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» Family members reflect on things kids say, Page 1C » Mom is his biggest fan – on national TV, Page 1D


Session wraps up this week Lawmakers scurrying to try to get their bills passed by Friday By Jonathan Shorman JSHORMAN@NEWS-LEADER.COM

JEFFERSON CITY — Like students preparing for finals, lawmakers are ready for the last week of the legislative session this week. Constitutionally, the General Assembly must adjourn for the year by the end of Friday. Between now and then, senators and representatives will participate in a mad dash to get bills over the finish line and to Gov. Jay Nixon. Springfield lawmakers have their own ideas about what they want to see happen. Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, has filed more bills than Eric most representaBurlison tives and will spend the last week trying to pass as many as possible. Not all of the bills will be debated and receive votes, and even Charlie Norr fewer will be sent to Nixon. Instead, with so little time left, Burlison and others look for ways to add provisions from their bills onto other pieces of legislation in hopes of moving it along in the process. It’s how small, one-page bills can become large, omnibus packages. And with only a week left, members are looking for any opportunity to stick their priority in a bill somewhere. “My staff does research to find out which chapter is open, and then they try to look for any of my language that hasn’t been passed,” Burlison said. Burlison is trying to exempt yoga and fitness classes from an entertainment tax. Burlison’s office said the bill would undo a Department of Revenue decision to apply an entertainment tax to the classes, which the release said is meant for sporting events and amusement parks. The Department of Revenue decision followed a 2008 Missouri Supreme Court decision that ruled fees paid for personal training services at gyms are taxable. The department began collecting a 4 percent sales tax on personal training class fees. Other bills from Burlison, such as so-called Right to Work legislation, are likely to fall by the wayside. Senate Republican leadership has said there is not a desire to tackle the controversial union legislation this year. Other lawmakers are more likely to just be along for the ride. Rep. Charlie Norr, DSpringfield, has not filed any bills. As a Democrat in a chamber with a Republican supermajority, his only way to influence


LERIE MOSLEY/N ding to learn.” VA ea “r to ” ad re to arning tary move from “le at Watkins Elemen s er ad gr ird th s Maria Tate help


xperts call third grade a pivotal year for children: the first year of standardized testing; the transition to the A-F grading system; applying skills instead of simply learning them. Overall, Springfield third-graders are progressing, but our Third Grade Report Card looking at community support and our schools reveals some troubling deficiencies:

» On one important state test, some third-graders fail and more than half fall short in reading and writing. About one in 10 is “below basic” and nearly 50 percent score “basic,” meaning they are not proficient. In many schools with high poverty rates, even fewer children succeed. Grade: Unsatisfactory » Still, very few elementary students are held back — less than 1 percent per year in the past five years. Grade: Incomplete » The achievement gap is largest among children who start kindergarten not “ready to learn.” They are behind and many stay behind, setting them up for long-term failure. Grade: Fail » Federal funding cuts mean less help for needy kids. Only about one-third of

elementary students who need reading and math help can be served in remedial programs. Grade: Needs Improvement » Critical factors outside the classroom — children who move frequently, live in poverty, or struggle with abuse or neglect — can create barriers to learning. Parental involvement, a key to success, is spotty in schools with high poverty. Grade: Fail » While the district meets state minimums for total teaching hours, teachers and support staff do not have enough time, particularly to differentiate instruction to children with diverging skill levels. Grade: Needs Improvement » Deficiencies aside, here’s one more thing you learn from spending time in third-grade classrooms: Springfield teachers are dedicated and loving, devoting extra time to help children with lagging skills. Grade: Good

THIRD GRADE PROJECT Today: A key year. Are we doing enough for Springfield’s third graders? Inside: Why third grade matters. Not enough time to teach. “Are you smarter than a thirdgrader?” quiz. Monday: Children with vastly different skills levels in the same class. Educational “triage.” More elementary kids suspended. Tuesday: Too many kids must deal with baggage: abuse, poverty, moving from school to school. How teachers help.

Third-graders learning importance of responsibility, along with academics By Jackie Rehwald JREHWALD@NEWS-LEADER.COM

Kali Weidmann is among the first to arrive, nearly 25 minutes before the morning bell rings at York Elementary, on the northwest side of Springfield. The newly appointed “Breakfast Boss” pulls the breakfast

wagon from the hallway into teacher Caitlin Lash’s classroom. Then she gets to work. Pushing the wagon against the wall, she ties on two plastic bags: one for trash and one for recyclables. With warm French toast bites and milk ready to fuel the bodies and brains of

her classmates, 9-year-old Kali peels the book bag from her shoulder and hangs it in the closet. She returns to the cart, removes some fuel for herself and finds a spot on the carpet to sit and quietly have breakfast.

Video: Knock, knock. Who’s there? ... Kids telling jokes at


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4A May 12, 2013


MATH, READING AND KNOCK-KNOCK JOKES Third grade is a time of multiplication, division, reading and writing, and, of course, knock-knock jokes. What do third graders think is funny? To find out, we asked them to tell us a joke. Here are their favorites.

Jade Casper, Weller Elementary Knock, knock. Who’s there? Lettuce. Lettuce who? Let us in! It’s cold outside!


Alyssa Dodson, McBride Elementary Knock, knock. Who’s there? Allison. Allison who? I won’t tell you my last name if you don’t open the door.

Marshal Storie, McBride Elementary Why did the chicken cross the road? Why? To get to his house. Knock, knock. Who’s there? The chicken!

Third grade/‘Everything just gets harder ... it’s just a big jump,’ student says Continued from Page 1A

It’s going to be a big day for Kali, but we’ll get to that later. One by one, students finish their breakfasts, throw their trash in the appropriate bags, and begin working on their “morning bell work,” a language arts review worksheet. As with all such “morning bell work” in Lash’s third-grade class, if students have questions, they do not look to their teacher for help. They can get help from someone at their table or from any book or resource they can find in the classroom. “The only person who cannot help them is me,” Lash said. “I do this so that my students begin learning how to problem-solve together and to build their confidence in themselves as a problem solver.” “You have to be responsible,” said Deyontre Bush, York Elementary School thirdgrader. “When there is something on the ground, you pick it up. In second grade, kids just walk past it. You need to be ready to work.” Every student in Lash’s class has an important job. There’s the “emergency aide,” who helps sick or injured kids to the nurse, “secretary,” who answers the phone and takes a message if Lash is busy, and “street sweeper,” who checks to make sure students have picked up all papers and trash from the floor. These duties help the class run smoothly and teach the children to be dependable and responsible and to take pride in their classroom. At the start of each quarter, each student fills out an application for a “job,” explaining the skills he or she possesses and why he or she is the perfect candidate. “They are very serious about their jobs,” Lash explained. “I want them to take ownership of this classroom. If they want it to look nice, it’s their responsibility.” Third-grade teachers throughout Springfield Public Schools have similar strategies to teach their kids to be responsible, putting 8- and 9-year-olds in charge of everything from basic housekeeping to keeping up with homework assignments. In Bobbie Griffin’s class at Sequiota Elementary in southeast Springfield, for example, students are expected to fill out their own planners, complete weekly reading logs, be organized and always have the correct materials with them. It is the students’ responsibility to let parents know when they have information to pass along, homework, or are running low on supplies – not Griffin’s job. “We push them really hard to be more responsible. We don’t want Mom and Dad doing it for them,” said Griffin. “We don’t want Mom and Dad cleaning out their homework folder for them to find the assignment. We strive for

Deyontre Bush works with teacher Caitlin Lash at York Elementary to sharpen his writing skills, a key to future success. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

Kali Weidmann

Cooper Roy

them to tell their parents what their homework is, to take initiative and not rely on their parents.” Taking responsibility for behavior — instead of waiting for punishment or reprimand — is also important, according to McBride Elementary teacher Angela Durbin. McBride is in southwest Springfield. “When I am verbally correcting them, I ask if they are making good choices and what they could do differently next time,” Durbin said, “ ... and get them to work through it and take ownership of their behavior.” “You get into chapter books instead of kiddie books. Everything just gets harder,” said Cooper Roy, third-grade student at Sequiota Elementary. “You move from addition to multiplication. Instead of easy fractions like one-half and onefourth, you go to fractions like five-fourths. It’s just a big jump.” By 9:45, Kali’s class has moved on to math. Lash asks her students to join her at the Smart Board, an interactive whiteboard at the front of the room. An image of lions appears on the screen. Some are in a cage; some are out of the cage. “I want you to listen to my language. This is new language. This is new math language,” Lash says to a captivated audience. “Five out of 10 lions are in a cage.” As she speaks, Lash writes, “5/10 lions” on the

"Breakfast Boss" Kali Weidmann works as classmate Johnathan Wendt reads before class. Each student takes a job to help the class run smoothly. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

board. She allows that information to sink in before putting another image up. This time it’s copper and silver coins. “Talk with a partner and I want you to use that language.” Kali and her partner study the image carefully before turning to each other and whispering, “Four out of 11 coins are copper.” Neither seems certain. After one more example done as a group, Lash puts an image of green and red apples on the screen and produces a cup filled with Popsicle sticks. Each stick bears the name of a student. “If I pull your stick and you’re not ready, just say, ‘Pass,’ ” she says, reaching for a stick. “Kali?” Kali stands and accepts the Smart Board pen. She faces the board and begins counting, head bouncing slightly with each apple. After several seconds of counting and recounting, Kali says, “Four out of 12 apples are green,” and writes, “4/12” on the board.

“Is she right, class?” Kali turns. She faces the class, eyes wide and cheeks red. Her classmates nod in approval. In what educators call an “ahhah moment,” Kali squeals with delight and pride. “You have just been introduced to fractions,” Lash tells the class. And just like that, Kali gained a skill she will use for the rest of her life. When she is 17 and realizes she has less than1/4 tank of gas, when she is 32 and celebrates having paid off 1/2 of her student loans, and when she is 72 and reading a recipe that calls for 3/4 cup of milk. “If you didn’t love teaching and love children, you just wouldn’t do it,” said Mary Kay McMullin, third-grade teacher at Wanda Gray Elementary. What’s the trick to getting 20 or so third-grade students to multiply, divide, write in cursive, pick up their trash, line up, sit down and be polite to one another? According to

teachers, children need to feel respected, loved and safe. One way Durbin creates this sort of learning environment is by using the phrase “friends” instead of “students” or ‘classmates.” “At the beginning of the year, I teach about our ‘family of friends’ in our class. I talk about how we wouldn’t want to see our family or friends upset over something we say or do,” Durbin explained. “I also talk about working together as friends with respect. I try to connect it with what it’s like to work with people at a job every day and to get along even though you may not always agree with one another. Throughout the day I call the students ‘friends’ to keep that feeling of community strong. I also let them know that I, too, see them as my friends.” Many teachers strive to use only positive language when speaking to kids – rather than “no,” “stop” and “don’t” – even when

they are misbehaving. “Using a more positive approach sends the message to my students that I care about them along with communicating my respect for them,” Lash said. “Feeling safe both physically and emotionally ensures learning can happen. If a child does not feel safe to take risks, to ask questions, or even to fail, there is little chance that learning will occur.” In her classroom, when a group of students began whispering during instruction time, she simply said, “I want you to practice good listening.” When she noticed a student drawing instead of reading, she said, “I love that you love to draw, but we really need to save that for another time.” When a child started bouncing and dancing while waiting in the waterfountain line, Lash asked, “Can you get control of your body, please?” Calm, positive, respectful. And effective. “I love their personalities. I love that they are more independent. They can have their own idea of how to get an answer or a fact. And maybe it’s a little different than mine. I learn from them all day long,” Durbin said. “It’s a wonderful year. They are at that young age where they still love to learn,” said Lacy Cartwright, third-grade teacher at Sherwood Elementary, near the Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park. “They are more selfreliant, more independent. “And the social thing kicks in, and they start worrying about their friends. It’s a sweet age.” “They want to do well for you. They are still young like that,” Durbin said. “They are a lot of fun to hang out with all day.”

