Cass County Democrat Missourian

New screening will help Harrisonville schools identify kids at academic risk

“Pastel Flower” by Jaden Williamson was chosen to represent the 31st Senate District in a student art exhibit in the state Capitol.
“Pastel Flower” by Jaden Williamson was chosen to represent the 31st Senate District in a student art exhibit in the state Capitol.

Quick tests find problems early

If a student shows signs of falling behind, teachers want to know as soon as possible and provide the extra help they need.

Long, standardized tests — often given late in the year — don’t provide the information soon enough to be of help to individual students.

One solution is a testing program called a “universal screener,” used by at least four school districts in Cass County.

The tests — taken by all students in a classroom — are shorter than the familiar standardized tests, but given more often.

The Harrisonville school board recently authorized the purchase of a web-based universal screener called FastBridge, which will be used in the elementary schools.

“Universal screening is the first step in identifying those students who may be at risk in both academic and behavioral categories,” the Harrisonville administration said in a memo to the school board.

Before choosing FastBridge, a study team from Harrisonville visited the Belton and Pleasant Hill school districts, which use different screening tools. Harrisonville is launching the screening program this semester, and it will be in full effect starting next fall.

“The plan is to start with reading only next year,” Dan Erholtz, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Harrisonville, said by email. “We want our teachers and administrators to feel comfortable and understand the tests and reports they generate.”

Kindergartners and first-graders will be taking four sub-tests of five minutes each, Erholtz said. For grades two through five, the reading test takes 15 to 30 minutes. Students will be tested twice before this academic year closes, and the test will be given three times in subsequent years.

The FastBridge program will cost $7 per student for the full school year that begins next fall.

A universal screener also is used in Raymore-Peculiar schools, said spokeswoman Michele Stidham. All students, from kindergartners to high school students, are tested for academics in September, December and April.

Belton artist’s work displayed at Capitol

“Pastel Flower,” created by Belton Middle School eighth-grader Jaden Williamson, will be displayed in the Missouri Capitol for the rest of 2019.

Jim Peters, who teaches art at the school, submitted three pieces of student artwork to compete against K-12 students from across the 31st Senate District. Jaden’s work was selected.

The exhibit was established in 2014 to showcase fine arts programs and advocate for legislative support for the arts across the state.

Pleasant Hill counselor honored

Pleasant Hill High School counselor Jessica Janis has been named Educator of the Year by the Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce. She was nominated for her work in helping students academically, socially and emotionally, the district said.

Also named on the plaque is Toby, a therapy dog who joined the high school staff in the fall of 2017.

Middle-schoolers picked for Midwest Honor Band

Between them, the Harrisonville and Raymore-Peculiar school districts were represented by seven middle school band students at the Midwest Honor Band and Orchestra Festival, held the weekend of Jan. 18 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Students from across the Midwest combined into one group to learn and perform music over three days.

Nationally recognized guest conductors and UMKC faculty hosted a full schedule of concerts, master classes and professional clinics including a finale concert on Jan. 20.

Honor band members included Ashton Montigny and Derek Nissen from Ray-Pec South Middle School, as well as Harrisonville Middle School students Alyssa Cox, Charlie Sturgeon, Arianna Darling, Kayla Mason and Olivia Dyer.

Athletes fight cancer

Sherwood Middle School basketball players and coaches presented a $2,530 check to the American Cancer Society in mid-January — money raised by the Sherwood and Adrian middle school basketball teams during their annual White Out game.

More than $13,000 has been raised in the five years that Sherwood has held White Out games to benefit Coaches v. Cancer and the American Cancer Society.