Program review begins at California RI Board meetings – Update Cali

A new pig barn is coming to a California high school.

Agriculture students presented the project during a new portion of the program focused on Wednesday night at the RI California Board of Education meeting. The teachers presented a second consideration regarding the IXL curriculum. Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) results and dyslexia screening letters were also discussed at the meeting.

Barn for pigs

Five California agriculture students — Chase Schlup, Collin Althoff, Alexis Anguiano, Ayden Bryant and Kierstyn Lawson — presented plans for a hog barn to the board during their attention. The facility would allow students without enough space at home a place to house pigs. The facility should include 12 5-by-10-foot pens that can house pigs year-round.

Anguiano explained that the high school’s agriculture program helped spark his interest in pigs.

“My family doesn’t come from a farming background,” Anguiano said. “… I’ve never seen a pig give birth. Honestly, I’ve never seen a real big old pig that close, so I got a lot of educational (interest) there. My interest was piqued whenever I watched it all happen, and from there I was eager to try to own a pig and try to do something more with FFA.”

It wasn’t long before Anguiano and classmate Bryant bought their own pig over the summer. Anguiano said they stored the hogs at the Denker Livestock Education Center, which sparked the idea to build a separate student-owned hog housing facility.

“This new hog barn will definitely help people like me and a lot of other people who don’t have that agricultural background, and that would be a great thing for everybody,” Anguiano said.

Althoff said the new barn will not only benefit the students, but also the pigs themselves.

“Also, by having a separate facility, it will be less stressful for the animals … because there will be less noise, less people coming in and out, and it will be cleaner and more hygienic for those animals,” he said.

Lawson said the facility will be convenient because students can check on their pigs without having to drive out of town.

Althoff said the wood chips on the floor will be changed at least every two weeks using the department’s skid steer loader. Superintendent Daniel Williams said the facility should be cleaned more often due to its close proximity to the baseball/softball facility.

The students said the estimated cost of the device is $15,000. The MFA Charitable Grants Fund and the MFA co-ops have already donated a combined $10,000, and the agriculture program is paying the remaining $5,000. Most of the construction work would be done by students. Jacob Kueffer, a local concrete contractor, volunteered to help the students dig the foundations and teach them how to set up the forms and pour the concrete. The heating and ventilation systems for the facility were salvaged from a demolished greenhouse.

Once completed, students will be able to apply for space in the facility to house their pigs. An ag instructor present at the meeting said priority would be given to students who have no other space to house their animals. The new facility will be dedicated to pigs, other animals will still be kept in the livestock center.

The board approved the project.

IXL tutorial

Three teachers informed the board about an online education program that is used in elementary and middle schools.

Kelly Combs, a speech-language pathologist at a California elementary school, introduced IXL as a learning program that can help identify students’ weaknesses and strengths and offer customized lesson plans and in-depth practice.

“One of the biggest challenges for teachers is that we expect ourselves and the state of Missouri expects us to know and understand how each student is learning and where they are and to meet them where they are to close the gaps . ,” she said. “And that really helps, helps with that.”

Combs said students use the program daily. She said students in her class typically use it for at least 22 minutes, but some exceed that by logging in during free time or when they’re at home. She added that the program is “intrinsically motivated.” Students can track their progress in real time as it offers instant feedback with detailed explanations of concepts. Thanks to the program, students are able to better understand themselves and their learning style.

During her presentation, Combs said 12 million students use IXL daily across the country. The program is used in all of the top 100 counties in the United States and in more than 190 countries.

The program offers courses in the core areas of math, science, social studies, and English Language Arts (ELA).

For teachers, IXL can be an invaluable tool for determining which students may need additional help understanding a concept. Stephanie Zimmerman, a fifth-grade math teacher at a California middle school, said the program allows her to identify which students may be struggling to understand concepts. If the whole class is struggling, they can do a “Group Jam” where they can work together to practice the concept.

Zimmerman said the program offers skill plans that can be used to motivate students. For example, last year she said she had students compete in a “strengthening challenge” where students could do two IXL sessions a day for 20 days. Students who completed all 40 lessons with a 100% score were awarded a prize. IXL also offers a four-week “Fall On” plan and a 32-week “Weekly Booster” plan in both math and ELA. The program also offers test preparation plans.

Dyan Ingram, fifth grade science teacher, discussed diagnostic tools within IXL. She said students will enter an “arena” where they can work on math and/or ELA assessments. At the end of the evaluation, the program lists their strengths and weaknesses along with an action plan.