HOW WE DID IT To bring you this special report, we sent three reporters back to elementary school. The three spent about 80 hours — more than 10 school days — sitting in third-grade classrooms, observing and then following up with interviews. An editor, in hopes of better understanding the reporters’ challenge, spent about four hours with a teacher and third-grade students, too.

With the cooperation and help of Springfield Public Schools, we visited 11 elementary schools total. They were spread across the district. Additionally, before drawing any analytical conclusions, reporters spoke with about 35 adults, many of them teachers, and more than 20 third-graders. In addition, school experts and data and records provided by state and Springfield sources were used in this series.

ABOUT THE EVERY CHILD PROJECT More than a year ago, the NewsLeader launched a public service journalism project to focus public attention on critical challenges facing children, foster discussion and build on existing initiatives. Those challenges have included safety, health, poverty, social issues

and, as seen in this series of stories, education. The Every Child community advisory committee — with representatives from the business, government, education, nonprofit, law enforcement, health and faith sectors — played an important role along the way. They have educated, advised and participated in a search for solutions.


Bryce Rogers, Weller Elementary Why did the pelican get kicked out of the restaurant? Because it had a very big bill.

May 12, 2013

Zoey Hupman, Weaver Elementary What is a duck’s favorite snack? A box of quackers. Joke No. 2: What did one ghost say to the other ghost? Do you really believe in people?

Braden Conboy, McBride Elementary (singing) Here comes the bride. All dressed in white. Where is the groom? In the ladies’ room.


Cameron Higgins, McBride Elementary A cowboy came into town on Friday. He stayed two days and left on Friday. How did he do it? He left on his horse named “Friday.”

A busy day of learning and playing By Jackie Rehwald and Steve Pokin JREHWALD@NEWS-LEADER.COM SPOKIN@NEWS-LEADER.COM

7:25 a.m. at McBride Elementary: Though school doesn’t start until 8:50 a.m., teacher Angela Durbin is there early to answer emails from staff and parents, Angela review her Durbin carefully constructed lesson plans, prepare the classroom, and collaborate with other teachers. Her morning time, the “calm before the storm,” always goes fast. One glance at the clock and she realizes her students will be there any minute. She turns on the Smart Board to reveal morning instructions and a short math assignment for students. It’s been an especially busy week with no signs of slowing down for the thirdgrade teacher. Yesterday Durbin had a team meeting with the other thirdgrade teachers. The day before that, she had a twohour meeting regarding summer school. Plus it’s Grandparents Week and Book Fair Week. Later today she will have English Language Arts training, and a substitute will be with her students. “I don’t mind the meetings, but I don’t like it when I’m away from the kids. I need to be with the kids,” she says, as the door swings open and 23 thirdgrade students come in. While most of the students are busy putting away their book bags and wiping their desks with sanitizing wipes, a small swarm begins to form around Durbin. One worried student tells Durbin he forgot his book fair money. Another shows off how much money she brought. One has a question about a homework assignment. And Braden Conboy just wants his teacher to see how he can easily curl his heavy backpack with either arm. “I understand you are working out, but I want you to sit down now.” By the time the tardy bell rings, students are busy with their morning math problems. Over the next hour, they explore multiplication, division, frequency tables, measurements, fractions, word problems, maximum, minimum, median, mean and mode. They work individually, with a partner, in a group and in teacher-led instruction. They use pencils, paper, the projector, the Smart Board, calculators, slates, rulers and sticky notes. Some will even count on their fingers. 9:30 a.m. at York Elementary: Students in teacher Caitlin Lash’s room are finishing up their reading group work. “Turn to your shoulder partner Caitlin and share Lash two ideas from your reading,” Lash instructs the class. After a few moments, Lash’s voice rings out over the hushed conversations, “Hands on top.” Students immediately look to their teacher, end their conversation, put their hands on their heads and respond in unison:

Chapter books with more prose challenge Jeffries third-graders like Mackenzie Gonsalez, reading with Charlie Coble. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

Smart Boards and other technology have not replaced the need for pencil and paper. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

“That means stop!” Lash allows a couple of the students to share what their partner told them before saying, “If you feel like you were successful at reading today, pat yourself on the back. If you don’t feel successful, set a goal for yourself.” As the class makes the transition from reading to math, finding the proper books and papers, a young girl in a pink sweatshirt walks up to Lash. She hugs the teacher. Lash hugs her and strokes her hair. No words are exchanged. 10 a.m. at Weaver: Kyndal Phillips, a firstyear teacher, leads her 19 thirdgraders into the Care Store in the basement. The children Kyndal are in two Phillips lines — one for boys and one for girls. They clutch their Care Cash, slips of paper they have earned by being kind and caring. The community donates the items that are “sold” for Care Cash. The store is open every other Friday. “This is a very exciting time,” Phillips says. At Weaver, 93 percent of students receive a free or reduced-price lunch because of low family income. It is one of the highest percentages in the district. Two women volunteer in the store. In these cramped quarters, students blow their noses. One child coughs, and an adult voice fills the space: “Cover your mouth, please!” There are coats, hoo-

dies, shoes, toys, puzzles, baseball mitts, a monster truck and a stuffed snake available. To a surprising degree, Phillips says, her thirdgraders don’t always shop for toys and don’t always shop for themselves. “They will get things for their brothers and sisters,” she says. Sometimes, she adds, they return to class with trinkets for their teacher. 10:30 a.m. at Sequiota: Students in Bobbie Griffin’s class have been working with fractions and multiplication for more than 20 minutes when Bobbie their teacher Griffin calls out, “OK, let’s take a brain break.” Students get out of their seat and begin to stretch and exercise. They jog in place, do jumping jacks, pushups, bend over to touch their toes or just shake their arms. After a minute, Griffin calls out, “Hocus pocus.” Her students respond in unison, “Everybody focus.” They quickly move to the front of the class and take a seat in front of the Smart Board for more math. “We use brain breaks to do exactly that — give their brains a break,” Griffin explained later. “I use them any time I feel the students are ‘zoning out’ or if they have been focusing on a task for an extended period of time and need a break.” 10:50 a.m. at McBride: The recess bell rings, but nasty weather prevents

Durbin’s students from playing outside. Some play board games. A group of girls uses beads, strings and glitter glue to make jewelry. A group of boys practices speed stacking with plastic cups. Amid the laughter and play, one group quietly sits at a table with their heads down. After 10 minutes, two are allowed to get up and join the games. But three students leave their heads down the entire 30-minute recess. “There was a bully incident yesterday,” Durbin explains. “At this age, they are friends one day and telling on each other the next.” 11:40 a.m. at Sherwood: After a morning filled with art, math, cursive writing and reading, Lacy Cartwright’s students are finally headLacy ed to lunch. Cartwright On this particular day, lunch is a special treat: Frito Pie and movies on the big screen. As students sit down with their glorious mixture of corn chips and chili, a large projector is playing the final scene from the Disney movie “Pocahontas” — the kiss scene. The entire lunchroom erupts with a collective groan. 1 p.m. at Wanda Gray: Mary Kay McMullin hands out copies of Time For Kids magazine, a mini version of Mary Kay Time with McMullin short stories of interest to third-graders. According to McMullin, a teaching veteran with 25 years under her belt, this is among her students’ favorite activities. The class is divided into groups. Each contingent chooses a story from the magazine. They read it, discuss it, then present it to the rest of the class by, in most cases, handing off a microphone like a baton as they read in turn. Seven boys join forces to present the story of a youngster who regularly adds his views to a sports-

radio talk show. Several girls report what they’ve discovered in their chosen article, which is that Mars, the so-called “Red Planet,” is red only because of a thin layer of dust that covers the gray rock. “My whole life I thought that Mars was red,” McMullin says. 1:38 p.m. at Weller: It’s too cold outside, so the 22 students in Shayla Bernelis’ thirdgrade class trek to the gym for indoor recess. Suddenly, a duck-andcover disasShayla ter drill is anBernelis nounced over the public-address system. The children kneel as if in prayer, with heads bent to the bottom of an interior wall, hands cupped behind their head, and lots of whispering. 2:22 p.m. at Wanda Gray: Students are busy preparing their “Time For Kids” presentations. While they work, a girl approaches Mary Kay McMullin with an origami fortuneteller. After a series of questions, the girl can finally reveal her teacher’s future: a new husband. “You mean I am going to have to marry someone else?” A boy overhears this conversation and disapproves. “Fortune telling is the work of the devil,” he says. 2:30 p.m. at Sherwood: The recess bell rings. The weather has finally warmed to springlike conditions, and the kids play hard. When they return to Cartwright’s classroom, many are sweaty. It’s time for science, and Cartwright lets the students get their healthy snacks. Students dig out packages of wheat crackers, granola bars and nuts. While they eat, Cartwright leads a discussion about nutrition. Then Cartwright produces bags of Whales Baked Snack Crackers, Ritz Crackers, Cheez-It Crackers, Fritos and Wheat Thins. For just a moment, students are smiling, thinking their teacher planned to share the snacks with her stu-

dents. No such luck. Cartwright tells the class the snacks are for a lesson in nutrition, science and math. Students make predictions about which snack food they think will have the most grease and rate them from 1 to 5. They create a bar graph to diagram their predictions. They are having so much fun, no one seems to mind not getting to eat the Cheez-Its Crackers and Fritos. 2:45 p.m. at York: It’s time for “end of day packup” in Lash’s room. Students begin picking up their work space, putting their things away. They log off the computers and shut them down. The “house keeper” makes sure students have picked up their work space, changes the date on the board, and empties pencil sharpeners. The “street sweeper” checks the floor for trash or papers. The “closet control” student meets Lash at the closet to call students to the back to get their things to go home. Before the bell rings, Lash tells every child goodbye. “Some students have created special handshakes between the two of us,” she explained later. “If a student has a rough day, I remind them that tomorrow will be a new day, and we set a goal for how they are going to make the next day better.”

