About St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA

a professional organization of educators and individuals actively engaged
in the development of literacy throughout the Greater St. Louis Area.

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News from the MSC-IRA



Mitzi Brammer, PhD

State Coordinator, MSC-IRA

 I hope many of you were able to attend the Missouri Early Learning Conference in early November (check out Sarah Valter’s article about this event) at Tan-Tar-A. As you may or may not know, this event is co-sponsored by the Missouri State Council of the IRA. We take pride in helping to bring in nationally known speakers who can speak to the ever changing world of literacy.

 Have you “liked” MSC-IRA’s Facebook page yet? If not, please go to our page and “like” us in order to get updates about MSC-IRA, IRA (at the national level), information, tips, and resources for literacy. We also have links to other great literacy websites in which you might also be interested.

 The Write to Learn Conference at Tan-Tar-A (also co-sponsored by MSC-IRA) is coming SOON! Mark your calendars for February 28-March 2, 2013. Featured speakers you will not want to miss are:  Cris Tovani, Jeff Anderson, Donalyn Miller, Michael Salinger and many more!  To register for this conference, go to the MU

Conference website: 


The deadline for a room block at Tan-Tar-A is Wednesday, January 30th. Have you made your room reservations yet?  If so, great!  If not, the number for reservations at Tan-Tar-A is 800-826-8272 or 573-348-3131.  The hotel will still honor the conference special room rate after this date if you tell them you’re with Write to Learn, but after the 30th, they will release any unsold rooms from our block to the general public.  So, don’t take a chance by waiting until the last minute.  Call and make your room reservations today.  Also, MSC-IRA is planning a drop-in reception during the weekend. We hope you’ll come by for a visit! See you at the conference.


News About Membership



Jody Rozbicki Membership Chair


St. Louis Suburban Council of International Reading Association is a true Professional Learning Community with 309 members and 29 literacy teams in 2011-2012.  We are off to a great start this year with 46 members and counting.  Congratulations to each of you who sent your renewal membership forms this summer, recognizing the professional benefits of our collegial and professional organization. 

Remember that if you join as part of a team of five or more from your school, you will be considered a Literacy Team and pay only $12.00 per person.  Single membership is $18.00.  If you are a full time student or retired, you may join for $8.00.  In addition, your local council membership gives you automatic membership in the Missouri State Council of International Reading Association.  You will receive their benefits of website newsletters and state journal, The Missouri Reader.  The advantage of professional networking will allow you to meet and share ideas with educators from all over the St. Louis Suburban area, while developing lasting and valued friendships.  

Membership forms for 2012-2013 are in the September 2012 newsletter. Please consider mailing your form in today.   Our new membership year begins August 2012.   Also, membership forms may be printed from the council’s website, (www.STLSuburbanReading.org) or contact Jody at: (jrozbicki@ladueschools.net).

If you are interested in being on St. Louis Suburban Council Executive Board‘s Committees in 2012-2013, please contact Sandy Kettelkamp, Community Service Chairperson, through email (skettelkamp@afton.k12.mo.us) or Jody Rozbicki, Membership Chair.  Your email will need to list your committee interest and brief description of your experience. As the 2012-2013 year begins, the Board of Directors will be looking for members interested in being active in the Board‘s Committees. See you at our September 27 meeting!

Membership Chairs: Jody Rozbicki and Marjy Schneider

Service Projects: International and Local





St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA donated 600 books and two new bookcases to Habitat for Humanity on Thursday, May 31, 2012.   In 2010-2011, our council donated 225 books.  This is a 375 increase for 2011-2012.  The books and bookcases will be given to families receiving new homes in the summer of 2012. Thanks to our St. Louis Suburban Council members for donating the gift of literacy.

Our council gives a special thanks to Beth Knoedelseder, Communication Arts teacher, from Ladue Middle School in Ladue School District, and Katherine Hankins, Reading Interventionist, from Crestwood School in Lindbergh School District.  Beth sponsored a sixth grade book drive, and Katherine sponsored a book drive during the week of her school’s book fair for St. Louis Suburban Council’s Community Service Project.  Altogether, their schools donated 400 books.



Supporting worldwide literacy efforts continues to be an area of interest for our council, and we are excited to bring updates on each of our international projects.  We are pleased to announce our new international outreach project to Haiti.  We are working with the American Library Association (ALA) to dedicate funds for use in rebuilding libraries destroyed by the 2010 earthquake.  We will be collecting donations at the council meetings.