She said the student’s progress is monitored and diagnostics can be shared with parents at parent-teacher conferences. Parents can also track their children’s progress through the student dashboard.

MAP test results, dyslexia warning

During the administrators’ report portion of the meeting, board member Paul Bloch asked high school administrators about the declines in MAP test scores.

Many cohort scores dropped between 2021 and 2022, according to charts included in California high school Superintendent Derek Scroggins’ report to the board. Fifth-graders, for example, saw the biggest drop in math scores, with 58.9 percent of students placing in proficient and advanced. 2021 to just 28.9 percent in 2022, a drop of 30 percentage points. Other big declines include fifth-grade ELA (down 13 percent). Eighth grade math, on the other hand, increased by more than 20 percentage points.

Administrators said there were many causes behind the declining scores, including COVID-19, the district’s use of full-time substitutes and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) changing the tests.

Assistant Superintendent Matt Abernathy explained that cohort results alone don’t tell the whole picture.

“I’ve always felt that building or grade level compared to the state or compared to other school districts at a similar subject and grade level is much more valuable than looking at how we did in our district one year over the next. Because within our districts, we don’t know if we’re going to go down 30 points, is that because we have a bug in our district? It would look like that, but what if the state went down 35 percent. Then we’d still be 5 percent above, where the state ends.”

Statewide results have not yet been released, Scroggins said.

Williams said DESE continues to change the MAP test, making it more difficult to meet state expectations.

“We have to realize (that the 2021 and 2022 MAP tests are) two different assessments, they changed it. They’re changing it again this year,” Williams said. “So that’s a real hurdle when we see the assessment and say, ‘OK, we know what to expect now,’ and we can change some of our teaching habits to better teach the elements and skills that are present in the test. Every year or every other grade is the new assessment where it’s almost like if our students are performing at a level that’s been set, the bar has been set, when they reach that bar, the bar keeps getting raised. It’s a struggle because it sends a little bit of a message to public education that no matter on how well your kids do, they’ll never live up to expectations.”

After discussing the results of the MAP test, board member Ryan Porter shared his concerns about a letter he received about his daughter, who has dyslexic tendencies. California Elementary Principal Jennifer Juergensmeyer and Ashley Frazier, director of special programs, explained that letters must be sent by state law to parents of students who have been screened as having dyslexic tendencies. The district can’t officially diagnose whether students have dyslexia, but Frazier said the notices only inform parents that a child’s reading tendencies and level will be monitored.

Frazier went on to explain that dyslexia does not always correlate with poor reading skills. She said some students can simply adjust.

In another event:

• The board approved the purchase of new aluminum bleachers for high school baseball/softball. The new grandstand costs approximately $50,000 and will accommodate more spectators. The current stands were no longer accepted by the district’s liability insurance.

• The board approved a cooperative agreement that would allow a Latham Elementary student to wrestle at a California high school.

• The board and patrons observed a moment of silence to remember Candy Stepps, a former food service employee who worked at the California high school for nine years. Stepps died on November 6.

• The board recognized Kenzleigh Goans and Ian Miller, who placed eighth and 105th in the Missouri Cross Country State Championship. Goans was also named as the national athlete.

• Band director Jacob Small discussed progress with band programs. Three students were selected in district auditions for the state band competition. The band’s shows will also be a fundraiser for the new trailer. He said their trailer is almost 20 years old and has some leaks.

• Abernathy presented updates on installing security film on windows, working to find a new phone service provider, professional development “Power Hours” and installing security cameras throughout the neighborhood. He also said he will be present at the Dec. 5 California Board of Aldermen meeting to discuss removing the parking island on the elementary and middle school campus.

• Williams talked about the Missouri School Board Association conference he attended with Bloch and board secretary Susie Gorrell; a visit to the Nichols Career Center in Jefferson City; community services provided by Central Missouri Community Action and the New Hispanic Ministry of El Puente, California; his procedure for deciding whether to cancel or postpone school due to inclement weather; Missouri Association of School Administrators Budget Seminar; plans to replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the elementary school; employee financing; and progress on plans for a new secure entry lobby at the elementary school.

The California RI Board of Education will next meet on December 14th at 6pm in the California High School Media Center.

photo Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — Dyan Ingram, center, a fifth-grade science teacher at California Middle School, discusses points about diagnostic tools in IXL, an online learning program, during the November meeting of the California RI Board of Education Nov. 16 at the California Media Center high schools.

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