spinal column are? Can you name five county officers and the principal duties of each? Remember that 100 years ago, each of these was an essay question — not a single question was designed as multiple choice.

    The 8th grade exam covers spelling, reading, arithmetic, grammar, geography, physiology, civil government, and history. Each section includes ten questions or less, except for spelling, in which students were asked to spell 40 words.

    Tests Then & Now
    In 1912, students answered less than 60 essay questions and spelled 40 words as part of a single exam at the end of 8th grade. Students were required to travel to a regional testing site to participate in the exam.

    Missouri’s 8th graders complete MAP tests in three different subject areas; communication arts, math, and science. These tests are administered in the classroom, eliminating travel requirements. Today’s tests are longer than Kentucky’s 1912 test was, and they include several types of questions, while Kentucky’s 100-year-old test was made up entirely essay questions.

    Eighth graders in Missouri are given a little over two hours to complete three sections of communication arts testing; two hours and twenty minutes to complete three sections of math testing; and three hours to complete three sections of science exams. Students encounter multiple choice questions, constructed response questions, and “performance events” – extended construction response questions.

    What Do You Think?
    What do you think about tests 100 years ago and tests now? Could you have passed Kentucky’s 8th grade exam? Do you think you could pass your child’s 8th grade MAP tests? Leave a comment on the MOParent Facebook Page, and if you enjoy posts like this one, be sure to sign up for MOParent email updates!

  • Tips and Tricks to Help Kids of Every Learning Style Part 1

    Understanding your child’s learning style — and helping him or her to develop style-appropriate study skills — is key to success this school year and beyond.

    Yesterday, we talked about five different learning styles. Today, we’ll explore tips and tricks for students who learn visually and aurally. We’ll share similar tips and tricks for the remaining learning styles tomorrow.

    If these tips are helpful, sign up for MOParent email updates. We’ll send information about your child’s education directly to your inbox!

    Visual Learners
    · Use colored papers, markers, pencils, or pens to create flashcards or other study materials. Visual learners associate color, shape, and layout with information, making it easier for them to recall later.
    · Maps and diagrams help visual learners understand and remember information.
    · Visual learners will remember information better if they write it themselves (for example, on their own flashcards) than if a teacher or parent writes the information down for them.
    · Sometimes visual learners may struggle to remember verbal information. Teach your child that it’s okay to ask teachers or others to repeat verbal information.

    Aural Learners
    · When aural learners need to memorize information, it can be helpful to put that information into a rhythm, or even to sing the information to the melody of a well-known song.
    · Use rhymes or rhyming games to help your child learn and recall new information.
    · Read your child’s homework aloud to them. Your aural learner will remember more or of what he or she hears than what he or she reads.
    · Encourage your aural learner to verbalize things out loud as he or she studies at home. While this may be a distraction to other students in a classroom setting, that’s not the case when studying at home.

    Come back to the MOParent Blog tomorrow for tips and tricks designed especially for parents of verbal, physical, and logical learners.

  • Missouri’s 4th and 8th Grade Science Students Top 20 in Nation

    Missouri’s 8th grade students ranked in the nation’s top 20 on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) exams in 2005 and again in 2012.

    The NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas, and Missouri schools are periodically selected to participate in NAEP assessments. NAEP administers uniform assessments nationwide in a number of content areas — including science — in the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades.

    Science scores and rankings on the NAEP exams are based on the percentage of students scoring at or above proficient on each assessment. In 2005 (the base year for comparative analysis), Missouri’s 8th graders were 13th in the nation with a 36% proficiency rating. In 2012, Missouri’s 8th grade science students achieve the same percentage proficiency rating (36% of students scored at or above proficient), but fell to 18th nationally in rank.

    Missouri’s students aren’t just excelling in science on NAEP assessments. Students have increased their science scores on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests from 2008 to 2012, as well. From 2008 to 2012, 5th grade students jumped from 44.7% to a 51.6% scoring at or above proficient. 8th grade science students increased from 43.3% scoring at or above proficient to 49.9% scoring at or above proficient.

    Proficiency in science is apparent on ACT scores in Missouri, as well. For the last seven years, Missouri has ranked in the top 24 states nationally on the science portion of the ACT.

    Keep Science Fun for Your Kids
    If you enjoy seeing Missouri’s students excel in the sciences, you can help continue the positive trend by keeping science fun for your kids at home.

    Stay tuned to this website to see MO Parent’s tips for Keeping Science Fun.

  • Missouri's Annual Performance Reports Released

    The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has released the results of the Missouri Assessment Program tests. The full release and results can be found at this link on the DESE website.

    You can also find a district-by-district breakdown of the scores in a PDF here.

    According the DESE, "MAP test scores and other performance measures are used to develop school- and district- level Annual Performance Reports (APRs). The APR, the foundation for Missouri's accreditation requirements for public school districts, provides an update on how schools and local education agencies are meeting state education standards in five areas: academic achievement, subgroup achievement, college and career or high school readiness, attendance, and graduation rate. APRs will be released later in August."

    Regarding the results in today's report DESE says student achievement held steady in communications and increased in science.

    Regional reports from news media with interactive charts can be found at the links below:

    The Joplin Globe

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    St. Louis Beacon

    KSDK (with auto-play video)

  • 10 Ways to Help Your Child Learn Vocabulary Words, Part V

    Welcome to the final post in our five-part series of tips and suggestions for helping your child to learn and use new vocabulary.

    We’ll wrap up our series with three final tips for parents like you who want to help your child develop a strong vocabulary — an important part of achieving overall academic success for Missouri’s public school students.

    “Being on the lookout for words, finding out what they mean, engaging in wordplay, looking for multiple meanings and looking up words in the dictionary all support the acquisition a powerful vocabulary.”

    8. Encouraging Journaling and Storytelling

    The ultimate goal of vocabulary learning isn’t to just know the meanings of words, but to be able to use those words to communicate ideas, feelings, actions, objects, and order of events.

    Journaling and storytelling help your child to practice each of these things. When your child keeps a journal, tells a story verbally or writes a story down, he or she is using vocabulary words in context.

    Encourage your child to use storytelling or journaling to practice describing things using sizes, colors, and relationship to other objects (example: “the little blue train went through the big, dark tunnel”).

    If your child enjoys sharing verbal stories with you, ask them questions that will inspire them to use words you’ve been studying together or that they’ve been studying at school.

    Storytelling can be as creative or as realistic, as serious or as silly as you and your child wants it to be. From sharing true stories about your day at work or school, to making up imaginative tales of far away places and fairy tale creatures, storytelling and journaling are flexible tools that will help your child communicate using vocabulary.