Maria Tate encourages Trenton Soto after he finished a lesson at Watkins Elementary. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

6A May 12, 2013


More than half of kids fall short of benchmark Third grade is a pivotal year for children

How Springfield third graders performed in communication arts, math This breakdown shows how Springfield Public Schools’ third grade students performed on the Missouri Assessment Program exams in communication arts – which tests reading and writing – as well as math for the 2011-12 school year. Students who tested as advanced or proficient are performing where they should be, according to the Missouri Department of Education.

By Claudette Riley School

Number of students tested (C.A.) (Math)























Bingham Elementary











Bissett Elementary











Bowerman Elementary











Boyd Elementary











Campbell Elementary











Cowden Elementary











David Harrison Elementary











Delaware Elementary











Field Elementary











Fremont Elementary











Gray Elementary











Hickory Hills Elementary











Holland Elementary











Horrace Mann Elementary











Jeffries Elementary










4.1% 8.9%


For children going through elementary school, third grade presents the first major academic fork in the road. Research shows that children who have acquired the reading and writing skills they need to transition from the foundation-building primary years to the rigors of third grade and beyond are significantly more likely to graduate from high school. But those who are a year or more behind by the end of third grade are more likely to drop out. Associate Superintendent Ben Hackenwerth said if a child is a grade level or more behind in reading it becomes “extremely difficult to get them caught up.” “We get into third grade and we start to branch out ... And that’s when the gaps will really begin to show up,” said Hackenwerth, who oversees elementary schools. “If a student doesn’t have the foundation in literacy from those early years, when we start to integrate the content areas, it’s clear to see a student is either where they need to be or they are behind by that point.” A look at the 2011-12 Missouri Assessment Program results for Springfield’s third-graders shows more than half failed to score at the state benchmark of proficient or above in communication arts. Of the nearly 2,000 children tested in reading and writing, nearly 1,150 fell short. Springfield school officials said the state-mandated MAP exam gives schools and districts a way to see how they are doing compared to others across the state. But, it’s just one of the many assessments used. Over the past seven years, as MAP benchmarks have increased, the

Percentage of advanced students (C.A.) (Math)

Percentage of proficient students (C.A.) (Math)

Percentage of basic students (C.A.) (Math)

Percentage of below basic students (C.A.) (Math)

Mark Twain Elementary










McBride Elementary











McGregor Elementary











Pershing Elementary











Pittman Elementary











Pleasant View Elementary











Portland Elementary











Robberson Elementary











Rountree Elementary











Sequiota Elementary











Sherwood Elementary











Sunshine Elementary











Truman Elementary











Walt Disney Elementary











Watkins Elementary











Weaver Elementary











Weller Elementary











Westport Elementary











Wilder Elementary











Williams Elementary











York Elementary












percentage of local students who score at or above proficient has remained fairly consistent. Springfield’s results are in line, although just slightly lower, than the statewide communication arts scores for third grade. Springfield’s own Performance Series exams, unlike the end-of-year MAP test, provide a “snapshot” of each student’s skills at the beginning,

middle and end of the year. Those results, which identify the specific skills a student lacks, become a key part of a teacher’s road map for how to get the child on track. At the end of the 2011-12 year, the district’s exam showed just over 7 percent — 142 of 1,964 — of the third-graders tested in communication arts were more than a year behind. Less than 3 percent of

those tested in math lagged behind peers by more than a year. Superintendent Norm Ridder said growing poverty rates and children who enter school without the social, emotional and basic academic skills to be successful can make meeting third-grade expectations difficult. “If they’re not on grade level, they’re going to need a lot more time to be

able to learn, to catch up,” he said. But, he said the teachers and principals and support staff don’t give up. They work to meet the needs of children and provide extra help so a child can hopefully make up significant ground. “We fail kids, a community fails kids, if they’re not reading at grade level by the end of third grade,” Ridder said.

Holding children back called ‘the last option’ Less than1percent held back each year; district identifies, assists kids who need help By Claudette Riley CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM

Missouri school districts are expected to boost the skills of students with the poorest reading skills — or hold them back a year. A 2001 state law states that students who can’t read at a third-grade level or above by the end of their fourth-grade year can’t move on to fifth grade. Springfield school officials try to address the problem long before that stopgap measure kicks in. “We do follow it,” said J. Anderson, director of operations for elementary. “We just believe it addresses it way too late.” Over the past five years, between 80 and 115 elementary students — less than 1 percent — have been held back every year. Poor reading skills are typically a factor, but any decision to retain a student, Anderson said, is based on the “whole picture.” “The biggest number of those retained are in kindergarten, and the next highest are in first grade,” Anderson said. “As the years go on, it’s less and less.” Every year, the district

identifies elementary and middle school students who are one year or more behind grade level in reading. Those boys and girls are offered extra help. For example, there were 142 third-grade students — just over 7 percent — identified during the 2011-12 year as one year or more behind in reading. Following high profile research in recent decades linking poor thirdgrade reading skills with future problems — such as crime, poverty and dropping out — states passed laws requiring districts to test reading skills and take action. Margie Vandeven, deputy commissioner for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the emphasis in Missouri is on early interventions. Those include intense summer reading programs and developing a Reading Improvement Plan that includes 30 hours of tutoring before or after school. Vandeven said while third grade is a critical year, it’s not a “magical gatekeeper.” “A lot of people latch onto third grade because that’s when we have the

“The biggest number of those retained are in kindergarten and the next highest are in first grade. As the years go on, it’s less and less.” J. ANDERSON Director of operations for elementary

first statewide assessment,” she said of the Missouri Assessment Program tests given in grades 3-8. “But by third grade it’s almost too late. We need to get in there right away — find out who is struggling.” Anderson said if needed, after all that extra help

plus what happens in the classroom, “retention is an option — but it’s the last option.” Any decision to retain a student is made by a team that includes the parents, teacher, school principal and support staff involved in the reading interventions. Beyond reading test scores, the team would look at factors such as the student’s knowledge of the English language, age, size, gender, current grade, maturity, parental support and attendance. The state law exempts a variety of students from the mandatory fourthgrade retention stopgap. Those exemptions include students with special needs or classroom accommodations and those in the process of learning English as a second language. Districts, including Springfield, assess reading levels at every grade. Teachers are expected to use those results to help improve the reading and writing skills of each student, based on his or her specific needs. “Research shows us that retention doesn’t work, but neither does social promotion,” Vandeven said. So what does? “Meeting kids where they are and moving them to where

they need to be,” she said. For the 2011-12 year, 7 percent of third graders were eligible for Springfield’s Expanded Learning Program, or ELP. “If they are more than one grade (level) below, they get the letter,” said Nate Quinn, coordinator of cultural diversity and expanded learning opportunities for the district. “...The students are referred and it’s up to the parents to send them to the class or not.” During the summer, nearly every elementary and middle that offers summer school will also have an intense reading class specifically to help those students. Class sizes are capped at 15 students. “They get more attention,” Quinn said. “They have intense instruction in reading and writing.” Students in the upper elementary grades who fail to make up enough ground during the summer are eligible for more tutoring, a minimum of 30 hours, during the school year. Those sessions can be before or after school. Quinn said there is typically at least one small group of students at every school. This year, there are nearly 60 of the reading groups. “We have kids who raise their scores because it’s concentrated,” he said.

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A THIRD-GRADER? Social Studies 1. Who wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence? a. Thomas Jefferson b. Abraham Lincoln c. John Hancock d. William Jefferson Clinton Answer: a 2. What was the purpose of the Declaration of Independence? a. To announce that America was a country. b. To announce the colonies’ separation from England. c. To announce the birth of a new baby. d. To announce the winner of the presidency. Answer: b 3. “We the people of the United States…” is the beginning of what? a. The Bill of Rights b. The Pledge of Allegiance c. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech d. The Preamble of the Constitution Answer: d

Math (No calculators!) 1. Complete the comparison: 1/3 ____ 1/2 a. = b. < c. > d. ^ Answer: b 2. Last year the 5-mile Turkey Trot race had 835 runners. This year the race committee expects 1200. The race fee is $10. How much more money will the race committee collect this year than last? a. $1,200 b. $2,035 c. $3,650 d. They will collect less money. Answer: c

Language Arts 1. Choose the sentence that best combines the underlined sentences into one. Jaime is my cousin. Louisa is my cousin. a. Jaime is my cousin, and Louisa is my cousin. b. Jaime and Louisa are my cousins. c. Jaime and Louisa are my cousins also. d. Jaime and Louisa is my cousin. Answer: b 2. Identify the adverb in the following sentence. He did very well on his test. a. He b. Test c. Very d. Did Answer: c 3. Identify the pronoun in the following sentence. The students worked on their project. a. The b. Students c. Worked d. Their Answer: d

Spelling 1. Which is spelled correctly? a. Bracelet b. Bracelette c. Braselet d. Bracelett Answer: a 2. Which is spelled correctly? a. Mistacke b. Misstake c. Misteak d. Mistake Answer: d 3. Which is spelled correctly? a. Chockolate b. Chocolate c. Choccolate d. Chocolatte Answer: b

Science 1. Water freezes at____ degrees Fahrenheit a. 0 b. 52 c. 32 d. None of the above Answer: c 2. What causes condensation to form? a. An increase in air temperature b. A decrease in air temperature c. Melting ice d. None of the above Answer: b


May 12, 2013


â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;It feels never-endingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Teachers feel time pressure to help students succeed By Claudette Riley and Steve Pokin CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM SPOKIN@NEWS-LEADER.COM

Weller Elementary teacherShaylaBernelisarrives an hour before the first bell. Every day, she tries to â&#x20AC;&#x153;makeâ&#x20AC;? herself leave the school building by 5 p.m. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I could live in my classroom,â&#x20AC;? said Bernelis, of the school on North Weller Avenue.â&#x20AC;&#x153;Icouldalwaysbedoing more. It feels neverending. There is always organizing, creating new things, grading.â&#x20AC;? The constraints of a tight school day and an eventighterschoolyearrequire deft juggling and organization. The Springfield school districtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 170day year ends Thursday. Citing budget constraints, top district officials â&#x20AC;&#x201D; with the approval of the school board â&#x20AC;&#x201D; recently decreased the number of days children go to school. They reduced the calendar year from the state minimum of174 days to the current 170 days. It was a move permitted by a recent legislative change that shifted the focus from daystomaintainingatleast 1,044 hours of instruction to permit more flexibility. Gov. Jay Nixon, as part of his annual address in early 2013, called for a longer school year. Area school officials, including those in Springfield, acknowledged that a 180-day year would allow more time for learning and would benefit needy students. But they raised questions about whether

there was enough state funding to make it happen. While the state proposal stalled, Springfield elongated its calendar year at the high poverty Robberson Community School on KearneyStreetjustwestof National Avenue. The core 170 days are spread out, and intersession courses, lasting two or three weeks, are interjected to give children time to catch up or get ahead. The extra time was heralded as a way to give children more opportunities to succeed academically. It also expands the opportunities families have to access resources, through the school, that support the studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; learning.

