Seated left to right: Secretary Gary Bonacker, Treasurer Retta "Susan" Tuggle, President Sherri K. Talbott, and Vice President Nancy Bergfeld. Standing left to right: Superintendent Dr. Paul T. Ziegler, Member Chris Shelton, Member Victoria James, and Member Nelson O. Weber
I've been involved in the Northwest school district for nearly forty years, and during that time a great many changes have occurred in public education. Beginning in the 1980's, a great deal of school reform began, most initiated from outside of our District. In an effort to insure that kids everywhere in the state were getting a quality education, "suggested" curriculums were developed and tests were created and required, to determine if kids across Missouri were learning what the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) thought they should know. Before long the federal government started jumping in with additional requirements and expectations and began making comparisons of test results between the various states.
Northwest has done pretty well over the years on most of the tests which we have had to administer. Over the last 10 years, the District has been particularly focused on preparing our students to be ready for the MAP test, but more importantly, I think, we have begun focusing more and more on getting kids college and career ready. We have attained "Distinction In Performance" status for nine consecutive years and while the program has been discontinued from DESE, we will receive recognition from another state-wide organization based on our strong scores again this year.
Historically, about every ten years or so there has been a fairly substantial change in what we are supposed to be teaching our students. We are preparing now for just such a change. The new "stuff", called the Common Core Standards, while still in the development stages, appears to be big shift in what we think kids should know. It appears to require kids to not just know facts and content, but to be able to gather information from lots of sources and use that information to solve complex problems. It appears to expect students to dig much deeper into required content than previously. It will require our kids to be more tech savvy, to be more analytical, deeper thinkers, to be much more creative and adept problem solvers.
These changes will not, however, just be occurring here in Missouri. The Common Core Standards are being developed nationally and 46 states, three US territories and the District of Columbia have voluntarily agreed to adopt this new program, including administering the same set of tests to kids in all of these places. That, in itself, will certainly be an improvement over the current situation, where Missouri's student test scores are compared to another state's test scores, say Arkansas, but the comparison is invalid since kids in Arkansas and Missouri are not taking the same test. (In fact, Missouri's MAP test is one of the toughest in the US.)
Right now, we are still preparing our kids for the MAP and End of Course tests. We still expect our staff to stay focused on helping our students succeed on that measurement, even as we begin "regearing” for the Common Core Standards. We, the Board, Administration and Staff, are fully committed to providing a top quality education to the children in our schools, to preparing them for college and careers. I believe that the new Common Core Standards have the potential to help us do just that. I suspect that only time, and hard work, will tell if this so.