    9. Be Word Conscious

    Word consciousness means two things.

    First, it means playing an active role in your child’s education by knowing what words are part of your child’s vocabulary study in school. Remember that children — especially older children — will be assigned vocabulary words in subjects other than Language Arts. Be aware of any vocabulary you child has been asked to learn in social studies and science classes, as well.

    Second, it means that you use a variety of words when you talk to your child. Listen to the way you speak now, and ask yourself if there are words that you say overly- often or words that you use incorrectly. Try to incorporate new words into your own vocabulary, and do your best to use words correctly. The example you set for your child is powerful, which leads us to our final recommendation in this five-part series.

    10. Set a Good Example

    You don’t have to be a writer, a librarian, or a schoolteacher to set a good example for your child. Using complete sentences, avoiding trendy abbreviations, and being aware of your own grammar and usage will each contribute to your child’s vocabulary development at home.

    The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.
    -Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) Austrian-British philosopher.

  • 10 Ways to Help Your Child Learn Vocabulary Words, Part IV

    Today’s post is the fourth post in a five-part series on how you — as a Missouri public school parent — can help your child expand her vocabulary. 

    6. Play Word Games
    Summer is the season for family travel, and incorporating learning new vocabulary into car trips is fun and easy. Here are a few of our favorite word games for family travel:
    The Alphabet Game
    Backseat Scavenger Hunt 
    First Letter, Last Letter
    Make a Postcard Travelogue

    You don’t have to wait until summer vacation to play word games at home. Board games, video games, and traditional word games are great ways to reinforce your child’s vocabulary learning, usage and spelling all year round.

    Scrabble: This classic board game has several editions now, including a two-sided Junior Edition that will grow with your kids from preschool through kindergarten.

    Boggle: Boggle is recommended for ages 8 and up, but is a fun game for older children and parents to play together. And because each game only takes a few minutes to play, this word game isn’t a big time investment for your family.

    Word Games for DS, Wii, and other Game Consoles: If your child loves video games, you can encourage her to play word games on her DS, Wii, or Xbox. Nintendo DS and Wii word games include Scrabble, Words Up, Lola’s Alphabet Train, My Word Coach, and My Reading Tutor. Games of Xbox include Wordament, Text Twist, and Wheel of Fortune.

    More Games to Play at Home
    Scholastic offers a free flash card maker tool on its website. You can choose between digital (online) or physical (printed) vocabulary flashcards, and because the application allows you to input your own words and definitions, you can customize flash cards for your child’s current vocabulary words.

    PBS offers a variety of learning games on their children’s website, including several vocabulary games for third through fifth and sixth through eight grade students. If your child likes computer games, she may enjoy these

    The “Take a Walk” game brings your family together for learning and physical activity. Take a walk through your neighborhood — or if the weather’s cold, a shopping mall or museum — and look for things that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet. 

    7. Subscribe to a Children’s Magazine
    If your child enjoys stories and images, but has a hard time with longer books, a subscription to a children’s magazine can help make reading more enjoyable. If your child already loves to read, getting his/her own magazine in the mail each month will be a special treat.

    There are many magazines on the market, covering a variety of subjects and written for nearly every age reader. Many children’s magazines offer a free trial issue so that you and your child can decide together whether the magazine is one that she’ll enjoy reading.

    A few popular kids magazines include American Girl, Appleseeds, Boys Life, Odyssey Magazine, Cricket, Hopscotch for Girls, Highlights, National Geographic Kids, and Sports Illustrated Kids.

    To see what magazines other parents recommend, visit The Parent’s Choice Winners list for magazines.

  • 10 Ways to Help Your Child Learn Vocabulary Words, Part III

    Vocabulary is an important tool in a child’s education, affecting not just how well he/she reads, but also how well your child learns in all subject areas. Because Missouri’s NAEP vocabulary scores have declined in recent years, MO Parent is here to share a series of free and inexpensive tips for helping your child build a strong vocabulary.

    Today, we’ll talk about the benefits of visiting your local public library and how to find books that are age- and reading-level appropriate for your child.

    4. Use the Public Library
    Missouri Public Libraries offer a number of free and low-cost resources for you and your family. From homework help to Internet access; story time for kids to community events; modern libraries are a great place to build community, get information, and, of course, help your child to expand his vocabulary.

    Here are a few ideas about how you and your child can use your local Missouri public library for community, education, and quality time together:

    · Get a library card for yourself, and as soon as your child is old enough, have him sign up for a library card, too!
    · Ask your librarian for a calendar of community events. You and your child can pick events to attend together.
    · Take your child to story time at the library. Most libraries offer a regular, free story time, during which an experienced librarian or volunteer reads stories to children.
    · Make regular trips to the library with your child, helping him pick out, check out, and return books — on time, of course!
    · Help your child with his homework at the library. Libraries are quiet, and there’s plenty of desk and table space where you can work together uninterrupted on schoolwork or projects.
    · Ask about your library’s reading programs for kids. Many public libraries offer special programs that encourage and reward reading.
    Libraries offer much more than books. You and your child can use reference materials, read magazines, use the Internet, read graphic novels, or even check out movies, games or music together to watch, play or listen to at home.

    And remember that because your public library is a public resource, it’s a fantastic place to level the academic and intellectual playing fields for you child. At the public library, everyone is invited to learn.

    For a searchable database of Missouri Public Libraries, click here.

    5. Help Your Child Choose Books
    Reading might be the single best tool to help your child with vocabulary development, but frustration and boredom can result from reading books that are too hard, too easy, or written about subjects that don’t interest your child.

    If you aren’t sure what our child’s current reading level is, reach out to his/her classroom teacher, a school librarian or a librarian at your public library. Age, aptitude toward reading, and maturity are just a few of the factors that contribute to a child’s reading level.

    Age-Based Book Lists:
    Choosing Books for Young Children (Birth – 5 Years)
    Great Schools’ Favorite Books for Kindergarteners 
    Choose Books for Your Child (Grades 1-2) 
    Choose Books for Your Child (Grades 3-5) 
    Choosing Books for a Middle Schooler  

    General Booklists:
    Reading is Fundamental Booklists 
    Association for Library Service to Children 
    Young Adult Library Services Association Book Awards & Booklists
    Choosing Children’s Books for a Reluctant Reader
    Annual Book Award Lists:
    Newberry Medal
    Caldecott Medal
    American Library Association’s Notable Children’s Books List 

  • 10 Ways to Help Your Child Learn Vocabulary Words, Part II

    In most subject areas, Missouri has shown improvement in National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test scores over time. Vocabulary scores, however, have fallen over time.

