One of our focus goals for the school district is to improve our image. The board challenged us to do a better job of sharing the positives that are happening at Seneca.

Part of their desire was that we would have a presence at conferences where educators share what is happening in their district. We have accepted that challenge, and I am happy to share some of the opportunities in this article.

Our first group to present was a team of elementary teachers who have been instrumental in the development of standards-based grading at the elementary. They presented at the Missouri Powerful Learning Communities conference.

Their presentation led to many schools inquiring of how exactly we developed our “essential” standards; those standards that are a MUST for our students to know before leaving a grade or course.

A leading researcher once said if we fully taught ALL of the standards, we would have a K-22 system instead of a K-12.

Teachers are aware of all the standards and make effort to address them all at some level. However, as a team, they determine what is critical for a student to learn before moving on.

Schools have also inquired about our use of data notebooks. These are the records kept by the students indicating the students’ progress towards mastery. It is so powerful to hear students talk about where they are in their learning.

At no time in my career has it been as evident that students, at even the lowest grades, can tell someone exactly what they know and what they are working on to improve.

At the Missouri Elementary School Principal conference, Will King and Shanna Eidson presented again on standards-based grading. They did an outstanding job of sharing the process that included the successes, lessons learned and continued work in progress.

From this presentation I know of at least two school districts that have inquired about coming to Seneca to observe our schools. One of the schools is from the St. Joseph area. It is wonderful to see our staff rewarded for the work they have put in and the difference they are making for our students.

Change isn’t easy, and change presents new challenges as we grow. However, our goal of always looking for ways to improve means that sometimes we will have to embrace change.

Finally, we have a pair of third grade teachers and a pair of fifth grade teachers who are teaching in a project-based learning environment. This environment encourages community engagement and stresses the skills of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.

The development of these young students in their soft skills and confidence is incredible. Word is getting out about the work these teachers are doing.

Recently, Webb City sent their assistant superintendent and a team of teachers to view our staff and talk to our students. It was a great day for our students and teachers getting to share out.

As a side note, the board recently approved our plan to get more teachers trained in PBL instruction. A big thank you to all of our staff members who are helping us reach our goal of improving our image.

Have a great week!

By Dr. Jim Cummins

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


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