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a callingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;

Teachers like Caitlin Lash at York are squeezed for time, offering up to six reading groups. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

In visiting classrooms, the News-Leader observed many teachers working through lunch, sometimes just getting a few bites in. During the time workers in many other professions head out to a restaurant or sit in a cafeteria, teachers follow up with a student, tweak a lesson plan or respond to emails from parents. They regularly work at home, stay late and come into the classroom over the weekend. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Teachingismorethana job, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a calling on your life,â&#x20AC;? said Maria Tate, a third-grade teacher at Watkins Elementary on West Talmage Street. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The reason I got involved is to make a difference in their lives.Beingabletoseeakid get something motivates me.â&#x20AC;? News-Leader reporters also noted classroom hel-

pers â&#x20AC;&#x201D; support staffers, parent volunteers and college students â&#x20AC;&#x201D; free up teacher time significantly. That time can be used to introduce a new lesson or to instruct individual students. In Tabitha Eutslerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s classroom at Jeffries Elementary, on South Scenic Avenue, an education student from Evangel University shows up on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Eutsler said the extra pair of hands is a big help.

Extra help is key Sarah Reynolds, from Evangel, answered studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; questions as Eutsler worked at a whiteboard. â&#x20AC;&#x153;They know that she is here. That is why there are more hand-raisers,â&#x20AC;? Eutsler said.

On days when Reynolds We give you a isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t scheduled to help in reason to... the large class of 27 students, it takes longer for Eutsler to get to all of the kidsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; questions. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I will tell them, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;No, I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t help you right now,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;? she said. New Patient Special Bernelis said she appreComplete Exam ciates having a paraprofes& X-Rays sional â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a trained teaching *Coupon not valid in conjunction with dental insurance. assistant â&#x20AC;&#x201D; in the classroom at the end of the day. She said itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s easier to work General Dentistry Invisalign Teen in small groups during New and Emergency Provider for Most math rotations. Patients Welcome Dental Insurances â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just that extra oneZoom Whitening Nitrous Oxide on-one support. At this timeoftheyear,wecanpinInvisalign available point our bubble students. They need just that little push (to) get where they need to be,â&#x20AC;? Bernelis said. Teresa Faye Morris DDS PC â&#x20AC;&#x153;We would have a big- (formerly Giving Back Dental) ger percentage of our stu- 3259 E. Sunshine, Suite K â&#x20AC;˘ 882.2444 dents working to their full potential.â&#x20AC;? General dental practice, not an orthodontist. Cosmetic dentistry is not a recognized specialty of the


American Dental Association.

Bills Continued from Page 1A

action on the floor is by voting no. Norr raised objections to omnibus bills, which become more common as the end of session approaches and attempt to address several issues at once. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been here five years, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like them,â&#x20AC;? Norr said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s odd that when they introduce a bill on the floor and it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t pass for whatever reason or it donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get assigned to the floor, next thing you know itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a hodge-podge on one bill. May be 100 pages, may be 300-400 pages, but nothing in the bill seems to be related.â&#x20AC;? Norr said he wants to see bills that create jobs, something that he said the General Assembly has not done enough of this session. In the Senate, Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, said he hopes to see tax credit reform move forward, but was not sure if it would happen. Dixon, who has advocated for comprehensive tax credit reform in the past, was still pleased

that benevolent credits were restored earlier in the session. There are several bills floating Bob Dixon around the legislature that deal with tax credits. Among the points of contention have been caps on historic preservation credits. A Senate bill passed earlier in the year set a much lower cap on the credits than a House tax credit bill. On another area of interest for Dixon, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, the senator sounded resigned to inaction for the year. This session, the committee has been working on an overhaul to the stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s criminal code. The code has not been significantly revised since the 1970s. The proposed overhaul calls for the creation of a new class of felony and a new class of misdemeanor among many other changes. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a 645-page bill and it has not been on the Senate floor yet. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no rush,â&#x20AC;? Dixon said.

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Teaching tailored to different ability levels

Some Nixa students wore Confederate flag T-shirts to last week’s school board meeting. RANCE BURGER/NEWS-LEADER

Nixa students challenge ban on Confederate flag A group of Nixa students walked into a school board meeting together Thursday night clad in black, the color of mourning. Their T-shirts bore Confederate flags across the chests with the slogan “heritage not hate,” in challenge of a policy enacted in the 1990s. The students stood in defiance in the mourning of Colby Snider, who died May 1, 2012, of carbon monoxide poisoning. His friends had planned to wear the shirts to school on the anniversary of his death but were told the shirts violated the dress code. Some wore the shirts anyway and were disciplined. Ozarks, 9A

Gunmen injure at least 19 at New Orleans parade Gunmen opened fire on dozens of people marching in a neighborhood Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans on Sunday, wounding at least 19 people. The FBI said the shooting appeared to be “street violence” and wasn’t linked to terrorism. At least three of the victims were seriously wounded. 3A

OTC commencement will pay tribute to veterans

By Steve Pokin

ONLINE NOW Like us on Facebook More than 11,300 Ozarkers keep track of our community through updates on the News-Leader’s Facebook page. To catch the latest headlines, participate in giveaways and interact with other locals, go to Scan the QR code to get there on your phone. Also, follow us on Twitter at

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Title I help for struggling learners is vital but limited


Veterans are being specially recognized at this year’s OTC commencement. The 65 veterans graduating Thursday will be wearing special red, white and blue honor cords designating their status. There are about 900 veterans enrolled at OTC. Campus Notes, 2A


Christopher Simmonds, right, Anabella Diaz and Tristan Bess are ready to answer a question in their reading group with teacher Tabitha Eutsler at Jeffries Elementary on March 7. Students are grouped according to their reading abilities. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER


ix different reading groups rotate through the six different reading stations. The classroom is jampacked with instructive wall hangings and teacher Tabitha Eutsler’s exuberance. Eutsler, 26, is a third-year teacher and a fountainhead of positivity: “Good job, buddy.” “Thanks, sweetie.” “Outstanding start this morning.” The reading abilities of her students range from below-grade-level (the middle of first grade) to ninth grade. The goal is fewer groups, with the poorer readers improving dramatically and the top readers improving incrementally. The practice of teaching students where they currently stand academically is a method used extensively within Springfield Public Schools. It is called differentiated instruction, and the district has focused on it more in recent years to help children who falter early to catch up quickly. What it means , for example, is that a teacher offers slightly different instruction to several different groups of students in her class. The students are clustered by reading ability even See ABILITIES, Page 4A


By Steve Pokin

Sunday: A key year. Are we doing enough for Springfield’s third-graders?

About 980 young children, struggling in math, reading or both, have received extra help this year through the Springfield Public Schools’ Title I program. Unfortunately, that represents only about one-third of the students in kindergarten through fifth grade who need the help in these core areas. There are 1,720 additional students who attend the district’s 20 Title I schools — 17 elementary and three middle schools — who are also below grade level in reading or math. But for them, there is not enough federal money to go around. In a form of educational triage, the students furthest behind and at greatest risk are served first. Once they complete an improvement program, only then are they replaced by other students, who also need help. “We are working with the most in-need stu-

Today: Children with vastly different skills levels in the same class. Educational “triage.” More elementary kids suspended. Inside: » Third grade a time of developmental milestones » Tips for parents Tuesday: Too many kids must deal with baggage: abuse, poverty, moving from school to school. How teachers help.

Mercy settles tax fight with Phelps County Agreement reached to lower taxable value of Rolla clinic’s equipment By Sarah Okeson SOKESON@NEWS-LEADER.COM

Settling a dispute over property values with Phelps County, Mercy has dropped its efforts to have most of the equipment at a Rolla clinic declared taxexempt. Because it had paid taxes under protest for two years, Mercy will receive a tax refund of about $207,137. A settlement agreement, dated April 30, lowers the taxable value of the equipment for 2010 by about 77 percent from about $4.9 million to about $1.1 million. The value of the equipment for 2011 was reduced by

about 59 percent, from about $3.6 million to $1.5 million. “I think it’s fair,” said Bill Wiggins, the assessor for Phelps County. Mercy spokeswoman Sonya Kullmann said Mercy, a nonprofit, had challenged the taxes on the grounds that the equipment was exempt from taxation. “Settling this matter enables both parties to avoid lengthy litigation and to focus on their respective purposes and goals of providing efficient quality service to the people of Phelps County and surrounding communities,” Kullmann said. Davis Haas, the Phelps County collector, said he plans to send Mercy the refund. Because Mercy had paid but chalSee MERCY, Page 6A


See TITLE I, Page 5A

Prognosis not good for higher ed construction funds By Steve Pokin SPOKIN@NEWS-LEADER.COM

It doesn’t appear lawmakers will approve a measure this legislative session that would allow Missouri voters to decide in the fall whether to OK $600 million for construction and other capital projects for higher education — including $44.8 million for a new life and sciences center at Missouri State University. The measure — called House Joint Resolution 14 — has been a priority for higher education officials for years, said Kathy Love, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Higher Education. But this year the push had bipartisan support. Sponsors are House Speaker Tim Jones, a Republican from Eureka, and

Chris Kelly, a Democrat from Columbia. There are 76 cosponsors. The resolution would ask Missouri voters to amend the Constitution to allow the state to sell $1.2 billion in bonds. This is typically how bond measures have been approved for higher education. The measure would fund other areas, as well, including no more than $100 million for the state capitol building project; no less than $40 million for public state parks and facilities; and no more than $20 million for public elementary and secondary schools. Even though the House approved the measure Thursday on a vote of 136 to 23, the overall prognosis isn’t good, said Rep. See CONSTRUCTION, Page 6A

4A Monday, May 13, 2013


Behavior problems can create distraction By Claudette Riley CRILEY@NEWS-LEADER.COM

In third grade, the most common classroom disruptions come from children who want to socialize when they’re supposed to be learning. Associate Superintendent Ben Hackenwerth said while the majority of incidents are minor, like refusing to follow directions or talking when they should be listening, there are times when “significant behavior problems” arise. “It varies so widely on the student and the teacher as to what the issues are,” he said. “We take the kids the way we get them and we try to do the best we can.” The Springfield school district doesn’t collect discipline data specifically for third grade, but between the 2002-03 and 2011-12 years, the number of elementary suspensions has doubled. Good behavior in a classroom is important because bad behavior can take the attention of the teacher, interrupt the learning for the student and distract his or her classmates. The Springfield school district collects and reports the overall number of in-school and out-of-school suspensions by school building and by a span of years — elementary, middle and high. It does not collect the data by specific classroom, grade level or student age. Most third-graders are age 8 or 9. Annual reports from the district show how suspensions have been on the rise at the elementary level. The 2011-12 report shows more than 2,200 suspensions — 1,550 in-school and 723 out-ofschool — that year in kindergarten through fifth grade. Five years earlier, the total elementary suspension tally was 1,772, and a decade earlier it was just 1,069. The Missouri Safe Schools Act, approved in the late 1990s, requires all school districts to collect and report all of the “serious violations” — such as weapons, assaults, drugs and thefts of $100 or more — but that isn’t broken out by grade level. The incidents that do happen tend to be at the middle and high school levels. Springfield’s current student handbook devotes more than 20 pages to discipline guidelines. It goes into specifics about a wide range of infractions and the discipline options each would trigger. For example, discipline the first time an elementary student gets into a fairly minor physical fight ranges from a conference with the student’s parent to three days of out-ofschool suspension. Hackenwerth, a former third-grade teacher, said many of the minor infractions that arise in that grade stem from the transitional nature of the year, as children exit the primary grades into the more independent upper grades. Some students struggle with having more options and freedom. “Third-graders are at a unique time,” he said, noting some have more self-control than others. “It can lend itself to students making the wrong decisions at the wrong time.” He said most of the disruptions happen outside of the classroom, when children are moving between classrooms, going to the bathroom or playing outside. There are fewer issues inside the class. “It would just be typical, offtask behavior,” he said.