    Missouri’s teachers work with our public education students on vocabulary daily, but you can have a powerful influence on your child’s vocabulary education, too.

    Today, we’ll more tips with you so that you can help your child learn, understand, and use new words.

    2. Talk With Your Child Daily
    One of the simplest things you can do for your child’s vocabulary development is to make time to have conversations with them every day.

    The Child Development Institute suggests using dinnertime to help your children with their words:

    “Encourage family discussions. Turn off the TV and talk. One of the best places is the dinner table…What to talk about? Things going on in the neighborhood; what happened at school; events that are coming up; family plans, family decisions, et cetera.”

    Conversations don’t just have to happen at the dinner table. Use your time in the car together to ask your child questions about friends, school, and hobbies, and ask your child to help you shop as well. Learning to identify words on packaging in the grocery store, for example, is a great way to encourage reading, spelling, and vocabulary development.

    As you talk with your child, try to use a variety of words, and — of course — use the best grammar you can. Your child will learn much of his/her vocabulary from hearing the things you say to him/her.

    3. Encourage Your Child to Read Independently

    As we explained in our recent post, “Why Vocabulary is Important for Missouri’s Students”, a strong vocabulary affects a child’s long-term and overall academic achievement. One of the best ways to learn new vocabulary is to read.

    Math & Reading Help provides free resources for parents, to empower them to be active in their child’s education. In an article on the importance of reading, the organization says that,

    “Continuous reading can increase your child's vocabulary, which will likely lead to a higher level of academic success. The more your child reads, the more accustomed he or she will become to using context clues as a means to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.”

    Tomorrow, we’ll help you choose books for your child. We’ll also talk about subscribing to children’s magazines, attending book fairs, visiting your public library, and other ways to provide your child with a variety of appropriate and fun reading materials.

  • 10 Ways to Help Your Child Learn Vocabulary Words, Part I

    Missouri’s public school students study some form of vocabulary at all grade levels and in a variety of subjects, including spelling, reading, science, and history.

    Studying new vocabulary is important for student success in reading, but also in overall achievement. In fact, a professional paper published by Scholastic and written by Dr. Nell Duke of Michigan State University says that children with stronger vocabularies achieve more in school than their peers with weaker vocabularies:

    “Research clearly indicates that children with larger vocabularies have higher school achievement in general (Smith, 1941, cited in Beck, McKeown, and Kucan, 2002) and higher reading achievement in particular (Anderson and Freebody, 1981; Graves, 1986; Stahl, 1998).”

    Vocabulary is incredibly important for Missouri’s public school students, and you can help your child at home in a number of ways. This is the first in a five-part series of tips, games, activities and resources for Missouri parents to use at home to help improve vocabulary learning.

    “Between grades 1 and 3, it is estimated that economically disadvantaged students' vocabularies increase by about 3,000 words per year and middle-class students' vocabularies increase by about 5,000 words per year.”
    -Big Ideas in Beginning Reading

    Note: Because of Missouri’s high rate of child poverty (22%), MO Parent has focused this series on free and inexpensive resources for parents.

    1. Read to Your Children Every Day
    It’s never too early or too late to spend time reading with your kids. The Children’s Reading Foundation recommends reading aloud with young children for 20 minutes each day:

    “Just 20 minutes a day reading aloudwith young childrenstrengthens relationships, encourages listening and language skills, promotes attention and curiosity, andestablishes a strongreading foundation.”

    Even at a very young age, reading to your child helps prepare them to read on their own.

    “From birth to age five, the pleasant activity of listening to and talking aboutstories trains a child's brain, ears, and eyes foreventual success in learning to read,” according to The Children’s Reading Foundation.

    If you’re new to reading aloud to your kids, you may not know how to make the most of your time reading together. The national multimedia literacy initiative Reading Rockets suggests that while reading to your child that you talk with your child about the story you’re reading and the words the story uses.

    “When the book contains a new or interesting word, pause and define the word for your child. After you’re done reading, engage your child in a conversation about the book.” 

    There are many ways that you can talk with your child about the book you’ve read together. A few of those include asking your child about the characters in the story, asking about the order of events in the story, or asking them what their favorite part of the story was.

    Reading together shouldn’t stop when your child has become literate. Older kids benefit from both reading aloud (to you) and being read aloud to (by you). Try taking turns reading sections of a story to each other, or have your child read short articles (example: a story in the local newspaper) to you.

    When you read aloud to your older children, keep in mind that because a child’s listening skills are usually a little bit more advance than his reading skills, you can read books aloud that are a year or two ahead of your child’s current reading level.

    “A child's reading level doesn't catch up to his listening level until eighth grade. You can and should be reading seventh-grade books to fifth-grade kids. They'll get excited about the plot and this will be a motivation to keep reading. A fifth-grader can enjoy a more complicated plot than she can read herself, and reading aloud is really going to hook her, because when you get to chapter books, you're getting into the real meat of print – there is really complicated, serious stuff going on that kids are ready to hear and understand, even if they can't read at that level yet.”
    -Jim Trelease, in an interview for

    Reading together is a good supplement to your child’s Missouri public school education, but it’s also a great way to spend quality time with your kids. Remember; just 20 minutes a day is all it takes to help build critical vocabulary skills that will help your child’s overall academic success.

  • Reusing & Personalizing School Supplies

    Reusing & Personalizing School Supplies

    As your child heads back to school this fall, you’ll face a few unavoidable expenses. Today we’ll talk about how to save money (and keep your kids smiling) by reusing and personalizing basic school supplies.

    Reuse It
    Some school supplies are easy and convenient to reuse at the beginning of the new school year.

    Here are a few examples:
    Lunch Boxes
    Pencils & Pens

    If last year’s school supplies are functional, but leave your child less than enthusiastic about the first day of school, consider personalizing those reused school supplies using some the ideas below.

    Personalize It
    To make reused or generic school supplies more special, consider personalizing them. By letting your creativity (and your child’s) out to play, your child’s “old” school supplies will feel new, fresh, and most importantly, uniquely theirs.

    Here are a few ideas:
    · Use scrapbook paper to recover a reused three-ring binders, folders, and notebooks.
    · Cover reused pencils and pens or embellish notebooks, folders, glue bottles and other supplies with “washi tape” (patterned, decorative masking tape available in craft stores) or brightly-colored duct tape.
    · Help your teenager decorate notebooks and folders with magazine collages or photographs or friends.

