Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Standards-based grading coming to Joplin High School, entire district

(From Oct. 20, 2013) Parents hate it, teachers hate it, heck, even the Joplin R-8 Board of Education members have talked about it in negative terms and they are the ones who are supposed to be running the school district.

So naturally, there can'be any possibility that standards-based grading will ever take hold in the Joplin R-8 School District.

The board reluctantly allowed pilot programs of standards-based grading to be used at East Middle School and two elementary schools. While I cannot say for certain that all of the teachers at the elementary schools are doing it, I know the order was given at East Middle School- all teachers are to use standards-based grading.

Parents have complained about it, teachers haven't as far as I know (they like being employed), but most of the ones I have talked to about it have complained bitterly because they do not think it is the best thing for students.

If so many people are against it and the board has expressed dislike, then why is it being done.

And why did East Middle School Assistant Principal Jason Weaver tell East teachers at a meeting earlier this year that standards-based grading would be implemented at all R-8 schools next year, including Joplin High School?

One reason and one reason alone, Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer wants it that way, so that is the way it is going to be- school board be darned.

The revelation about standards-based grading was made Saturday night at the informational meeting on Common Core Standards held at the Mills Anderson Justice Center on the Missouri Southern State University campus.

"I was told this would not happen without a board vote," Missy Braun, the mother of two R-8 students said. Apparently, at some juncture R-8 Board of Education members came up with the silly notion that they were in charge of educational policy in the school district just because the people elected them to be in charge of educational policy.

"The East teachers were told that standards-based grading will be brought to the entire district next year, including the high school."

Under standards-based grading, traditional letter grades for a subject like communication arts (English) are replaced by a notation that a student has met a certain standard like, for instance, he has mastered proper citation of sources in a research paper. As Ms. Braun noted, a student can fail to do that five times, get it right on the sixth, and be considered to have mastery.

Deadlines are also problematic under standards-based grading. If a teacher assigns a paper for Wednesday, since the student already knows that he does not have to turn it on Wednesday to get the grade, it might be several weeks before a teacher will receive an assignment. Meeting the deadline can be included in a separate category, but it is not the one that parents will seek out.

Students no longer will receive zeroes for not completing assignments. If they do not turn in anything, they will receive a "no evidence" notation, but otherwise they can turn in things whenever they want and they will be still be accepted at full credit.

There has also been concern expressed about using the grades at the high school level, where they would replace grade point average.

Proponents of standards-based grading say it gives a truer reflection of what a student actually knows rather than just giving a B for history for instance and not knowing what specific skills the student has mastered.

This is the first public meeting where the information on the expansion of standards-based grading has been mentioned, but it was first revealed in an August 17 article on the Inside Joplin website, in which I wrote the following:

The parents who protested the use of standards-based grading at East Middle School last year knew it was coming.
So did the teachers, who were told, “Oh, we’re not going to force anyone to use it.”
Reportedly, Assistant Principal Jason Weaver told EMS teachers this week they would all be using standards-based grading as East Middle School, isolated and alone in an industrial park by a dog food factory, continues to be a laboratory for Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer’s concept of 21st Century Learning.
Whether it works or not (all experiments seem to continue in the Joplin R-8 School District), it will be coming to the other middle schools and Joplin High School during the 2014-2015 school year.
Teachers from the other middle schools are already expecting it. During a professional development day last year, I attended a session on standards-based grading given by Weaver and Principal Bud Sexson. The teachers from North and South Middle School were there because they understood that it was coming, whether they wanted it to or not.
The basic concept behind standards-based grading is that the grades show if students have mastered the standards, such as the Common Core Standards that are headed our way. Instead of an A or B (or an F) that mean nothing, according to the backers of the new grading system, you know exactly what concepts your child has mastered. Instead of A, B, C, D, or F, under the East system that was in use when I was there last year, students made Exceeded, Met, Emerging (don’t you just love it) not met, and no evidence, which is reserved for those who did not bother to do their papers.
One of the ideas is to get away from having students receive zeros. Instead of having to turn in every assignment, all the student has to do is provide evidence that he or she has mastered the concept.
As a writing teacher, this bothered me. Writing is a process that builds as you go along. A student might be able to successfully write an engaging opening to a paper three or four times at the beginning of the year, but then lose track of the concept as the year progresses. I was told of course, that I could simply set the standards higher as I went along if I went to standards-based grading. I suppose I could have
But the idea that R-8 administrators seem to be ignoring is the importance of the work ethic. At East, all students had seventh grade teachers who were using standards-based grading. When the students came into my classroom at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, the ones who had been taught solid work ethics at home had no problem, but some others were simply not turning in papers. When I asked the students about it, invariably their response was they had not had to turn in every paper the year before; they only had to turn in enough evidence to get the grade. It took me nearly a quarter before they realized that things were different and they were expected to do the work. (And this is not a knock at the teachers who were using standards-based grading.)
In a school district where the administrators are saying over and over how their goal is to make students college and workforce ready, how can that happen when they are clearly given the idea that you don’t have to do all of the work, just the minimum you need to get by?
I was told that throwing in concepts like whether students are working in class or contributing to the class simply made the grade card more confusing and parents did not know what their child had really learned.
I was told there could be a separate group of grades that would include work habits and other such things, similar to what is done in elementary schools.
Who would look? After you got past the mets and emergings, you have had enough of that grade card.
I am not totally against the concept of standards-based grading, if there was an enforcement aspect in which administrators would crack the whip and get most of the kids to turn in their work, standards-based grading would be workable.
That, however, would take a strong discipline concept, one that will not be there as East Middle School’s teachers and students continue to play the role of guinea pigs.

Is this how Joplin R-8 employee took pornographic photos of students?

(From Oct. 16, 2013) The issue has still not been addressed by Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff, though court documents indicate he has been aware of since February, but how did former Joplin R-8 technology department employee Ronny Justin Myers end up with pornographic photos of 10 Joplin students on his laptop.

Myers admitted to authorities that he had the photos on February 15. Four of the students were subsequently identified, according to a sentencing memorandum, which indicates the police were working with R-8 officials.

One of Myers' responsibilities was monitoring the laptops that are given to all Joplin High School students, Though no specifics were mentioned in the sentencing memorandum on how Myers obtained the pornographic photos, this video from today's Katie Couric show reveals how easy it is for someone who knows technology (and Myers was receiving $67,000 a year from taxpayers for that knowledge) to take control of the webcam on a computer.

Sentencing memo: Joplin R-8 tech employee should not receive 25 years

(From Oct. 16, 2013)
In a sentencing memorandum filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, federal public defnder Ian Lewis said former Joplin R-8 technology employee Ronny Justin Myers should not receive a longer sentence just because he had pornographic pictures of Joplin students on his laptop.

Myers sentencing has been scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Thursday, October 24, in Springfield.

The memorandum was a response to one filed Sept. 11 in which the U. S. Attorney asked that Myers be sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexual exploitation of a child.

That memorandum was noted in the Sept. 11 Turner Report:

Assistant U. S. Attorney Abram McGull says that during a three-hour interview "defendant admitted that he has secretly stored child pornography on his computer. He stated he had approximately 10 child pornography images of Joplin School District co-eds on his laptop. Four of the girl have been positively identified as D. F. (age 15), LS (age 16), GS (age 16) and NC (age 15)."

The sentencing memorandum later says, "The defendant admitted he secretly recorded a 17-year-old engaging in sexual activity and covertly retained child pornography of Joplin School District co-eds who ranged in age from 15 to 16 years old."

The document does not indicate whether the laptop belonged to Myers or to the school district.

The sentencing memorandum includes a long list of transgressions by Myers and a request that the judge sentence him to 25 years in prison.

During the three-hour interview, Myers admitted to having sex with the nine-year-old daughter of his girlfriend five years ago and to setting up a meeting at Northpark Mall with the girl February 15 during his lunch break. However, it was not the girl, but a member of the Cyber Crimes Task Force posing as her who had set up the meeting.