Anabella Diaz, Addie Cummins and Tristan Bess read books while some of their classmates work with teacher Tabitha Eutsler at Jeffries Elementary. Every 15 minutes or so, the next group rotates in to work with the teacher. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

Abilities/Instruction method more labor-intensive for teacher Continued from Page 1A

if each contingent reads a different book and has different quizzes and tests. It requires teaching math to different groups using five different quizzes. A student’s group placement can change weekly, says Kathy Gross, the district’s director of professional learning, and the top students in one area are not necessarily the top students in another. By and large, differentiated instruction is more work for the teacher, Gross said. “No matter what kind of Students in Tabitha Eutsler’s class may read independently, as Quinten work you are doing, it may al- Johnson is doing, or they may read to each other or listen to books on ways be tempting to do the easi- a compact disc. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER er thing.”


Early warning In third grade, students are just as likely to skip to their desks as walk. They give spontaneous hugs. They wear shoes with twinkling red lights and hand teachers notes of admiration and affection crafted with great effort and perfect innocence. What they don’t know as 8and 9-year-olds is that if by the end of third grade they are not “at least a modestly skilled reader,” they are unlikely to graduate high school, according to a 2010 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation called “EARLY WARNING: Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters.” Not graduating from high school is a predictor for troubling consequences later in life, including unemployment and incarceration. “Our goal is for those kids to grow,” said Marty Moore, associate superintendent for educational services. The earlier, she said, the better. “Nationally, every successive year that a child is in school, it becomes more difficult to keep the student engaged,” she said. Gross said teachers are not assigned a set number of groups for differentiated learning. In general, teachers form groups where students happen to be clustered in abilities. Nevertheless, she said, four groups in a subject area is more common in the district than six. According to Gross, students are not always grouped by overall reading level. Because there are subcomponents to reading, such as comprehension, she

See a time-lapse video of differentiated instruction in a third-grade classroom

Third-grader Christopher Simmonds listens in class. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

struction — adding more groups — to a juggler acquiring greater prowess. “You first juggle one ball. Then you juggle two balls. You finally add the flaming batons,” she said. In the past, Moore said, young children who stumbled out of the educational gate were pigeonholed as slow learners, and little was done to help them get back in the race. “You stayed with your track,” she said. “It was a death sentence.”

said, students who read flawlessly but have no comprehension could be grouped with slower readers who also have little understanding of what they just read. But differentiated instruction benefits students — even “Go! Go! Go!” top students — because there is value in an environment that inIn Eutsler’s classroom, one cludes students of varying abil- group reads independently. In ities and backgrounds, she said. another, children read to each other. Two students don headphones to listen to a book on a “Death sentence” compact disc. Eventually, they rotate to the The district gives new teachers special instruction in their blue semicircular table, facefirst three years, in large part to to-face with Eutsler, where they retain them. In the first year the read and discuss their assignemphasis is classroom manage- ments. Each group has read a ment; in the second it is cooper- different book, one selected by ative learning; and in the third it Eutsler to challenge without overwhelming. is differentiated instruction. In the big picture, Eutsler Too many children can be left behind when teachers at- says, she would like to retire in tempt to teach to a common 30 years at Jeffries, which she middle in their classrooms, said once attended. “It is not as big as I rememMoore. In reality, children enter school at different levels of ber.” She switches easily from readiness to learn. If a child struggles early, it is counter- book to book, remembering productive to continue to teach which characters fit into which him or her at a level beyond plots. A boy admits he did not read his assignment. what they comprehend. “That makes me feel sad,” Moore compared a teacher’s mastery of differentiated in- she tells him.

Every 15 minutes or so, she calls for the next rotation. “I feel like I have to cut the students off,” Eutsler says later. “I feel like I am always moving them along. Fifteen to 17 minutes with each group. I’d like to have 25 to 30 minutes.” At Weller Elementary, teacher Shayla Bernelis has condensed her 23 third-graders into four reading groups. There had been five. She also has four math groups. When it’s time to focus their attention, she says “air” and they respond “guitar.” Her students are her “rock stars.” Bernelis, 26, also has a semicircular table where she meets with students. She glances at the clock and asks them how much time they need to complete their work. They show 10 fingers, as in 10 minutes. “You have five minutes,” she responds. “I have to meet with another group.” “Our time is very limited, work please,” she advises. “As much as I love you — I would love to sit here and chitchat — but you have work to do.” At Weaver Elementary, it might appear that first-year teacher Kyndal Phillips has given three separate spelling tests. Actually, there were four. Phillips has 21 third-graders. Some read at a second-grade level and one boy reads at the ninth-grade, ninth-month level — where the test maxes out, making it theoretically possible his level is even beyond that of a high school freshman. Her star reader forms a reading group unto himself. He correctly spells 24 of 25 words, including “bankrupt,” “interruption” and “attraction.” He misses “motivate.” The fourth spelling test is completed in silence. Her struggling readers sit at their desks and paste pictures of words such as “scarf” and “scale” under a column heading of “sc” — for the “sc” sound. At the beginning of the year, only 12 percent of her students read at grade level. In January, it was 42 percent. At the end of the day, Phillips, 25, meets with her Step Up coach, Curtis Cunningham, who mentors 40 new teachers in their first through third years. She tells him of the pressure she feels, “You get it in your head, ‘I’ve got to get this done. I’ve got to get this done. Go! Go! Go!’ There’s not enough time in the day.”

HOW WE DID IT To bring you this special report, we sent three reporters back to elementary school. The three spent about 80 hours — more than 10 school days — sitting in third-grade classrooms, observing and then following up with interviews. An editor, in hopes of better understanding the reporters’ challenge, spent about four hours with a teacher and third-grade students, too.

With the cooperation and help of Springfield Public Schools, we visited 11 elementary schools total. They were spread across the district. Additionally, before drawing any analytical conclusions, reporters spoke with about 35 adults, many of them teachers, and more than 20 third-graders. In addition, school experts and data and records provided by state and Springfield sources were used in this series.

ABOUT THE EVERY CHILD PROJECT More than a year ago, the NewsLeader launched a public service journalism project to focus public attention on critical challenges facing children, foster discussion and build on existing initiatives. Those challenges have included safety, health, poverty, social issues

and, as seen in this series of stories, education. The Every Child community advisory committee — with representatives from the business, government, education, nonprofit, law enforcement, health and faith sectors — played an important role along the way. They have educated, advised and participated in a search for solutions.


Monday, May 13, 2013


A time of milestones, test stress Third-graders developing mentally and physically By Steve Pokin SPOKIN@NEWS-LEADER.COM

There are rules to games. Other people actually have feelings. You don’t have to see and touch 10 plastic blocks to know what the number10 means. These are some of the developmental milestones reached by many children ages 8 and 9, when they are in third grade, according to two experts at Missouri State University. It’s a significant grade for children. For months, they hear of the importance of the statewide Missouri Assessment Program test, which is given in April. It is the first time they will take a MAP test. “That puts some stress on children,” said Sue George, interim associate dean of MSU’s College of Education. Her pupils studying to be teachers, she said, are well aware of the demands of third grade and are a “little nervous” when they hear they will be placed at

that level for student teaching. In third grade, children undergo not only mental development but significant physical development. During the school year, they can grow as much as 4 inches. “They are refining their physical development,” George said. “They start to understand the concept of teams and rules. You start seeing more and more sports leagues and teams. They have better skills. A 5-year-old will try to kick a soccer ball and miss. A 9year-old will kick it with accuracy. “And don’t ever take out a board game with kindergartners,” she added. “They just want to move the pieces in order to win. A third-grader would be more bothered by not following the rules.” Third-graders begin to realize that the world does not revolve around them. They first grasp the concept that others have different views and their feelings can be hurt, too. Peer groups are now important, she said. Previously, all that mattered was mom, dad and the teacher.

Jeffries Elementary third-grader Christopher Simmonds plays a math game in class. Third grade tends to be a time of transition to more abstract learning. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

While a boy in kindergarten has no qualms about crying in class, George said, in third grade most boys would be mortified to have their peers see those tears. Third-graders are transitioning from “concrete

learning” to “abstract learning.” A few years earlier, numbers were best understood with the assistance of, say, seven rocks to understand the number seven or 11 pieces of Duplo to understand the number 11.

Title I/Learning gap widens without intervention

An early gap The gap between what some students know and what others don’t know is stunningly apparent at the kindergarten level, Hubbard says. Some children have never been read to, he says. “There are kids that grow up in rich environments and then there are kids that arrive at school as if they grew up in a cave,” he says. This early gap, which also affects classroom behavior, will widen with each passing year without intervention, he says. Lori Benham is a Title I reading interventionist at Robberson Community School. At the beginning of the year, she says, first-graders are tested for reading skills, and the poorest readers are placed in Reading Recovery. Reading Recovery and Math Recovery are the most intense Title I programs. They offer oneon-one help with a reading or math specialist 30

The percentage of Springfield students qualifying for free and reduced school lunches has skyrocketed over the past 10 years. 60 54.3% 50

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dents,” says Brian Hubbard, director of Title I programs for the district. “We do not have as much support as we would like.” For Title I, a federal program, the future is not bright. The district took a $900,000 cut in funding this year out of a Title I budget of $7.46 million. With federal sequestration, Hubbard says, funding will get worse before it gets better. Title I is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. It was created to distribute funds to schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families. Title I programs target students who are at risk academically despite their classroom teachers’ best efforts. Individual principals work with Hubbard to determine the best use of Title I funds at each school. In Springfield, Title I resources focus on reading more than math and on first grade more than other lower grades. The goal is to bring students up to grade level as soon in their educational career as possible. “I feel that intervention early is a great investment,” Hubbard says.