    Pinterest abounds with other fun (and often inexpensive) ideas. Want to make personalizing school supplies even more fun and less expensive? Coordinate with other parents to have a school supply decorating party.

    When each family brings a few decorating supplies to share, everyone saves, and when kids decorate their school supplies with friends, they’ll be even more excited to show them off on the first day of school.

    Fore more ideas on how to save money back-to-school shopping this fall, check out these 5 Back-To-School Savings Tips

    For more tips and information designed just for Missouri parents, subscribe to MOParent’s email updates at the top of this page!

  • Missouri Educators Speak Out Against HB 253

    Dr. Lori Van Leer, Superintendent of Washington (MO) Public Schools (source: LinkedIn)

    Across the state, Missouri’s educators are speaking out against House Bill No. 253, which could wreak havoc on public education budgets. A survey of news sources across the state reveals superintendents statewide are going on the record against HB 253.

    Here’s what some of those superintendents have to say:

    “There has been no Board action, but we support the Governor’s stance on this issue. If it’s [HB 253] passed, it [HB 253] would have a dramatic financial impact on public education and could be absolutely devastating for some districts. We are hopeful the veto stands.”
    - Dr. Jerrod Wheeler, West Platte Superintendent in the The Platte County Citizen (8/1/13)

    “This is not a time in our state’s history to be experimenting with policies that could significantly damage, if not completely devastate, schools and others that would be impacted by the potential this would not work.”
    -C.J. Huff, Joplin Superintendent in the Joplin Globe (7/28/13)

    “In addition to underfunding the entire education system of the state, Missouri provides zero dollars for professional development for educators in our struggling school districts and classroom technology needs are either being met by local tax payers or going completely unanswered.”
    -Paul Ziegler, Northwest R-1 School District Superintendent and President of the Missouri Association of School Administrators (7/21/13)

    “I fail to see how we can advance this country and advance our school systems that are charged with educating youth with dwindling resources. Education is fundamental to our success locally, as a state and as a nation. Missouri wants to be more, yet it grossly underfunds the one thing that can drive our economic engine.”
    - Dr. Lori VanLeer, Washington Superintendent in (7/25/13)

    “Unfortunately, House Bill 253 could put all of our past success and future opportunities at risk by taking money away from our schools and by making it more expensive to improve our facilities for students. That’s why we are continuing to talk to our elected representatives about the need to support our schools and protect taxpayers by sustaining the Governor’s veto of House Bill 253.”
    -Norm Ridder, Springfield Public Schools’ Superintendent in The Ozarks Sentinel (8/8/13)

    House Bill No. 253 is not in the best interest of Missouri’s students or the schools they attend. 

    To learn more about HB 253 and how educators across the state are responding to the General Assembly’s opportunity to override Governor Nixon’s veto of the bill, sign up for MO Parent email updates today.

  • 5 Back-To-School Money Savings Tips

    Back-to-School can be exciting for kids and parents, but it can also leave the pocketbook a little sore. Today on MOParent, we’ve got a few tips for you on how to save on Back-to-School shopping.

    1. Budget
    Back-to-School shopping is a great time to teach your older kids about budgeting. Set back-to-school budgets for each category of costs; clothes, shoes, supplies, and share those budgets with your kids. Shop together with you kids and help them understand how their choices impact their shopping budgets.

    For extra incentive, offer a special treat or a “bonus” for spending under-budget on school costs. This is a good way to inspire kids to reuse items that don’t absolutely need to be replaced annually.

    2. Buy In Bulk
    Consider going in together with another family or two to buy generic school supplies (number 2 pencils, notebook paper, tissues, etc.) in bulk from stores like Costco or Sam’s.

    3. Everything’s a Dollar
    Discount stores where everything costs $1 often carry basics like crayons, pencils, and folders. Brand names and fancy designs are fun, but not necessary. Shopping at less expensive stores will help your back-to-school budget stretch further.

    4. Stick to the List
    Sticking to the list of school supplies published by your child’s school is a good way to save money on unnecessary items. And where clothes shopping goes, be sure you know the dress code at your child’s school; some of the clothes your son or daughter likes in the store may not be okay in the classroom.

    5. Spread it Out
    While it may not save your bottom line, spreading back-to-school purchases over a few different paychecks will ease the sting of school shopping costs. If possible, ask your child’s teacher (or a parent whose child had the same teacher the previous year) whether any supplies can be purchased later in the school year.

    Back-to-school should be fun for your child, and hopefully these tips make shopping a little bit more fun for you, too. For more tips like these, sign up for MOParent email updates.

  • Independent Credit Agencies Say HB 253 Bad Idea

    Three leading independent credit rating agencies — Standard & Poor’s, Fitch, and Moody’s — show that House Bill 253 poses serious risk to Missouri’s financial health and long-standing AAA credit rating.

    Missouri House Bill 253 was vetoed in June by Governor Jay Nixon, who called the bill “an ill-conceive, financially irresponsible experiment that would inject far-reaching uncertainty into our economy, undermine our state’s fiscal health, and jeopardize basic funding for education and vital public services.”

    Governor Nixon’s veto could be overturned when the General Assembly meets on September 11th for its annual veto session. It will take 109 votes in the Missouri House to overturn the Governor’s veto, at which time the bill would move to the Missouri State Senate. In the Senate, 23 votes are needed to officially overturn Governor Nixon’s veto, placing Missouri public education in danger.

    “We believe that if the Missouri legislature overrides the governor’s veto [of HB 253] and enacts the legislation, and the federal government passes the Marketplace Fairness Act, it has the potential to result in a significant financial impact to the state, despite requirements for the maintenance of a balanced budget.”
    Standard & Poor’s in its July 24th Report on HB 253

    In its August 8th coverage of the House Bill 253 veto, The Ozarks Sentinel said:

    “The negative impact of House Bill 253 on schools in the Springfield area would be significant. When fully implemented, the cost each year could be $4.3 million for Springfield schools; $800,000 for Branson schools; and $2 million for Nixa schools. If the Federal Marketplace Fairness Act becomes law, the cost for the current year could be $7.5 million for Springfield schools; $1.3 million for Branson schools; and $3.5 million for Nixa schools.”

    To learn what the impact of House Bill 253 would be on your school district, check the Foundation Formula Scenario published by the state.

    Do you want to remain informed on Missouri House Bill 253 and other state and local policies that affect your child’s education in the state of Missouri? Subscribe today to MO Parent email updates.

