Jay Thompson, a teacher at Newburg High School, is “weaning” his students from simple pat-type questions and answers in his classes in effort to get them used to new education standards coming down the pipeline.

Jay Thompson, a teacher at Newburg High School, is “weaning” his students from simple pat-type questions and answers in his classes in effort to get them used to new education standards coming down the pipeline.

Thompson, a communications arts teacher, said he questions his students at a higher level, where there is no one right answer. When he started this transition, it was a challenge and while he is unsure if they like it now, “they’re getting better.”

The teaching methods Thompson is using are in preparation for the Common Academic Standards that have been adopted by Missouri for implementation during the 2014-2015 school year.

Thompson was asked to speak to the Newburg Board of Education Nov. 15 about the increased rigor of the Common Academic Standards — “standards that are ready to get imposed on statewide” as well as in more than 40 other states,” Thompson said.

The standards, initially referred to as the Common Core State Standards, are now being called the Common Academic Standards.

“We have no choice in the matter of what’s coming ahead,” Thompson said.

“A persistent gap exists between the skills employers expect from new hires and what they are actually being taught … they do well as long as the what, when, why and how is clear in advance … as long as it doesn’t require them to go past using a basic search engine,” Thompson said. “Their toolkit and whole sense of searching is limited.”

Thompson cited a study in which several CEOs said that college graduates expect information to be so easy to get and when it’s not, it’s frustrating to them.

“We face that on a routine, daily basis in our classrooms right here,” Thompson said.

“At the heart of it is literacy, the ability to take information and not just remember it and recall it for a bubble test but to take information, closely read it, analyze it, make judgments about it, draw conclusions from it and then synthesize it from many sources and come up with an argument for its merits or its lack of merits. That’s the world employers want,” Thompson said.

A community of readers, writers and thinkers – that’s what the workplace demands and that’s what the Common Academic Standards will demand, he added.
The standards:

• Are aligned with college and work expectations;

• Are clear, understandable and consistent;

• Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;

• Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;

• Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and

• Are evidence-based.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has partnered with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to create tests to assess where students are relative to the new standards, Thompson explained.

While many students today think in terms of compartmentalizing their subjects, meaning they don’t think about what they learned in a previous class in their next class, Thompson said, the new standards will require students to have prior knowledge of other subjects.

“If you don’t have prior historical knowledge, it will affect you in language arts class … it’s across the curriculum,” Thompson said.

School Board Vice President Clay Austin said because of that, Newburg teachers must be on the same page when it comes to cross-curricular teaching. For students to know history in their English class, they need to have been taught the appropriate history by the history teacher.

Thompson said the implementation will not take place for a few years. “We’re not even there yet, but we’re trying to nudge our kids there,” Thompson said, “trying to raise the bars in our classrooms.”

Thompson said some parents may not like the changes and will day or have already said the homework is too difficult for their student.

“It’s not too hard for these kids just because they’ve never tackled it before. It’s a challenge,” Thompson said.

It was suggested that the district have more parent nights, where reading, science and math are taught to the students’ parents.

School Board President Jim Macormic told Thompson and the other teachers in attendance, “Just know that we’re here to support you.”

Other business

Also at the school board meeting, board members

• Accepted Ann Renner’s mid-contract resignation and retirement for health reasons. Renner was a lower-middle school art teacher.

• Approved Rodney Chaney for a special education position.

• Approved adding three bus stops for students living along existing routes within one mile of school. The bus stops added will be in front of the Houston House, across from Newburg City Hall and across from the city park gazebo. Superintendent of Schools John Westerman said there had been safety issues of a student being picked up by strangers.

• Approved middle school math tutoring on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons for one hour each night for seventh- and eighth-graders. Westerman said tutoring may later be opened to fifth- and sixth-grade students.

• Approved re-establishing a cheerleadering program at the school.

• Rejected the only bid received for the district to sell the former preschool modular doublewide building. At-A-Boy Mfg. Housing submitted a bid of $3,799, but the bid specifications requested a minimum bid of $10,000. The board approved a new motion to seek bids again on the trailer, but this time, they set no minimum.

• Set dates for candidates to file for the board of education election in April. Candidate filing will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Dec. 11, 2012, through Jan. 15, 2013, except for Christmas break which runs from Dec. 24, 2012, to Jan. 4, 2013.