More students qualify for free and reduced lunches

Rate of students enrolled in free and reduced lunch rate (%)

Continued from Page 1A


FACTS ABOUT TITLE I SCHOOLS The district has 20 Title I schools: 17 elementary and three middle. All 20 have a literacy coach, who works with classroom teachers, and at least one reading interventionist, who works with students. Across the district, there are 32.5 reading interventionists. There are also five math coaches and 7.2 math interventionists.

minutes a day, five days a week, at the first-grade level. Typically, it’s four readers who are selected for Reading Recovery. This year, Benham says, it’s five. Every January she picks up a new group. “These are kids who have just not gotten it in kindergarten,” Benham says. She meets with them for up to 20 weeks. The students are not pulled from reading in their regular classroom. “We want them out of the program in 12-20 weeks,” Benham says. The goal is to boost them to grade level and return them to the classroom, with follow-up, so other children can reap the rewards of the program. Some years, all of her students reach grade level in reading. In other years, maybe 40 percent do. The greatest variable is mobility, she says. Often, the children aren’t in her program long enough to have a shot at success. They move three or four times a year because their parents move. For one boy Benham is working with, Robberson is his 10th school this year. For the 2011-12 school year, the most recent for

Reading Recovery data, children who completed the program improved 16.5 text levels in reading during the year, according to Hubbard. A text level is a measure of reading ability. By comparison, all first-graders at Title I schools improved 6.5 text levels, as did first-graders districtwide. It should be noted that students in the Reading Recovery program started at a lower level than other firstgraders. The district’s goal for all first-graders was to end the year at a text level of at least 16.0. Those who completed Reading Recovery ended at a 17.3 level, slightly lower than the district score of 17.8. Benham and the other reading interventionist at Robberson also meet with struggling readers in groups, at times in the classroom as contingents go from station to station as part of differentiated instruction. That’s where students with similar academic abilities are clustered in groups to receive instruction geared to their current abilities. Last year at Robberson, Benham says, the reading interventionists worked with kindergarten through fourth grade. This year it was scaled back to grades K-3. Due to cuts in Title I funding, the school lost a reading interventionist.

Focused help Gwen Douglas, Weller Elementary’s Title I literacy coach, works closely with classroom teachers. On this particular March day, she hands out Sour Patch Bunnies to thirdgraders in teacher Shayla Bernelis’ class. Douglas

asks the children to use four words to describe how the candy feels. To describe something, she tells them, you paint a picture in words. When it’s time for the Sour Patch Bunnies taste test, she asks for four more descriptive words. “Sour!” a student shouts with startling volume. “Oh my goodness,” Douglas responds. Marty Moore, associate superintendent of educational services, says reading specialists have made great strides in pinpointing why some children struggle to read. In the past, if a child was a poor reader the solution often was simply to assign more reading, which frequently didn’t help. “We have gotten much better at connecting the ability with the skill,” she says. A child, for example, might not know how to “infer” the meaning of an unknown word by reviewing the context. So instead of slowing down to look for clues, the child continues reading with little comprehension. Casey Vandeventer, a Title I math interventionist at Bissett Elementary, works one-on-one with first-graders in the Math Recovery program. “Our goal is to fill in the gaps, something they are not going to get in the classroom because they are gaps that occurred before first grade,” she says. She also works with student groups in grades K-5. “I feel we are real successful here,” she says. “There are a lot of systems in place to figure out why they are struggling.” A common problem is an inability to count backward because the child skips numbers that end in zero, such as 20, 30 or 40. Such a child, for example, would backtrack from 41 to 39, skipping 40. “The younger they are when we correct it, the more easily it sticks,” she said. “But it does not stick without repetition.” Of course, Vandeventer would love to have more Title I math resources. “There are five math coaches in our district,” she says. “I think we all know how vital math is for course work in the future. I’d love to see it focused equally with literacy.”

“Most of them have moved away from having blocks in front of them and can abstractly know what 10 means,” George said. Nevertheless, you still see some third-graders counting fingers during math tests, she said.

Some have a particularly hard time leaving the concrete-learning stage, said Denise Cunningham, an associate professor of childhood education and family studies. Not only do they use fingers, but they need to touch their face with each finger for a tactile understanding of the number. Third grade is also a time when children, feeling a new independence, often overstep that budding confidence. “They can sometimes come across as a know-itall because they finally feel comfortable about what they are able to do,” Cunningham said. “And yet they are very critical of themselves. They are finally able to take a look at themselves and evaluate their performance.” They are surprisingly perceptive. When students are assigned to reading groups, for example, as part of differentiated instruction, they have a good sense of where they stand among classmates. “You don’t have to tell kids who the smart ones in the classroom are,” Cunningham said. “They know.”

Parents can help nurture learning By Jackie Rehwald JREHWALD@NEWS-LEADER.COM

Experts offered some tips for parents who are trying to ensure their children have a successful third grade. » If your child is struggling, communicate with the teacher. If you have a question about a specific piece of homework or an entire subject area, the teacher can offer specific advice and ways to help. The teacher will also have information about other services or programs that might be available for your child. » Be involved with the school. Read the newsletters your child brings home. Attend any parent meetings hosted by the school. Springfield Title I schoolshavequarterlyParent Involvement meetings where parents learn strategies to do at home with their child, about upcoming assessments, activities and available services. Non-Title I schools have similar parent meeting nights. » If you feel your child needs additional services, contact the school. “Every (Springfield) school has consistent safety nets in place, but they are different at each school. It’s important for parents to find out what their options are,” said Brian Hubbard, Title I director with Springfield Public Schools. “The most important thing is to communicate with the school. If a parent notices something that they think is a concern, time is of the essence. We should all have a sense of urgency when it comes to our children’s education.” » Establish a homework routine. Establish a homework nook in a well-lit area of your home. Keep it stocked with supplies: paper, pencils, glue, scissors. » If your child is growing frustrated and appears to be stuck, realize it might be time for a break, said Kristen Fischer, center director at Sylvan Learning Center. “When they get home from school, feed them something healthy. Let them go outside and run around. Then they can come in and work,” she said. » Don’t do the work for your child. Talk to the teacher about how much

parental help is appropriate or expected for the assignment. “Every family goes through it: You’ve got a science fair project that is due and sometimes the parent just takes over. But is that really helping the child? No,” Hubbard said. » Talk to your child about numbers: explain what you are doing when she sees you comparing prices at the grocery store or using a debit card. Cooking dinner is an excellent opportunity for your child to practice using fractions, time and measurements. » Read to and with your child every day. Sing songs. Recite rhymes. If your child is learning to read, label items around the house. Teach your child to look for patterns. “With my kids, we’d be sitting in a restaurant. I would take out three or four different colored sugar and sweetener packets. And I would start a pattern: pink, white, yellow,” Hubbard recalled. “I’d ask them, ‘What comes next?’ ” » Don’t let learning come to a halt during summer break. » Spend the day at Dickerson Park Zoo, the Discovery Center or the Butterfly House at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park. Visit the library. Take a day trip to the Magic House St. Louis Children’s Museum or Kaleidoscope at the Crown Center in Kansas City. » Sign your child up for summer school or summer camp. “Kids lose two-thirds of what they have learned over the summer if they do absolutely no educational activities,” Fischer said. » If you have an elementary student a grade level behind in reading, or a middle school student a grade level behind in reading or math, they can qualify for the Extended Learning Program at Springfield Public Schools. This enrichment program provides the child with 30 hours of intensive services. Parents are notified by the school if their child qualifies but are under no obligation to send their child. Sources: SPS Extended Learning Coordinator Nate Quinn; SPS Title I Director Brian Hubbard; and Kristen Fischer, director at Sylvan Learning Center.



TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2013 § SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI § NEWS-LEADER.COM § A GANNETT COMPANY Vernon Hugh Bowman, 75, an Indiana soybean farmer, speaks Feb. 19 with reporters outside the Supreme Court. AP FILE

Supreme Court rules for Monsanto in seed dispute

Life worries can hinder learning

The Supreme Court came down overwhelmingly on the side of agribusiness giant Monsanto on Monday in a case that’s bound to resonate throughout the biotechnology industry. The court ruled unanimously that an Indiana farmer violated Monsanto’s patent on genetically modified soybeans when he culled some from a grain elevator and used them to replant his own crop in future years. 4B

Two women charged in downtown assault A victim in a violent, unprovoked downtown attack says one attacker made a racial remark during the beating. Two of three women suspected in the Springfield attack could face as many as 30 years in prison. Springfield police say a couple was jumped by the three women about 2:30 a.m. April 21 just outside the College Station parking garage. Ozarks, 1B

Bill requiring consent for union dues goes to Nixon Gov. Jay Nixon must now decide whether to sign a bill requiring public employee unions to obtain annual written permission from workers before taking dues out of paychecks. The bill sent to Nixon on Monday applies only to public employees, such as state workers. 3A

Maria Tate feels third-grader Isabella Petersen’s forehead at Watkins Elementary. Tate encourages her students to check worries at the door and let school be their “safe place.” VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

District takes holistic approach to teaching at-risk children By Claudette Riley

Fire blamed on cigarette


Park Central West was closed to traffic Monday afternoon as Springfield Fire Department crews responded to a fire in a vacant building. A fire official said the cause was an improperly discarded cigarette. Ozarks, 1B


hird-grade teacher Maria Tate can’t erase the worries that follow her students to

class. They may be stressed about having enough food to eat, enough clean clothes that fit, a way to get to and from school every day and a safe place to sleep. She just asks that they

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Children who enter kindergarten ready to learn are more likely to be on track by the critical third-grade year. Springfield Associate Superintendent Ben Hackenwerth said children who start off without the social, emotional and basic academic skills to be successful are already behind many of their peers. They are then faced with making up significant ground in the primary years so they can make the transition — from learning to read to using reading to learn — by the end of third grade. “There is no doubt that a student that ... comes to kindergarten ready to learn is going to probably be a year ahead of someone who comes in and is not ready for school, socially or academically,” he said. Hackenwerth said it can take kindergarten teachers an entire semester to acclimate a child to the expectations and the routines of kin-

dergarten — time that could be spent in other ways. “So we’ve already lost a semester that we could have been working Ben Hackenwerth with a student in those formative years. You can’t hardly ever get it back. That’s the challenge,” he said. “That window we have to work with is narrow, and the loss of even a semester takes years of catching up.” One out of every five Springfield children is “not prepared” when entering kindergarten, according to the 2010 study by the Mayor’s Commission for Children. Springfield Superintendent Norm Ridder said expectations for children, from kindergarten through grade 12, are on the rise. They have been raised by the demands of global economy and higher state and fed-

THIRD GRADE PROJECT » Sunday: A key year. Are we doing enough for Springfield’s thirdgraders? Monday: Children with vastly different skill levels in the same class. Educational “triage.” More elementary kids suspended. Today: Too many kids must deal with baggage: abuse, poverty, moving from school to school. How teachers help. Inside: » Parents can also be stars, or not, at school » How to help

See PREPARE, Page 5A


Springfieldpolicecontinueto investigate more than 50 incidents of property damage after nabbing two suspects who allegedly confessed not only to the vandalism but also to stealing. Randy A. Moore, 21, and Ira C. Boyd,19, are accused of five separate incidents in which BB’s were shot at windows of businesses and vehicles. Authorities expect more charges to follow as they track four weeks’ worth of damage. Randy A. Both men were Moore charged Friday. According to the probable cause statements in the case, both men admitted driving around Springfield shooting BB guns into the windows of local busi- Ira Boyd nesses, including downtown clothing shop Modern Society and the Battlefield Mall’s Sears location. The young men also admitted shooting out the windows of vehicles to see if there was anything worth stealing inside. Some of the stolen items included textbooks that the men sold to bookstores, the probable cause statement said. Police found them after surveillance camera footage showed the license plate of the vehicle Moore drove through a downtown parking garage. Both Moore and Boyd are charged with five charges each: threecountsoffirst-degreefelony property damage and two counts of first-degree felony tampering with a motor vehicle. A third person mentioned in the documents is a juvenile and was not charged in the adult criminal system.