  • Back to School Safety Month: Walking & Biking to School

    Welcome back to MOParent’s three-part series on safe school transit. If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here. Today, we’re going to talk about the advantages of walking and bike riding to school, including ideas for group walks and rides and safety tips for your child.

    Good Health & Good for the Environment
    Walking or riding a bike to school keeps kids active and healthy, and both options are good for the environment, too. Your family may even save a few dollars on fuel over the school year if your child walks or rides a bike each day.

    Great Ideas from Other Parents
    Parents in some communities are forming “walk to school buses” and “bicycle trains”. Two adults supervise as the “engine” and the “caboose”, and the bus or train picks up neighborhood kids along the way. Learn more by vising these websites:
    Walk to School Bus 
    Bicycle Trains 

    Safety in Numbers
    If it’s an option, consider walking or riding to school with your child. If that’s not possible, here are some other ideas about how to create safety in numbers:
    · Talk to neighbors about your children walking to school together
    · If you have more than one child in the same school, teach them to walk together
    · Have a family friend who lives too far from school to walk? Invite them to drop their child off at your house in the morning so that your children can walk together

    Know the Way
    Be sure that he or she is 100% comfortable with the route to school, and that you’ve set ground rules for who they may walk with, how to avoid strangers, and whether or not diversions from the route (if any) are allowed.

    Bicycle Safety
    If you have your own bike, ride the route to school with your child a few times before letting them ride independently. Talk with your child about bicycle traffic laws and right-of-way, and make absolutely sure that their bike and helmet fit them properly. Finally, teach your child that anytime he or she is on a bicycle, a helmet should be worn.

    Helpful Links
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Association:Offers a variety of tips and resources ranging from proper helmet fit and kids’ bicycle safety worksheets to a bike safety checklist and traffic safety facts.
    The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation: Bicycle education classes, road rules, safety skills, and an entire section devoted to teaching kids about bike safety.
    Bicycle Safety Activity Kit: Fun materials designed for parents & kids, including games and other resources

    SafeTomorrow on the MOParent Blog
    Come back tomorrow for the third and final segment in this three-part series on safe school commutes; a post with surprising safety information about school buses and driving your child to school.

    If you enjoyed this post, sign up at the top of this page for MOParent email updates!

  • What Missouri Educators Are Doing to Fight HB 253

    Read the bill and veto message for yourself by clicking the image above.

    In June 2013, Governor Jay Nixon vetoed Missouri House Bill 253, calling it “an ill-conceived, fiscally irresponsible experiment,” in part because of the damage it could to do state-funded services including public education.

    “House Bill 253 is a reckless fiscal experiment cooked up by a few special interests that could knock Missouri permanently off course and send us heading in the wrong direction.”

    Missouri teachers and administrators agree with Governor Nixon, arguing that the state’s public education system is already underfunded, and that HB 253 will only compound existing funding issues.

    According to the Missouri Association of School Administrators, “Missouri’s statutorily required formula for school funding is underfunded by over $600 million his year”. The additional financial effects of HB253 would be devastating to individual school district’s budgets.”

    School districts across the state are raising awareness and contacting their legislators.

    One example is in Springfield, Missouri, where the Springfield Board of Education recently passed a resolution urging the Missouri General Assembly to sustain the Governor’s veto of House Bill No. 253:

    “Today, Missouri’s GDP is up, unemployment is down and our perfect credit rating is intact. However, House Bill 253 puts all of this progress in jeopardy by funneling millions of dollars away from our public schools – and into the pockets of lawyers and lobbyists – each and every year. House Bill 253 is a reckless fiscal experiment cooked up by a few special interests that could knock Missouri permanently off course and send us heading in the wrong direction.”

    On September 11, the Missouri General Assembly will vote to sustain or override Governor Nixon’s veto of House Bill No. 253. 109 votes would be necessary for a House override, at which time the bill would move into the Missouri Senate. 23 senators would need to vote in favor of overriding the Governor’s veto.

    If Governor Nixon’s veto is overruled, Missouri’s schools will suffer. To find out how HB 253 would affect your local school district, click here.

    To stay up-to-date on this and other policies issues that could affect your child’s access to a free, quality public education, sign up today for MO Parent email updates.

  • Drive Safely This Fall to Protect Missouri’s Students: Part II

    Yesterday on the MOParent Blog, we offered tips on driving safely in and near Missouri’s schools. Today’s post continues on the theme of safe driving around school children, with an emphasis on driving safely near school buses and in rural areas.

    School Bus Passing
    Did you know that it’s illegal in Missouri to pass a school bus? Missouri’s school bus passing laws are serious business, and bus drivers will report you to police for passing.
    · Never pass a school bus whose lights are flashing or whose stop arm is extended,
    · Never pass a school bus on the right (where children load and unload).

    School bus passing laws are designed to keep children safe on their way to and from school, so no matter how frustrating it is to be stuck behind a school bus making frequent stops, resist the urge to pass.

    “When approaching a stopped school bus from either direction, the driver of the approaching vehicle is required to stop before reaching the bus if the school bus has indicated its intention to receive or discharge passengers by use of the signaling devices Drivers should also remember that school buses will activate their warning lights and come to a full stop before crossing railroad tracks. NEVER pass a parked school bus on the right, where children enter or exit.”
    -The Safe Motorist

    Bus Safety in Rural Areas

    According to the Missouri Rural Health Biennial Report 2010-2011, approximately 40% of Missouri’s population lives in rural areas.

    While students in more densely populated areas often have a large group to wait with at the bus stop, rural children often wait in smaller groups, with a sibling, or alone for their morning bus ride to school. With fewer kids at a single stop, it becomes even more important for drivers to pay extra attention to children standing near rural roads.

    Trash cans, trees, fog, and winter’s late-rising sun can all decrease visibility of students waiting for school buses. Avoid distracted driving, and be attentive on your morning commute to help protect Missouri’s school bus riders.

    MOParent is dedicated to safe, healthy public school experiences for Missouri’s families. For more helpful information from MOParent, sign up for MOParent’s email newsletters at the top of this page.

  • The Summer Food Service Program: Preventing Summertime Hunger

    School may now be in session for some in Missouri but for other students it is still out for summer. Students in more than 800 locations across Missouri are still served free and nutritious meals in their communities through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

    SFSP offers up to four meals per day; breakfast, lunch, supper, and a snack. The number of meals provided varies from one SFSP site to the next.

    Finding Free Summer Meals for Your Child
    Would your child benefit from a free meal or a few free meals each day through the summer months? You can find out where the closest SFSP sites are to your home by calling 1-866-3-HUNGER or 1-877-8-HAMBRE Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm CST; by visiting; by emailing (include your city, state and zip code); or by using the Missouri SFSP Mobile Map App.

