On Monday I had the pleasure of spending the day with the administrative team from Seneca. Once a year we spend a day at Crowder College reviewing the present year and planning for the next.

Crowder is a gracious host, ten of us eat in their cafeteria for less than $50, and it is just far enough away that the distraction of being “on site” is removed. We appreciate Crowder, and their partnership in the education of our students.

Our goals for the day were to review our progress on the District’s Five Focus Goals and to establish the framework for each building’s improvement goals for next year. Over time, organizations can become like a group of drivers whose GPS devices keep losing signal, they don’t forget what the destination is, but they can get off the path.

Our annual meeting helps us get back on an agreed-upon route to our destination. It also allows us to celebrate the successes on our journey.

Focus Goal #1 for our district has been Continue Implementing PLCs (Professional Learning Communities). Under the leadership of Mr. Manley, Assistant Superintendent – Teaching and Learning, we have made great strides toward a collaborative culture of educators, a focused curriculum that guarantees what students will learn, and an environment that focuses on the needs of each child.

One of our targets was to have all staff members attend training on PLCs. We are moving closer to accomplishing this. Because of our progress in this area, we are going to change this goal to Exemplary Professional Learning Community. We are fully immersed into the PLC model. Our goal now is to be exemplary in the implementation.

Another goal that directly impacts student learning is Focus Goal #3 – Promote a 21st Century School. When we talk about this, we are referencing an education framework that encompasses the 5Cs — collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity and community engagement.

We have a set of third and fifth grade classrooms that have embraced the Project-Based Learning (PBL) model. It has been amazing to see the progress those students have made in skills that will benefit them well beyond the classroom. However, regardless of the classroom setting or composition, we want to move more toward this type of education for ALL of our students.

I will conclude with a glimpse of our discussion regarding standardized testing. Schools in Missouri are presently judged on how well we perform on the MAP test. Therefore, for school pride, for attracting families to our district, and as a measuring stick, we must be conscious of how we are performing on these state tests.

We discussed this, and the administrators and teachers are well aware that this is why we must understand and teach the most essential learning standards at each grade level and in each subject.

However, our goal for our students is so much more than just the memorization of facts necessary to score well on the test.

We want our students prepared to be successful in life. Almost everyone can Google facts, but not everyone can work with a group of people to develop a creative way to solve a problem.

Thank you for trusting us with the education of your children. #SenecaTPC

By Dr. Jim Cummins

(Dr. Jim Cummins is superintendent of the Seneca R-7 School District. He can be reached at jcummins@senecar7.com.)

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