Abortion doctor found guilty of murder By Maryclaire Dale ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHILADELPHIA — An abortion doctor was convicted Monday of first-degree murder and could face execution in the deaths of three babies who were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his grimy, “house of horrors” clinic. Kermit In a case that be- Gosnell came a grisly flashpoint in the nation’s abortion debate, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the overdose death of an abortion patient. He was cleared in the death of a fourth baby, who prosecutors say let out a whimper before the doctor cut the spinal cord. Gosnell, who portrayed himself as an advocate for poor and desperate women in an impover-




See WORRIES, Page 5A

Early preparation makes a difference By Claudette Riley


check those worries at the door. “I encourage them every day to let this be their safe place. Let this be the place that doesn’t change,” Tate said. “...This is their refuge. You’ve got to tell them that, but you have to back it up every day.” More than half of Springfield students straddle the poverty line, and it’s higher — three out of every five — at the elementary level. Teachers like Tate know that home-life worries, left unchecked, can disrupt the stu-

dents’ ability to learn. “I know all of them have some kind of situation at home,” she said. Associate Superintendent Ben Hackenwerth said teachers and support staff have long acknowledged that in order to teach at-risk children, the district must take a holistic approach. That means often, before a child can learn, his or her basic needs must first be met. “Our core mission is really to get these students through to graduation so they can become productive members of the community,” said Hackenwerth. “Getting there is broad work, and it’s

BB gun vandals also stole, police say

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At school: Parents can also star — or fail Parents’ involvement in their kids’ success isn’t always a given By Steve Pokin

Abortion Continued from Page 1A

ished West Philadelphia neighborhood, appeared hopeful before the verdict was read and calm afterward. The jury reached its verdict on its 10th day of deliberations. It will return May 21 to hear evidence on whether Gosnell should get the death penalty. Gosnell attorney Jack McMahon called it a “very difficult case” to defend and said there was “a little bit of feeling on the defense part of what salmon must feel swimming upstream.” “There’s a lot of emotion. You have the baby factor, which is a big problem. The media has been overwhelmingly against him,” he said. But noting that Gosnell was cleared on some of the charges, McMahon said the jurors “obviously took their job seriously.” Prosecutors looked elated, but District Attorney Seth Williams declined to comment until after the sentencing phase, citing a gag order. Former clinic employees testified that Gosnell routinely performed illegal abortions past Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit, that he delivered babies who were still moving, whimpering or breathing, and that he and his assistants dispatched the newborns by “snipping” their spines, as he referred to it. “Are you human?” prosecutor Ed Cameron snarled during closing arguments. “To med these women up and stick knives in the backs of babies?” Gosnell was also convicted of infanticide, rack-

Here are groups working with Springfield Public Schools to help needy children: » Care to Learn, 411 N. Sherman Parkway. Provides emergency services in the areas of health, hunger and hygiene. For more information, call 862-7771. » Cents of Pride. Operates school “stores” filled with volunteers and donated items, works to teach life skills, reinforce good behavior and boost self-esteem. For more information, call Kim Acuff at 830-7011. » Springfield Council of PTA Clothing Bank and an Ozark Empire Kiwanis Club shoe bank behind Bailey Alternative High, 501 W. Central St. Eligible students can pick up a voucher from their schools to shop at the clothing and shoe bank.


Parental involvement is crucial to a child’s success in elementary school. Not only must parents monitor and help with homework, they have to be a stable enforcer of bedtime in the evening and out-the-door time in the morning. At some schools, engaged parents are part of the culture. It’s the norm. At others, it’s the exception. Mary Kay McMullin has taught at Wanda Gray Elementary 23 years. She was in her second year when the now 30-foot-tall evergreens were planted along the property line. She has 100 percent turnout at parent-teacher conferences. Married couples show up, as do divorced couples, either individually or together. She thinks long and hard before asking parents for supplies in the weekly newsletter she sends home. “I have to be careful what I ask for because I get so much of it,” she says. “I never have to worry about having enough pencils and glue sticks. I know that it is not like that at every school.” McMullin relies heavily on parents. She has developed her own supplemental instruction program. It relies on the involvement and cooperation of parents. Students must complete regular takehome work in reading and math that focuses on where the student currently stands academically. “For every student, they each have their own book bag,” she says. “They have three to four books that they can read at their own level. I know these books.” She says teaching has changed. “Now, it is not just teaching, it is all the technology, the


» One Sole Purpose, 900 N. Eastgate Ave. Provides new shoes to low-income children in Springfield’s high poverty elementary schools. For more information, call 2993998. » Springfield Public Schools’ Underprivileged School Children’s Fund, 1359 E. St. Louis St. Assists needy district students with vision exams, glasses, medical services, school supplies, clothing and shoes. For more information, call 523-1630. » Ozarks Food Harvest’s Weekend Backpack Program, 2810 N. Cedarbrook Ave. Provides severely at-risk students with nutritious weekend meals. For more information, call 865-3411.

Mary Kay McMullin, a longtime Wanda Gray Elementary teacher, has 100 percent turnout at parent-teacher conferences. At other schools, that’s not the case. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

“This year I have had a lot more parent involvement than I have had in the past. More parents come to our events and to our parties, like our Valentine’s Day party.” SHAYLA BERNELIS Third-grade teacher at Weller Elementary School

SMART Board. It is now electronically driven. That is an additional responsibility as a teacher. ... It takes a lot of time for a beginning teacher. That is overwhelming. It is still overwhelming for me, and I am not a beginning teacher.” Parental involvement is a rarer commodity elsewhere, particularly at Title I schools, where many students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. Wanda Gray is not a Title I school. Weaver Elementary is. Kyndal Phillips, as a teacher, is expected to meet with all parents at conferences. “I had about eight that did not show,” she says. “Eight

eteering and more than 200 counts of violating Pennsylvania’s abortion laws by performing third-term abortions or failing to counsel women 24 hours in advance. The courtroom was locked for more than 30 minutes as the verdicts were read and the jurors polled one by one. His co-defendant, former clinic employee Eileen O’Neill, was convicted of taking part in a corrupt organization and illegally billing for her services as if she were a licensed doctor. The jury foreman let out a big sigh before the verdicts were read and looked stressed. Another juror was seen crying. The gruesome details came out more than two years ago during an investigation of prescription drug trafficking at Gosnell’s clinic. Investigators said it was a foul-smelling “house of horrors” with bags and bottles of fetuses, including jars of severed feet, along with bloodstained furniture, dirty medical instruments and cats roaming the premises. Pennsylvania authorities had failed to conduct routine inspections of all its abortion clinics for 15 years by the time Gosnell’s facility was raided. In the scandal’s aftermath, two top state health officials were fired, and Pennsylvania imposed tougher rules for clinics. Four former clinic employees pleaded guilty to murder and four more to other charges. They include Gosnell’s wife, Pearl, a cosmetologist who helped perform abortions. Both sides in the highly charged abortion debate endorsed the verdict. “This has helped more people realize what abortion is really about,” said

that I had to hunt them down in their cars.” She rushed outside as they waited in the car line to pick up their child at day’s end. She chatted briefly with the parent, got the necessary paper signed and called it a meeting. “I do not want to sound mean,” she says. “But typically, if they are the ones that have missed the parentteacher conference, it is typically because they do not — now, how do I put this nicely? — because it is not a top priority for them. They sign the paper and they go.” Phillips said she knows the obstacles many of her third-

graders at Weaver face by what they write and what they tell her. “Things that you could never imagine. Things from, oh gosh, cleanliness to conditions in the house, parental issues as far as abuse. It gets a lot worse, but you probably don’t want me to say those things.” Shayla Bernelis, at Weller Elementary, has not only met the parents of her third-graders as they waited in the car line, but she has journeyed to their homes to fulfill her obligation. “This year I have had a lot more parent involvement than I have had in the past,” she says. “More parents come to our events and to our parties, like our Valentine’s Day party.” Kyle McKinney, 25, is in his third year of teaching at Portland Elementary. His students are third-graders. “It is extremely difficult in this school to get parental involvement,” he says. “It depends on the year. This has been a tough year for that. “It is kind of like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ ”

Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks Monday at the courthouse in Philadelphia. MATT ROURKE/AP

David O’Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee. He said he hopes the case results in more states passing bills that prohibit abortion “once the unborn child can feel pain.” Supporters of legalized abortion said the case was a preview of what poor, desperate young women could face if abortion is driven underground with more restrictive laws. “Kermit Gosnell has been found guilty and will get what he deserves. Now, let’s make sure these women are vindicated by delivering what all women deserve: access to the full range of health services including safe, high-quality and legal abortion care,” said Ilyse G. Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Midway through the six-week trial, anti-abortion activists accused the mainstream media of deliberately ignoring the case. Major news organizations denied it, though a number promptly sent reporters to cover the trial. About 30 reporters were in court for the verdict. After prosecutors rested their five-week case,

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart threw out for lack of evidence three of seven murder counts involving aborted fetuses. That left the jury to weigh charges involving fetuses identified as Baby A, Baby C, Baby D and Baby E. Prosecution experts said one was nearly 30 weeksalongwhentheabortion took place and was so big that Gosnell allegedly joked the baby could “walk to the bus.” A second baby was said to be alive for about 20 minutes before a clinic worker snipped the neck. A third was born in a toilet and was moving before another clinic employee severed the spinal cord, according to testimony. Baby E let out a whimper before Gosnell cut the neck, prosecutors alleged. Gosnell was acquitted in that baby’s death, the only one of the four in which no one testified to seeing the baby killed. Gosnell’s attorney argued that none of the fetuses was born alive and that any movements were posthumous twitching or spasms. Gosnell did not testify, and his lawyer called no witnesses in his defense.