    Spreading the Word About Summertime Meals
    There are a number of ways you can help spread the word about SFSP in your community:
    1) Contact your local radio station: The SFSP has free, downloadable Public Service Announcements (PSA) on its website that radio stations should run on the air at no charge. Download the PSA transcripts and learn more about how the PSA works here. The SFSP also makes recordings available of the PSAs in English and Spanish. You can find those under “Multimedia Products” on this page.
    2) Visit this site to download printable flyers, door hangers, brochures, and toolkits in English and Spanish to help families in your community learn about summer meals available to children.

    Become an SFSP Sponsor
    Schools, nonprofits, government agencies, summer camps, and national youth sports programs can all sponsor the SFSP program. If you’re interested in bringing nutritious summer meals to kids in your community, it may be possible to partner with one of these organizations in your area.

    To learn more about the resources available to Missouri’s public school students during the school year and in the summer months, subscribe to MOParent’s email updates.

  • Drive Safely This Fall to Protect Missouri’s Students: Part I

    This video is from WDTN in Ohio but the basic rules are applicable anywhere.

    August is Back to School Safety Month, and we’re here to help you send your child back to school with confidence. Today and tomorrow we’ll talk about driving safely in and around Missouri schools and school buses.

    Note: This post is written with you — the Missouri parent in mind, but if you have a teenager driver at home, we encourage you to share this information with him or her, too.

    School Zone Safety
    Let’s start with safety in and around your child’s school. Missouri’s school zones are marked with signs, flashing lights, on-road markers painted on the pavement, or some combination of these.

    Signs should indicate what time of day your local school zone is “active”, but you should also be aware that anytime a school zone’s flashing lights are on, school zone speed laws should be followed. If you have any questions about the school zone speed limits or signage in your community, we encourage you to contact your local police station.

    “Children are generally carefree and are often oblivious to their surroundings; that is why it’s important that drivers go the extra length to protect them. If you are entering a school zone or are traveling in a heavily populated area, be aware of the activity surrounding you. It only takes a moment for a child to run out in front of your vehicle and, if you are speeding, you may not have enough time to react.”
    -The Missouri Driving University

    Safety Isn’t Just About Speed

    It’s important to drive at safe speeds in school zones, but speed isn’t the only precaution you should take.

    Increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic around schools mean that you should remain very aware of what’s happening on the road, crosswalks and sidewalks around you. And the smaller the child, the greater the chance that they’ll be hidden by other kids, a vehicle, or even a trash can or other small structure.

    Use caution backing out of parking spaces, never use your cell phone in a school zone, and be sure that you have visibility on all sides of your vehicle.

    Come back tomorrow for tips on driving safely near school buses, and for a advice on driving safely on rural school bus routes.

    For more tips on back to school safety, subscribe to MOParent email updates. It’s easy to subscribe: just submit your email address in the form at the top of this page.

  • Back to School Safety: How Will Your Child Get to School This Year?

    As summer draws to a close, it’s time to plan for the new school year. Shopping for new school supplies and back to school clothes is exciting, but there’s another important decision you and your child will make together this fall; how he or she will get to and from school.

    August is Back to School Safety Month, and MOParent is here with practical safety tips for you and your family. In this three-part post we’ll talk about the safety pros and cons of the four most popular methods of school transportation; walking, bike riding, car transportation, and the school bus.

    The Bureau of Justice Statics has published rates of violent crimes among 12-19 year olds since 1973. From that time through 2003, the rate of violent crime against 12-19 year olds fell from 80 cases per 1,000 children to 50 cases per 1,000 children.
    –Source: The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

    Safety Statistics and School Commutes
    Many parents shy altogether away from walking and biking for fear of their child being approached by strangers, bullied, or injured at a traffic crossing. In fact, “fear of crime against children” ranks as one of the top reasons many parents won’t allow their children to walk or bike to school.

    Thankfully, kids might be safer walking to school than we think. Kidnappings are incredibly rare, and only a very small percentage of all of them happen within the vicinity of schools. Another piece of good news is that violence against teenagers has actually fallen since the 1970s:

    Only you and your family know what’s best for your child’s school commute, but we’ll share ideas, tools and advice over the next two days that may help you feel even more secure about your child’s school commute.

    Come back tomorrow for tips on walking or biking safely to school. In two days we’ll talk about transportation by bus and by car.

    Did you enjoy this post? A MOParent email subscription will keep updates related to your child’s education coming to your inbox. Sign up at the top of this page.

  • Missouri Public Schools: What to Expect During the Enrollment Process

    Today we’re wrapping up our five-part public school enrollment series by giving you a practical idea what to expect during the enrollment process.

    As always, please communicate directly with your child’s school when you have specific enrollment questions.

    5 Common School Enrollment Steps

    1) Contact Your Child’s School – Verify exactly what documentation you’ll need for enrollment and ask when the best time is to come to the school to begin enrollment. It’s never too early to begin learning more about your district’s specific policies and deadlines.

    If your enrollment will be in-person, be sure you know where to go! Some districts will ask you to enroll at your child’s school, while others may only provide enrollment services through an administrative office elsewhere in the district.

    2) Gather/Prepare Documentation & Paperwork – Gather and organize your child’s documents before enrolling. Arriving at the school organized and ready-to-go will make the process smoother for you, and it’ll also make a good impression on your child’s school.

    3) Enrollment –New student enrollment is still done largely in-person, while many Missouri students can re-enroll for subsequent school years online in many Missouri districts. Arrive on time and prepared with the right paperwork, and enrollment should go smoothly.

    4) Meetings with Teachers & Administrators – You may have the opportunity to meet your child’s teacher or principal. If you’re new to a school or district, this is a great way to begin building relationships with your child’s educators. And if your son or daughter has met his or her teacher in advance, his or her first day of school will be a little easier.

    5) Open Houses – Most schools offer an open house at the beginning of each school year. You should attend open house with younger children, while older kids may prefer to attend their open house independently or with friends. Open houses help you child get comfortable with his or her new school, teacher(s), and classroom(s).

    Enrollment in a new school should not be a scary experience for you and for your kids. We hope that this five-part feature has helped you know what to expect, and that you’ll continue to use the MOParent Blog as a resource about your child’s public school education.

  • Enrollment in Missouri Public Schools: Additional Documentation Parents May Need

    Today is part four in a five-part series on public school enrollment in Missouri. Yesterday  we outlined the basic expectations your child’s public school will have for academic and behavioral records.