Realizing that he was about to be arrested, Myers took off and was involved in a high-speed chase before being captured.

Myers also admitted that he had sex with his new wife's three underaged daughters.

"The defendant was very candid and forthcoming about his sexual attraction to little girls less than 12 years of age."


The fact that he would admit to having pornographic pictures of Joplin students, having sex with his stepdaughters, and being attracted to underage girls should not be held against him, Lewis said.


Defendant asserts that punishing a defendant for being open with police officers runs counter to our goals. Society wants confessions; confessions lead to undiscovered crimes, and ultimately closure for victims. 

To punish those for merely speaking freely to the police runs counter to this goal. Why punish defendants for speaking, and then not punish those who have committed additional crimes, but have hindered law enforcement? Let us be clear, Defendant is not saying punish those who remain silent, rather the Court should take into consideration the lengths of acceptance of responsibility the Defendant has undergone in the case, and give him credit towards his sentence for such atonement. 

Lewis also argues that Myers should not be sentenced to extra time for crimes for which he may still be charged.

In the government’s motion, there is a focus on alleged, uncharged conduct. However, to punish Defendant for this uncharged conduct invades the purview of the State of Missouri and the State of Kansas. These states are not out of time to charge the alleged conduct. According to the PSIR, there is a pending warrant out of the State of Kansas for Aggravated Criminal Sodomy, with the date of arrest being May 14, 2013. If Defendant has committed additional criminal acts as described in the government’s motion, it is well within the jurisdiction of the various states to bring an action against him in their criminal courts.
 
If this Court uses this uncharged conduct as a basis for an upward variance it certainly would cause a double punishment scenario (especially in the already filed Kansas case), that may hinder the state courts’ ability to render a sentence. Defendant would ask that this Court allow the state courts full discretion in sentencing their cases, without the specter of possible double punishment. The state criminal justice systems can justly 
punish Defendant for any wrongs he may have committed within that state. 

Lewis also argues that Myers should be given credit for admitting what he has done.

As a policy, society wants defendants to accept responsibility; by doing so, defendants save the Court and the government a vast amount of time and resources. Furthermore, especially in cases that involve minor children, by entering into a plea of guilty, the government is not forced to put minor children on the stand, nor are these minor children subject to cross-examination in front of a jury. 



What the Joplin R-8 Administration is not telling you- part three

(From Oct. 15, 2013) Thirty-four people working in the central administration office pulled down more than $50,000 during the 2012-2013, as noted in a Turner Report post earlier today.

That amount does not even include the teaching/learning or 21st Century learning coaches, who as I have noted in past reports, spend more time attending meetings or serving as the "eyes and ears" of administration in the buildings than they do coaching struggling teachers.

The positions were added several years ago under a grant, but as so often happens during the Huff-Besendorfer reign, once the grant ended, somehow money was found to continue the positions- even at the expense of personnel who were actually in the classroom, making a different in the children's lives.

Millions have been spent on administration, technology and non-classroom expenditures during C. J. Huff's six years at the helm and judging from the district's 2012 Race to the Top application filed with the U. S. Department of Education, that is still the way the district leadership is thinking.

District officials asked for nearly $10 million for technology, more 21st Century Learning coaches, software, hardware, and another few million for items that would bolster Huff's Bright Futures initiative.

One item was included in the application that would have brought money into the pockets of some of the teachers, 200 of them, who would have added a couple of hours of time to their day for mentoring.

In the application, district officials said they would find money in the budget to continue everything they were asking for...except for the money for the mentoring. Less than six months after district patrons passed a $62 million bond issue, the largest in the district's history, C. J. Huff and Angie Besendorfer were already ready to go back to the taxpayers for a levy increase to pay for the mentoring program.

Room would be found in the district's already tight budget to pay for seven more 21st Century learning coaches and all of the other items on the administration wish list.

