Tuesday evening was an opportunity for educators and community members from throughout the state to come together to discuss their educational concerns with Missouri Commissioner of Education Dr. Margie Vandeven.
Vandeven was in Sedalia as the Department of Education hosted one of nine Regional Meetings on Education at Smith-Cotton High School.
“Our students are our greatest resource and our greatest obligation,” Vandeven said. “The partnerships and the communication that exist between the parents, community members and the schools are so essential in the success of our students.
“We wanted to go out across the state and see what really matters the most in education for these groups,” she added. “One of the critical issues is how to help with the transition from a student’s graduation to their future after high school.”
The commissioner began her remarks with a question as she related a story of a group of warriors who returned after a battle asking, “How are the children?”
‘They were told upon their return that the children were well, but it is a question we should be continually asking ourselves in education, ‘How are the children?”’ Vandeven said. “I can tell you that in the past decade we have made improvements but we are still a way from saying that all the children are well in terms of education in the state.”
While touring Smith-Cotton, Vandeven spoke to the Democrat and addressed Missouri’s status in the Top 10 by 20 educational goal.
“As a state we are improving, but so have other states,” Vandeven said. “We continue to focus on the goals of the plan to help our students succeed.”
Those three goals are:
• All children deserve to graduate from high school ready for college and the workforce.
• All children should begin kindergarten ready to learn.
• All children deserve an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective leader in every school.
“The primary aim of education is not to enable students to do well in school but to help them do well in the lives they lead outside of school,” Vandeven said. “We need to ask ourselves what will the world look like in 2029, the year this year’s kindergarten class will graduate.
“Of course we need to teach the fundamentals but we also need to teach perseverance,” she added. “We need to teach them to hang in there, and not to give up or quit, that a work ethic is very important.”
Vandeven added that it is equally important to instill in students the value and joy of a job well done.
The 120 participants included students, teachers, administrators, state legislators, community members and members from the Department of Education.
During the two-hour meeting they were posed a series of four questions, which they were asked to discuss together in groups of six to 10 people.
After the 12-minute discussion session, the participants were given five minutes to share their observations with the group.
The questions included:
• What does student success look like?
• What do school communities need to do to prepare students for success after graduation?
• How will you know Missouri Schools have been effective in preparing students for success after graduation?
• What matters most to you in public education?
While the answers were somewhat varied, most focused on the importance of having quality educators in place to provide instruction necessary for the students to succeed.
Many participants expressed that one way to measure success would occur after graduation.
“A way we will know if we have been effective in preparing our students is actually two-fold,” one respondent said. “We will see a downward trend in areas such as our crime and divorce rates, but we will also see the amenities in our area improve and more of our graduates will stay in our community to both live and work.”
Vandeven commented after the meeting that the discussion was similar to many the Department had heard in the previous six meetings.
“Tonight has been a very productive meeting and we really appreciate and value what we have been hearing,” Vandeven said. “All of the information that we are gathering will be used to form our work.
“We will post all of the comments from these meetings on the department’s website so everyone can see the results of these meetings,” she added. “I am very excited about the level of enthusiasm from tonight and the passion for students that was evident.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.