    Today, we’ll talk about the “odds & ends” of public school enrollment; the paperwork and documentation that might vary from school to school, district to district, and grade level to grade level.

    Be sure to come back tomorrow as we wrap up our five-part series with our “What to Expect During the Enrollment Process” post.

    Other Paperwork
    Over the last three days, we’ve explained the general expectations your child’s Missouri public school has for documentation around your child’s identity , medical records, academics , and behavior . We also offered a few tips on identifying which public school your child should enroll in.

    Your school may also ask you to complete additional documentation including technology agreements (allowing your child to use school computers, Internet, etc.), language questionnaires (to learn more about your child’s proficiencies in languages other than English), and questions preschool questionnaires.

    These questionnaires aren’t a test; they’re another way for your child’s school to ensure that they’re providing your child with the best education they can.

    Tomorrow on the MOParent Blog: What to Expect During the Enrollment Process
    Come back tomorrow to learn more about the process of enrollment in Missouri public schools.

    If this post has been helpful, consider signing up for MOParent email updates at the top of this page.

  • Enrollment in Missouri Public Schools: Academic & Behavioral Records

    Over the last two days, we’ve begun to explore the Missouri public schools enrollment process. Two days ago, we discussed finding your child’s public school, and yesterday we talked about identity verification and medical records.

    Today we’ll outline the role of academic and behavioral records in school enrollment.

    Academic Records
    If your child has past academic records, his or her new school will ask you to sign a release form that allows them to request those records from your child’s previous school.

    If your child is entering kindergarten for the first time, this won’t apply. If your child is enrolling in public school after homeschooling, contact your local school district to find out what information they’ll need about your homeschooling curriculum as part of your child’s enrollment.

    If this series of posts has been helpful for you, consider signing up for MOParent email updates at the top of this page!

    Behavioral Records
    Missouri’s public schools will also request information about your child’s behavior history.

    If your child is transferring from another school, it’s important to realize that your child’s behavior records will travel with him or her to the new school. There’s no “out-running” disciplinary records, so if your child has any documented behavioral issues, you should be prepared to talk through those with administrators at your new school.

    If your child is entering school for the first time, this is also when your child’s school will work with you to ensure that any known special needs are being addressed.

    If your child has any special behavioral needs, the school will likely develop an individualized educational plan (IEP) for your son or daughter. Don’t be intimidated — this is just one more way Missouri public schools work to ensure that your child receives a quality education.

  • Enrollment in Missouri Public Schools: Documentation

    Yesterday on the MOParent Blog, we talked about finding your child’s Missouri public school. Today we’ll talk about documentation and other paperwork you might need to fill out or provide to complete as part of the public school enrollment process.

    Missouri public schools will require a few pieces of important paperwork from you. This paperwork will fall into a few categories, including identity, medical, academic, and behavioral records.

    To enroll your child in Missouri public schools, you’ll need to verify your child’s age and identity, as well as your residence inside the district. Examples of documentation you might need for this process include your child’s birth certificate or passport, a utility bill in your name that shows your current address inside the school district, or a notarized letter from the owner of the residence with whom your family is living inside the school district.

    Each district may have slight variations on acceptable documentation, so be sure to contact your child’s school to confirm exactly what they’ll need from you.

    Medical Records
    Public schools will require a health summary of some sort, including your child’s immunization records

    Some schools will require basic eyesight and hearing tests to be performed. Your child’s school will also want to be able to provide the best possible learning environment for your child, so any relevant medical or developmental disabilities should be shared during enrollment.

    Come Back Tomorrow For…
    Tomorrow on the MOParent Blog, we’ll explain the academic and behavioral records your child’s school will need to enroll in school.

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  • Enrollment in Missouri Public Schools: Finding Your Child’s School

    If you’re new to Missouri public schools, or if you’re enrolling your child here for the first time, this series of blog posts is for you. MOParent will help you understand what the enrollment process is like for your child, and we’ll point you in the right direction for additional resources.

    Finding Your Child’s School
    If you live in a smaller Missouri community, you probably already know which school your child will. But if you live in a larger Missouri city you might need help finding your child’s school.

    The Missouri School Directory Online allows you to search for Missouri schools by district, county, or legislative district. For example, if you live in Springfield, Missouri, you can see a list of all Springfield R-XII schools and their contact information, as well as the contact information for the district.

    Many school districts also publish maps showing geographic boundaries for each of its schools. This example from the Columbia Public School District shows the locations of all 36 schools in the district, and helps families understand which schools are closest to their homes.

    If you’re unsure which school your child should be enrolled in, MOParent encourages you to contact your local school district for more information. Missouri public schools are here to ensure that your child receives access to a free public school education, and the first step is making sure that you know which school your child will attend.

    Once You’ve Identified Your Child’s School
    Come back tomorrow to learn more about the enrollment process, including what paperwork you’ll need to gather before enrollment.

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  • Common Core Standards: Not a Federal Initiative

    If your child is a student in school in Missouri, then you’ve probably heard about Common Core Standards. What many parents don’t know is that Common Core isn’t a federal reform initiative.

    The Federal Government’s Role in Common Core
    The federal government didn’t develop Common Core Standards, and it doesn’t require states to adopt them. The U.S. Government doesn’t sponsor Common Core Standards, and it doesn’t administer them, either.

    The History of Common Core
    No Child Left Behind was approved broadly and on both sides of party lines. And while its intentions may have been good, No Child Left Behind inadvertently triggered a lowering of school standards in schools.

    Under No Child Left Behind, the federal government set certain “proficiency” standards that states needed to meet, but it left the evaluation of those “proficiencies” up to the states. States could either keep high standards (but fail No Child Left Behind standards if not all students could reach them), or they could lower their standards to a level that all students could meet.

    Educational quality didn’t change — testing standards did.

    Who Is Responsible for Common Core
    Common Core was created by an independent, bipartisan group of governors, nonprofit organizations, and the Council of Chief State School Officers who wanted schools to have a set of well-researched and peer-reviewed standards that showed what students across the nation should learn in each grade level. Common Core Standards are not part of No Child Left Behind.

    Educational experts were consulted, extensive research was cited, and all standards were thoroughly reviewed by teachers and other educational professionals before being published.

    The Common Core Standards are not a curriculum — they’re a tool that schools and teachers can use to make sure that kids are learning what they need to learn in order to be competitive in college and career.

