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Jackson R-2 will pay for juniors to take the ACT

The Jackson R-2 School Board approved a proposal to provide the ACT assessment for free to all juniors at Jackson High School during its September meeting.

For the past three years, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education paid for all 11th grade students statewide to take the ACT assessment. In July, DESE announced it would no longer be able to fund the test due to a reduction of $4 million in the state assessment budget.

Dr. Matt Lacy, associate superintendent of personnel and instruction, said the assessment was “one of the most valuable because it has a direct impact on their future.”

Lacy continued by saying the benefits for the District would be to provide equity for all students, allow students to take the test at their own school during a school day, and to provide new opportunities for students.

Several teachers spoke to Lacy before the meeting, telling him that they have seen improvement in students that would not have taken the test on their own.

“Last year they had a student who wasn’t college-bound,” Lacy said. “They got a 25 on their ACT and their whole attitude towards school changed. They started showing up more, they completed more assignments. They were engaged because they never [before] considered themselves a college-bound student.”

The Board unanimously voted to provide the ACT on Feb. 27, 2018, for an estimated $18,000. This total will be able to come out of the District’s budget without altering it. There are currently 383 juniors in the district and the test costs $46 per student.

In other action:
• The Board awarded the first four bids for the freshman center at JHS. More bids for the project will be opened later this week.

Associated Sheet Metal was awarded a bid of $1,099,455 for HVAC mechanical work. Cottner Electric was awarded an electrical bid of $1,091,109. Foeste Masonry received a masonry bid of $926,566, and Raider Mechanical received a plumbing bid of $490,000.

Brockmiller Construction approved of all four of these companies, having worked with them before or gotten references from others who had worked with them in the past.

The mechanical, electric and plumbing companies have all started working on the project. The masonry work by Foeste is scheduled to be completed in seven weeks.

“The plumbing came in a little higher than we had estimated originally; the masonry came in quite a bit lower,” said Bleau Deckerd, associate superintendent of personnel and instruction.

Overall the project is trending about $400,000 under budget, due to saving money on the steel package with Brockmiller and awarding bids before competing projects this fall.

• The statewide End of Course Exams, or EOCs, for Algebra I and English Language Arts II will not be released by the state, due to them not being comparable to previous years.

“It’s my 16th year in education, my 10th year in administration,” Lacy said. “I’ve never seen them not use test scores for accountability purposes. This is very unique and very rare.”

DESE told the District that the score, which currently is worth 10 percent of student’s grades in those classes, is still useable at the individual level even though they are not for the District or the state as a whole. These tests are also used for A+ scholarships to two-year colleges.

Lacy said he does not know how this will affect the Districts’ annual performance review, as they have historically done better at the EOCs than the MAP testing for younger students.

Superintendent John Link commended Lacy for immediately updating the District’s teachers and administrators about what was going on and avoiding confusion that other districts had when the information became available for the general public.

Lacy hopes this incident will put standardized test scores in their proper light and state scores will become one of many measuring factors for determining if the District is effective.

Due to this information, Lacy will meet with teachers and administrators to decide whether they should continue to have the test scores affect grades at the state-recommended 10 percent, lower the percentage or delete the practice completely.

He said they want to be as fair to students as possible but is concerned that if students wouldn’t give maximum effort if it wasn’t tied to their grades.

• The Board approved the Special Education Compliance Plan, which Dr. Beth Emmendorfer, assistant superintendent of administrative and student services said was the District’s guiding principle when implementing special education.

Emmendorfer said there were small changes from last year’s plan, as recommended by the state. Over 25 percent of the new students in the District have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to help children reach educational goals while having a disability.

“Our special needs department continues to grow,” Link said. “To me that’s a compliment because we serve all children at Jackson R-2 schools.”

• The Board recognized members of the JHS club J-Click, who went to a conference to learn how to promote traffic safety at their school. The members created an action plan, and will focus on making sure students in the district wear seatbelts and know the dangers of reckless driving. While only some of the students went to the conference, the club is the largest it has ever been with 80 members.

Link personally thanked the students, saying what they are doing makes a difference. Both of his children were in car accidents when they were in high school, and would not be alive today if they did not wear their seatbelts.

•  The Jackson R-2 Board of Education meets regularly for open session at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at 614 E. Adams, Jackson. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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