» Isabel’s House, crisis nursery of the Ozarks, 2750 W. Bennett St. Provides immediate refuge for children whose families are in crisis. For more information, call 8652273. » Crosslines, 1710 E. Chestnut Expressway. Provides emergency assistance to lowincome families. For more information, call 869-0563. » The Kitchen Inc., 1630 N. Jefferson Ave. Services include medical and dental services, housing, food, counseling, health care, education, youth services, clothing, advocacy, life skills and homelessness prevention. For more information, call 837-1500. » The Salvation Army, 1701 W. Chestnut Expressway. Provides emergency assistance to the homeless, indigent or transient; Kid’s Cafe feeding program, emergency food pantry, help with utilities and Frontline Feeding Program. For more information, call 862-5509 » United Way of the Ozarks, 320 N. Jefferson Ave. Provides funding and support for numerous programs that work directly with needy children and families. For more information, call 863-7700. » Community Foundation of the Ozarks , 425 E. Trafficway. Provides funding and support for numerous programs that work directly with needy children and families. For more information, call 864-6199. » Community Partnership of the Ozarks, 330 N. Jefferson Ave. Provides social workers and other support to work directly with needy children and families. For more information, call 888-2020.

But McMahon branded prosecutors “elitist” and “racist” for pursuing his client, who is black and whose patients were mostly poor minorities. “I wanted to be an effective, positive force in the minority community,” Gosnell told The Philadelphia Daily News in a 2010 interview. “I believe in the long term I will be vindicated.” The defense also contended that the 2009 death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar of Woodbridge, Va., a Bhutanese immigrant who had been given repeated doses of Demerol and other powerful drugs to sedate her and induce labor, was caused by unforeseen complications and did not amount to murder, as prosecutors charged. Bernard Smalley, a lawyer for the woman’s family, said he now hopes to bring “some sense of justice and

quiet to this family that’s been through so much.” Gosnell still faces federal drug charges. Authorities said that he ranked third in the state for OxyContin prescriptions and that he left blank prescription pads at his office and let staff members make them out to cash-paying patients. He performed thousands of abortions over a 30-year career, some on patients as young as 13. Authorities said the medical practice alone netted him about $1.8 million a year, much of it in cash. Authorities found $250,000 hidden in a bedroom when they searched his house. Gosnell also owned a beach home and several rental properties. “He created an assembly line with no regard for these women whatsoever,” Cameron said. “And he made money doing that.”

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SPRINGFIELD’S CHILDREN Key statistics about local children reported during the News-Leader’s Every Child public service journalism project, which started more than a year ago. » Two out of every five Greene County fam-

that straddle the poverty line.

ilies with children under age 18 live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. It jumps to nearly half when the family has a child under age 5.

» One in three children is obese or overweight before the fifth birthday. In Missouri, 14 percent of children age 2 to 4 years old are obese. Obese children are more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

» 30 percent of children in foster care in Greene County in 2011 were children from newborns to 3 years of age. Kids ages 4 to 7 made up 23 percent of the children in foster care. Kids ages 8 to 12 made up 20 percent.

Watkins third-grade teacher Maria Tate helps Ryan Raaphorst with a lesson on March 21. Tate says that while she understands students have worries, she doesn’t let stress become a reason not to excel. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

Worries/Educators get to know kids, avoid assumptions Continued from Page 1A

not just the academic piece. It’s trying to mitigate some of the barriers that they may face.” Greene County has consistently ranked high in the state in cases of child abuse and neglect, poverty has been on the rise and the school district noted a record number of homeless students this year. That requires the school district to become a vital link between the child’s family and needed resources in the community. The extra help can often be accessed directly through the school building or through referrals. More than a year ago, Superintendent Norm Ridder created the Kids First committee, which regularly brings together representatives from more than 40 organizations serving children. It has worked to prioritize the greatest issues facing children and then look for ways to fill gaps and eliminate overlaps in services. Hackenwerth said teachers make a concerted effort to identify specific help each child might need. “Teachers have to become skilled observers of students’ behaviors to try and identify whether or not there’s a problem that they otherwise wouldn’t know about,” Hackenwerth said. “They may be acting out. As opposed to just responding to the way they’re acting, we get to the root of what’s bothering them, what’s causing them to feel this way.” Tate, who teaches at Watkins Elementary on Talmage Street in northwest Springfield, starts by not making assumptions. She knows connecting with each child is critical to being able to teach reading, writing and math. “I take as much time as I need to get to know them,” she said. She said it’s also important that she is clear on her role and the high expectations she has of students. While she un-

» More than half of Springfield students qualify for free or discounted lunch prices because their family’s income is low. That rate has skyrocketed in just 15 years, going from 33.6 percent to 52.9 percent. » In 2010, there were 506 children found to be neglected or abused in Greene County. Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, volunteers only had the resources that year to help 232. » In Springfield public schools, the most common chronic health conditions are asthma (about 3,000 kids); ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (about 2,000 kids); and diabetes (about 100 children). » One out of every five local children is “not

Tabitha Eutsler talks with Malachi Sutherland in her third-grade class at Jeffries Elementary. The principal at her school stresses that each child should be viewed and treated as an individual. VALERIE MOSLEY/NEWS-LEADER

PER-STUDENT SPENDING While breaking out spending for just third grade would be nearly impossible, Springfield Public Schools annually reports spending — by school — based on daily attendance. For the 2011-12 year, the district’s annual spending per student was $8,495. The amount varies by school based on a lot of factors including the size of building, enrollment and extra services needed. Here is a look at the average per student spending by elementary school: » Bingham ................... $8,559 » Pershing .................... $8,081 » Bissett ........................ $8,713

» Pittman ...................... $8,683

» Bowerman ................ $9,463

» Pleasant View .......... $6,768

» Boyd .......................... $8,923

» Portland .................... $8,764

» Campbell ................ $10,299

» Robberson ................ $8,950

» Cowden ................... $11,464

» Rountree ................... $8,428

» Delaware ................ $14,075

» Sequiota .................... $7,818

» Disney ........................ $7,484

» Sherwood ................. $7,926

» Field ........................... $7,436

» Sunshine ................... $9,482

» Fremont ..................... $8,812

» Truman ...................... $9,664

» Gray ........................... $7,706

» Twain ......................... $8,468

» Harrison .................... $6,968

» Watkins ..................... $8,248

» Hickory Hills ............. $6,382

» Weaver ...................... $8,626

» Holland ................... $10,760

» Weller ........................ $8,880

» Jeffries ....................... $7,273

» Westport ................... $8,708

» Mann ......................... $8,460

» Wilder ........................ $8,686

» McBride ..................... $7,192

» Williams .................. $10,456

» McGregor ................. $9,208

» York ............................ $8,415

derstands they have worries, she doesn’t want those extra stresses to be an excuse not to excel. “I really don’t need to be their friend. I will be friendly with them. I will be someone they can trust and will be the stable person in their world,” she said. “But I don’t worry if they like me.” Courtney Becker, a third-grade teacher at

Field Elementary not far from Battlefield Mall, has worked in both highand low-poverty schools. She said there are low-income children in every school building; some just have more. But, among children who have a more secure home and family setting, she finds there’s “a disproportionate rate of ‘I am free to be a child because all of my needs are

met.’” Becker said third grade is a critical year and families with high mobility — which can result in a child moving to multiple schools in a year — can give a child a shaky educational footing. “We call it a Swiss cheese education — the mobility. You move around and your foundation has these big holes in it,” she said. Liz Cooper, principal of Jeffries Elementary on South Scenic Avenue, said teachers combat the uncertainty that stress and high mobility can bring by reaching out to each child. As children come in, they are given a “fresh start” and staff look for any needs that must be addressed. “Our teachers are the ones providing intervention,” she said. “We’ve been able to build a team of educators that love students no matter their circumstances.” Cooper said connecting with parents and building partnerships between the teacher and family is critical to the success of the child. “We’ve kept our arms open to parents,” she said. She said it’s important that each child be viewed and treated as an individual. “We never want to assume what a child needs,” she said.

prepared” for kindergarten, a 2010 study by the Mayor’s Commission for Children showed. That number is even higher among children in families

With the cooperation and help of Springfield Public Schools, we visited 11 elementary schools total. They were spread across the district. Additionally, before drawing any analytical conclusions, reporters spoke with about 35 adults, many of them teachers, and more than 20 thirdgraders. In addition, school experts and data and records provided by state and Springfield sources were

used in this series.

ABOUT THE EVERY CHILD PROJECT More than a year ago, the NewsLeader launched a public service journalism project to focus public attention on critical challenges facing children, foster discussion and build on existing initiatives. Those challenges have included

» Of the 2,200 4-year-olds living in Springfield, an estimated 400 to 500 don’t access preschool programs because their families don’t qualify for public programs — which have strict guidelines — or they lack the funding or transportation to access high-quality private programs. » By mid-year, the Springfield district had already identified a record 517

homeless students in its classrooms. That number was higher than the end-of-year totals in previous years. » In 2010, CASA of Southwest Missouri helped 92 children ages 0 to 5 years. Eighty children served by CASA were from 6 to 11 years old. Forty were 12 to 15 years old.

Substantiated incidents of child abuse Though substantiated incidents of child abuse have been declining since 2004, both Missouri and Greene County saw slight increases in 2010. 8,000 7,000


Incidents in Missouri

500 400

6,000 5,000

Incidents in Greene County 338




4,291 200

3,000 2,000


1,000 0

‘04 ‘05 ‘06 ‘07 ‘08 ‘09 ‘10


‘04 ‘05 ‘06 ‘07 ‘08 ‘09 ‘10


Prepare Continued from Page 1A

eral accountability measures. He said the effort to better prepare students for college and careers has spurred an increase in what they need to know and be able to do in every grade. “The rigor has really moved down into the system as far as expectations and knowledge level and being able to not only communicate and relate but also have a pretty good knowledge base and be

HOW WE DID IT To bring you this special report, we sent three reporters back to elementary school. The three spent about 80 hours — more than 10 school days — sitting in third-grade classrooms, observing and then following up with interviews. An editor, in hopes of better understanding the reporters’ challenge, spent about four hours with a teacher and third-grade students, too.

» Concentration of poverty is at 80 percent or higher at one-third of the district’s 36 elementary schools. Even at more affluent schools like Kickapoo High and Gray Elementary, where the percentage was tiny a decade or so ago, one out of every five students is now low-income.

safety, health, poverty, social issues and, as seen in this series of stories, education. The Every Child community advisory committee — with representatives from the business, government, education, nonprofit, law enforcement, health and faith sectors — played an important role along the way. They have educated, advised and participated in a search for solutions.

able to reason much earlier in life,” he said. “... To be able to be prepared for a career as well as college readiness, you’re going to need to be able to read and write at a much earlier age.” Denise Bredfeldt, executive director of the Mayor’s Commission for Children, said children deserve to have the early childhood experiences — at home or in public, private or faith-based preschool programs — that will set them up for success in school. “It’s just giving kids a chance in today’s world,” she said.

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