The district requests $9,998,737. The major cost items in the budget are:
Project manager – $313,000
7 21st Century Coaches - $2.2 mil
5 Career Pathways Coordinators to manage development and implementation of new pathways - $1.6 mil
Stipends for Academic Advisors - $3.5 mil (1 hour a day for 170 days for 200 teachers x 4 years)
Data manager to oversee development of new system - $312,000
Data management system - $425,000
1:1 iPads for middle school - $1 mil
3 Additional tech support personnel - $414,000

The items listed above were in the regular part of the application and included money to hire 17 people, none of whom would be in the classroom and would include at least 14 people who would add to the already bloated Joplin R-8 Administration. (Of course, if you remember, in her e-mail to the teaching/learning coaches after the Turner Report revealed a state investigation of the Joplin R-8 School District and noted that state officials had been provided documents that indicated some of the coaches may have been paid illegally out of  TItle I and IDEA funds, Besendorfer told the coaches they were not spies and they were not administration...just in case anyone asked them, like say, an investigator.)

The application was rejected, but the learning coaches and pathway coordinators have been added, at a time when the district's funds are at a dangerously low level and no one has yet explained how it could be afforded.

In the district's bid for supplemental funding, the reviewers were unkind to two Bright Futures projects, Operation College Bound and the Reading Initiative, saying they were not innovative.

Joplin seeks $1,892,643 to expand and implement Operation College Bound and to implement a Reading Initiative, both in partnership with Bright Futures Joplin.

Operation College Bound is designed to support a college going culture starting in elementary school. Joplin and Bright Futures have launched in one elementary school an effort that includes annual college visits, research on college and career opportunities, and information on the college application process. The grant would fund expansion of the program to other elementary schools and ultimately to middle and high school.

The budget would fund curriculum development, support for school implementation, and a transition coordinator who works with counselors and post-secondary institutions, among other costs.
The Reading Initiative, scheduled to launch in 2013, will strengthen elementary reading through parent engagement, improved assessment, new instructional models, digital learning tools, and volunteer tutors for struggling readers. The grant would fund 5 staff to carry out assessment, engage the community, and recruit and support tutors, and purchase 2,581 e-readers and digital content.

The proposal does provide a basic rationale for focusing on early reading and on college awareness starting in elementary school. However, the proposal is not highly rated for the following reasons:

Based on the limited description of the project that the district provides, it does not appear to be an innovative solution; There is no evidence that the proposed solutions are being designed with replication in mind or would produce tools, documentation, software, curriculum that would support replication;
There is no plan, or even reference to, how this would be co-developed and implemented across two or more LEAs. The budgets, while reasonable for what the district is proposing,do not support the over-arching goal of the budget supplement to create innovative solutions that can be replicated.

That proposal received just one of a possible 15 points.

The reviewers did not think much more of Huff's signature achievement, the Bright Futures program:

In 2010, Joplin partnered with the community to create Bright Futures to connect community resources with students and families in need. In 2011 a non-profit was established to work with Joplin and 5 affiliate communities that were using the framework first developed in Joplin. Details of the framework are not provided in the proposal.

Joplin seeks $454,972 to complete development and implementation of an on-line software that catalogs local community resources, allows listings to be regularly updated by community providers, and allows staff to connect student needs to readily available resources. The application includes a detailed budget which appears reasonable and sufficient.

While it is likely that an easily accessible compendium of community resources would be useful, the proposal is not highly rated for the following reasons:

Based on the limited description of the project that the district provides, it does not appear to be an innovative solution but rather merely placing a typical catalog of resources on line and allowing providers to update. The district does not explain how the solution is linked to the academic outcomes outlined in the Absolute Priority, and on its face there is not a tight connection.


The 2012 Race to the Top application was soundly rejected, but most of the things on the approximately $12 million wish list are now firmly in place.

The eighth graders have IPads, the 21st Century learning coaches have been added, the pathways coordinators are in place. Operation College Bound and the Reading Initiative are going full force.

It's just money, after all, and it is not C. J. Huff's money and it is not Angie Besendorfer's money.

