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Jackson R-2 School Board approves elementary curriculum

Secretary Bonnie Stahlman (right) was recognized for her 21 years of service to the district. She is shown with School Board Vice President Greg Farrow. Photo by Jay Forness

The Jackson R-2 School Board approved the elementary school core curriculum during its regular board meeting on Oct. 11, finishing the core curriculum review for the district.

The board approved the curriculum for English language arts, math, science and social studies for kindergarten through fourth grade, after previously approving the secondary curriculum for the same four core subjects earlier this year.

Instructional facilitators Melanie Needling and Brandon Brazel presented the elementary-level curriculum, as did elementary teachers Katelynn Martin, Sarah Rottler, Amber Odom, Amanda Weisbrod and Katie Brewer.

All Jackson R-2 School District curriculum is created by Jackson teachers through curriculum committees. “Curriculum development is a lengthy process,” Needling said. “All of our curriculum teams are made up of representatives from each of the buildings, so we can get a really good representation whenever we do this.”

Needling said the committees first have to prioritize the Missouri learning standards before organizing all the standards into units. “There are tons of learning standards, so we can only prioritize some of them,” she said. “We certainly teach the other standards, but we spend most of our time on those priority standards.”

In addition to grouping the learning standards into units, the committees create pacing guides, rubrics, assessments and other instructional materials that can be used across the district. Martin said teachers use the material weekly during their collaborative planning time to create their lesson plans.

The curriculum across grade levels and subject matters are formatted uniformly, so teachers can reference curriculum outside their primary grade level – such as if students need to relearn something from a previous grade or if enrichment material is needed for an advanced student.

“If we have students in kindergarten who are advanced and need first-grade material, we have access to the material they need to be working on – such as blending or reading more high-frequency words,” Martin said.

Rottler added that the consistent formatting also helps special education teachers who have students from multiple grade levels.

Needling said teachers are also encouraged to submit suggestions for parts of the curriculum or corresponding instructional material that could be improved. “We come back together at least annually, and sometimes more than that, to look at the suggestions from our teachers now that it has been used in classrooms and we know more about the effectiveness of the curriculum,” she said.

All approved elementary and secondary curriculum summaries for the district can now be found at jacksonr2schools.com/district_information/curriculum.

In other action:

• The board approved an evaluation of the district’s English language learners program, which provides additional support to students who are learning English as a second language.

English learner teacher Susie Lopez and paraprofessional Gail Estes work with students whose first language or home language is not English – including Jackson students whose home language is Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Polish, Chinese, Kankani (India) and Hindi (India).

“They are a diverse group of students that come from really rich backgrounds,” Estes said. “They love to share their home language and their home holidays and experiences.”

According to Lopez, there are currently 50 students identified as English language learners and an additional nine students who have been moved to monitor status as English learners.

“English learners usually need help to not only learn English, but also in the classroom with their work,” Estes said. “They have to have a lot of modifications and help with the learning process.”

English learner students can receive various degrees of support depending on their needs – from being pulled from the classroom and receiving intensive English language lessons to support within the general classroom to help students learn English exclusively through the class content.

Lopez said the students who have been moved to the monitor status have already met the state’s English language standard and have graduated from the English learner program.

• The graduation date for the Jackson High School senior class was set for May 19, 2023. The event is scheduled to take place at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.

• The board approved a new procedure policy on enrollment requests and approvals for taking virtual courses through Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program (MOCAP). MOCAP courses are not taught by Jackson R-2 staff members and are overseen by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Students are required to request enrolling in a virtual course within the first three days of a semester. The school administration will then determine if enrollment in the course is in the best educational interest of the student before approving or denying enrollment in the course. If the request is denied, the district will document in writing the reasons for the denial.

• The board approved an assessment plan for the district, outlining all group assessments and screenings in the district – including Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests for third through eighth graders, i-Ready Diagnostic screeners for kindergarten through sixth grade students, the Missouri Connections Education and Career Planning System for junior high and high school students, the American College Test (ACT), and high school end of course exams for Algebra I, Language Arts II, Biology, Algebra II and Government.

The plan also includes several health screenings, career interest assessments and other elective tests such as the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

A dyslexia screening for kindergarten through fourth grade students was a new requirement from the state and was added this year. In addition, a new diagnostic screener for English language arts, math and science will be given to junior high schools as a pilot program for the district. The new diagnostic screener is by NWEA, formally known as Northwest Evaluation Association.

“It’s great that we have a tool for the junior high for the first time, but also we’re able to see the benefits of that program in comparison to i-Ready,” Associate Superintendent Janelle Pope said.

• Sara Cook was appointed as the school board secretary, as longtime secretary Bonnie Stahlman retired last week. Stahlman has been with the district for 21 years, serving as board secretary the entire time.

“That entails a lot of late nights when we meet and discuss different topics,” School Board Vice President Greg Farrow said. “Bonnie is always here with us, and we thank her for everything she has done for us and the district.”

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 five years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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