    The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers sponsor the Common Core Standards, and each state decides independently whether to use them. According to the Common Core State Standards website, 45 of 50 U.S. States, four territories, and the District of Columbia have adopted Common Core Standards.

    The Future of Common Core
    Most states that currently participate in Common Core don’t have plans to change their participation in the new school year, and there’s no reason to believe that Common Core will be “owned” by the federal government any time soon.

    For more on the future of Common Core Standards, and how Common Core is good for Missouri, keep coming back to MOParent.

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  • Free and Reduced School Lunches in Missouri

    Free and reduced lunches may not have the negative stigma they once did. In a recovering economy, more and more families are turning to Missouri public schools for nutritious, inexpensive meals for their children.

    The National School Lunch Program
    This federally assisted program was established in 1946 by President Truman. The NSLP operates in over 100,000 public schools, nonprofit private schools, and in residential child care centers, providing “nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.” More than 31 million students benefited from the program in 2011.

    Not Just Lunch
    The NSLP was expanded in 1998 to include “reimbursement for snacks served to children in afterschool educational and enrichment programs to include children through 18 years of age.” Many schools also offer free and reduced breakfasts.

    Who Qualifies for Free & Reduced Lunches?
    The formula for free, reduced, or full-price lunches is straightforward:

    · If your family earns 130 percent or less of poverty level, your child is eligible for free meals.
    · If your family earns 130 to 185 percent of the poverty level, your child is eligible for reduced-price meals. (Students will be charged no more than 40 cents.)
    · If your family income is more than 185 percent of poverty, your child will pay full price for his or her school meals.

    It’s important to note that even “full priced” school lunches are partially subsidized. Each local school district determines its own prices for meals, but schools are required to operate meal programs on a strictly not-for-profit basis; your child’s school is not allowed to profit from school meal fees.

    If your child is involved in afterschool programs where snacks are made available, eligibility for free or reduced snacks is the same as for free and reduced lunches. The only exception is that in schools where the student population is at least 50 percent eligible for free or reduced meals, all snacks can be served to children free.

    How to Apply for Free or Reduced Meals
    The USDA explains the process for enrollment in the NLSP program, including current income eligibility requirements, program application forms, and information on how application for unemployment may qualify your child for the NLSP program.

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  • Things Parents Should Know About In-State School Transfers in Missouri

    Transferring your child to a new school mid-year can be stressful for you and your son or daughter. Thankfully, Missouri has a streamlined transfer process that will make things a little bit easier for you and your child.

    Request Your Child’s Records

    A student may be denied enrollment if the student’s discipline record indicates that he/she is currently suspended or expelled from another school, including a private, parochial, charter or out-of-state school, and the enrolling school would have suspended or expelled the student for the same offense.
    –Safe Schools Act

    Your child’s current school is required by the state to forward his records on to his new school within five working days of your request.

    In addition to academic records, special needs, and disciplinary records will also move with your child to his new school. If your child has been expelled in his old school, his expulsion will likely apply at his new school as well.


    Before you begin the transfer process, you should be sure that his vaccinations are up to date. If your child’s vaccinations are not current, he may not be allowed to enroll in his new school.

    If you’re concerned about the cost of immunizations, your child may qualify for the Missouri Vaccines for Children Program.

    A student may be denied enrollment if the student has not met the state’s immunization requirements for entering school.
    –Safe Schools Act

    Your child will need to have proof of identification in order to enroll in his new school. A birth certificate or social security card may be enough, but it’s a good idea to call the new school before you begin the official transfer process to be sure you have the right documentation.

    Activities & Athletics
    The Missouri State High School Activities Association offers strict guidelines around student activity eligibility. If your child is involved in school teams or organizations, you should closely review the MSHSAA eligibility standards before you transfer schools. It’s also a good idea to meet with the athletic director at your child’s current school and at the school your child will transfer to so that you can ask questions and familiarize yourself with the nuances of MSHSAA’s transfer policies.

    Special Needs
    Parents of children with special needs should become familiar with the same general transfer steps above. In addition, your child’s current school will need to send your child’s IEP on to his new school, and your child’s new school may conduct interviews with you, your child, and your child’s current school staff to better support your child’s unique needs in the new learning environment. For details on in-state transfers for your child, MOParent recommends that you speak directly with your child’s old and new school.

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  • What is the Missouri School Improvement Program?

    The Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) is the state’s school accountability system for reviewing and accrediting public school districts in Missouri. 

    MSIP began in 1990, and has completed four cycles. MSIP entered its 5th cycle (MSIP5) this year. 

    MSIP Cycles
    Cycle 1: 1990-1996
    cycle 2: 1996-2001
    Cycle 3: 2001-2006
    Cycle 4: 2006-2012
    Cycle 5: 2012-Present

    4 Policy Goals of the MSIP

    The Missouri School Improvement Program has four policy goals, including articulating expectations for student achievement, distinguishing school and district performance, empowering stakeholders, and promoting continued improvement. Specifically, the goals of the MSIP are to: 

    1) Articulate the state’s expectations for student achievement with the ultimate goal of all students graduating ready for success in college and careers; 

    2) Distinguish performance of schools and districts in valid, accurate and meaningful ways so that districts in need of improvement can receive appropriate support and interventions, and high-performing districts can be recognized as models of excellence; 

    3) Empower all stakeholders through regular communication and transparent reporting of results; and 

    4) Promote continuous improvement and innovation within each district. 

    MSIP Resource, Process, and Performance Standards

    MSIP standards are used to review and accredit public school districts in Missouri. These standards are organized into three categories: Resource Standards, Process Standards, and Performance Standards. 

    Annual Performance Reports (APRs)

    Annual Performance Reports (APRs) are generated for every public school, district and charter local education agency each year. APRs are established based on each school’s Performance Standards, and they are used to determine appropriate supports and interventions needed at the school and district level. 

    Four Levels of Accreditation

    MSIP 5 articulates four levels of Missouri school accreditation. Those levels are:
    Accredited With Distinction – Equal to or greater than 90% of the points possible on the APR and meets other criteria yet to be determined by the State Board of Education.

    Accredited – Equal to or greater than 70% of the points possible on the APR.

    Provisional – Equal to or greater than 50% to 69.9% of the points possible on the APR.

    Unaccredited –Less than 50% of the points possible on the APR. 

    Are you curious to know what your school district’s accreditation level is? This PDF from the Missouri State Board of Education includes a comprehensive list of 2012 Accredited, Provisionally Accredited, and Unaccredited schools. 

    Would you like to learn about MSIP5 and how it affects your child and your local schools? Sign up for email alerts from MOParent today.

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