Caruthersville school leaders make changed with Turnaround Project - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Caruthersville school leaders make changed with Turnaround Project

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By Christy Hendricks - email

CARUTHERSVILLE, MO (KFVS) - Several Heartland education leaders take steps to turn around their schools.

Administrators from Caruthersville, Kennett, Hayti, Senath-Hornersville, and Charleston recently took a trip to the University of Virgina to participate in a school Turnaround Project.

It's all part of a pilot program for underperforming schools in Missouri.

The program is designed to make big changes that create fast results.

Caruthersville school leaders say they've put a plan in place for this year.

The school has been deemed low performing under the No Child Left Behind Act.  Superintendent  J.J. Bullington says it's not because the students' test scores have gotten lower over the years.

"If you're not making improvement at the rate that the federal government expects you to make, that improvement to meet adequate yearly progress," Bullington said.

Schools in St. Louis, Kansas City, and others in the Bootheel find themselves in the same place as Caruthersville. 

"We're in an area in the state where the economic conditions are difficult for school districts as well as families and budget cuts and funding cuts have not allowed us to keep some of the programs we've had in the past," Bullington said.

So the state board of education picked them to be part of a pilot program to work with national researchers to develop a plan of action.

"We're hoping to see results on a more short term basis," Bullington said. 

So they're tracking attendance, dropouts, and tests scores on a daily basis and making the data available to everyone.

"We want to come up with a data wall or a data room where people can come in and the community can come in," said Doug White, Caruthersville High School principal.

They changed graduation requirements, added a grade point average requirement for all extracurricualr activities, adult ed classes and adopted a new uniform policy.

"We're putting the emphasis on academics," White said. "If they're going to be here, they're going to have to achieve."

In the middle school, small things like new paint, repairing air-conditioners, revamping the way they handle suspensions, and more benchmarked data help improve student climate. 

"Our students are not doing what they need to be doing and what they're capable of doing," said Matt Hodges, Caruthersville Middle School principal. 

School leaders hope all those efforts will help the school overcome it's struggles, made worse by the 2006 tornado that destroyed the high school.

"Communities rally around the high school and this community has been dealing with, has not had a rally point for the last three years in a very real sense," Hodges said.

But just this past year--the old high school, a community icon-- was torn down to make way for the new one to be ready in the fall of 2010.

"We want to bring back the pride of one for the school district and two pride in the students," White said.

The school administrators say they're ready to hit the ground running when teachers and students return in a couple weeks.

Since other Bootheel schools are also going through the Turnaround Project, they'll meet throughout the year to discuss strategies.

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