It is our money, millions of it, being used in what looks, to all intents and purposes, like an educational pyramid scheme.

Video: C. J. Huff: What a conservative has in his closet

(From Oct. 15, 2013)

C. J. Huff gets $175,000 a year, child sex criminal $67,000

(From Oct. 16, 2013)
The salaries for Joplin R-8 Central Administration shows 34 people who made $50,000 or more during the 2012-2013 school year led by Superintendent C. J. Huff’s $175,000. The 10th highest salary at 32nd and Duquesne belonged to technology employee Ronny Justin Myers who was paid $67,069 for duties that included monitoring high school students’ laptops and resulted in pornographic photos of 10 Joplin students winding up on his laptop.
Myers pleaded guilty earlier this year to child pornography charges and is awaiting sentencing.
Joplin R-8 Central Administration Salaries for 2012-2013
(taken from the central database set up by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
HUFF, CHARLES Central Office Administration JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $175,000
BESENDORFER, ANGELA Central Office Administration JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $132,743
BARLASS, MARK Central Office Administration JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $99,981
CRAVENS, JASON Central Office Administration JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $99,603
OREM, LISA Central Office Administration JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $99,360 
HOUSE, TRACI Media Personnel JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $88,251
BOYER, AMANDA Central Office Administration JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 0.5 $75,566
BOYER, AMANDA Supervisor JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 0.5 $75,566
ALEXANDER, MARY Central Office Administration JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $72,068
DAVIS, SABRINA Ancillary Personnel JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $69,026
SHALLENBURGER, LISA Ancillary Personnel JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $69,026
SOAT, SUSAN Ancillary Personnel JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $69,026
YUST-ANDERSON, CHARLENE Ancillary Personnel JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 0.2 $69,019
JAMES, SUSAN Supervisor JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $67,616 
MYERS, RONNY Aide/Paraprofessional JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $67,069 
MILLS, JUDITH Other Pupil Services JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $66,041
HART, TERRI Central Office Administration JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $65,287 
DUKE, ROBIN Supervisor JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $59,369
ST CLAIR, MELINDA Supervisor JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $58,898
RADER, KLISTA Media Personnel JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $58,315
JARRETT, JANIE Central Office Administration JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $56,457
SHANNON, JENNIFER Ancillary Personnel JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $56,450 
ALFORD, KIMBERLY Supervisor JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $54,688
BUNTIN, ANDREA Supervisor JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $54,688
CAMPBELL, CYNTHIA Other Pupil Services JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $54,688

HEILBRUN, MELISSA Guidance Personnel/Placement Specialist JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $54,688
PARKS, CHRIS Guidance Personnel/Placement Specialist JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $54,688
WEEKS, CANDICE Guidance Personnel/Placement Specialist JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $54,688
WILSON, LORI Other Pupil Services JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $54,688
TAYLOR, RAYMA Central Office Administration JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $54,479
SINCLAIR, JULIE Other Pupil Services JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $52,987
MICKEY, KRISTI Other Pupil Services JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $50,659
BELL, ADAM Aide/Paraprofessional JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $50,616
FREEBORN, RICHARD Aide/Paraprofessional JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $50,616
PITCHER, ERIC Aide/Paraprofessional JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $50,616 
SAPP, MICHAEL Aide/Paraprofessional JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $50,616 
VANGILDER, DUSTIN Aide/Paraprofessional JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $50,616 
WILLIAMS, RICK Aide/Paraprofessional JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $50,616 
THOMASSON, SARA Other Pupil Services JOPLIN SCHOOLS CENTRAL OFFICE 1 $50,116

Fun fact: Springfield superintendent with more experience than C. J. Huff makes less

(From Oct. 15, 2013) The search begins today for a superintendent for the Springfield school system, one of the largest in the state.

Norm Ridder, who has been superintendent for the past nine years, announced recently that this would be his last year.

Ridder's salary after nine years was $159,333 per year, according to DESE. C. J. Huff, after his first five years in Joplin, made $175,000 annually.