We are also very proud to participate in the Philippines Project, an outreach project that provides professional development to members of the Philippines Council of the IRA.  The funds raised through collections at our general meetings are donated to this project to help teachers on many Philippine Islands have access to high quality PD opportunities. 



Our Community and Family Literacy Projects are the public face of St. Louis Suburban IRA, and it is only through the efforts of our many members that we are able to have such a positive impact!  Here are some of the many ways that you can get involved:

1.    Bring your aluminum can tabs to donate to Ronald McDonald House

2.    IMPORTANT!  Donate new and/or gently used books to benefit Habitat for Humanity.  We present our St. Louis Suburban Council book donation to the family receiving the new home in January 2012.

3.   Make a monetary contribution to our collections that benefit our international  projects (Haiti libraries and the  Philippines Project.




Bonnie Davis: Keynote Speaker for Fall Conference at Harris-Stowe




Mark your calendar for our “2012 Literacy for All Conference: Literacy for the Future” on Saturday, October 6.  St. Louis Suburban IRA is excited to once again join Harris-Stowe State University in sponsoring this all-day, 7:30am-3:00pm, professional development experience for pre-school thru grade 12 educators.  Join us for informative research-based literacy/language arts sessions presented by experienced educators including keynote speaker Dr. Bonnie M. Davis.  Topics to be addressed during the conference include brain compatible learning, Common Core State Standards, writing workshop, power strategies in non-fiction, pre-school literacy activities, vocabulary and comprehension, help for struggling learners, and more.  For an affordable $25.00 registration fee you’ll receive entry to conference sessions and activities, a comprehensive resource book with handouts from all speakers, continental breakfast and lunch, door prizes, authors’ book signing, and visits with publishers and vendors.   You’ll also receive a certificate of participation.  The conference will be held at the Clay Center on the Harris-Stowe campus in mid-town St. Louis. (Full conference brochure is available in our online newsletter.) For information contact Dr. Betty Porter Walls at drbpwalls@earthlink.net.


Service Opportunity to Bring Books to Low-Income Children



Betty Porter Walls, Ph.D.

 During the 2012-2013 academic year, St. Louis Suburban IRA will continue its support of Penny-A-Page, a First-Book St. Louis project to encourage reading and help raise funds for new books for low-income children.  We are supportive of these efforts because research has shown that by the time children from low-income families enter kindergarten they are 12 to 14 months below national norms in language and pre-reading skills.  Children in middle-class homes own an average of 13 books; while in low-income families, there is only one book for every 300 children.  Funds from the Penny-A-Page project help address this critical issue by providing access to books, one of the most important factors affecting literacy.

Our effort will be two-fold.  First, our council has donated $500.00 to First Book-St. Louis.  Our name will be included as a sponsor organization on their printed materials and it will appear on t-shirts awarded to participating students in a Penny-A-Page week activity. 

Second, our council will share Penny-A-Page information and encourage our members and other educators to actively participate in fund raising during Penny-A-Page weeks.  Teachers and their students can participate in two Penny-A-Page weeks this year, October 29-November 4, 2012 and February 25-March 3, 2013.  Information and guidelines, flyers, and participant sign-up forms are available on our website.  Penny-A-Page sign-up information will also be available at our September council meeting.  Please consider having your class, any grade level, participate in the Penny-A-Page project.

Board member Betty Porter Walls will serve as our liaison with First Book-St. Louis.   Contact her, drbpwalls@earthlink.net, for Penny-A-Page information and forms.


President’s Message-September 2012



Message from the President

On behalf of the St. Louis Suburban Council of the IRA, it is my pleasure to welcome all of you to the start of another school year.  Our theme for this year is “Literacy – The Power for Change.”  As educators, we all strive to help our students realize the power of literacy and education.  Literacy is the vehicle in which our students can literally power the change in their lives. As educators, it is exciting to know that we help our students realize the power of literacy and the great rewards it can provide.

Please encourage your colleagues to become members and to join our mission for improving literacy. Our program this year will showcase the many facets of literacy and our first meeting on September 27 will focus on many new and exciting books, courtesy of Booksource. And, don’t miss the October 6, “Literacy for All” Conference at Harris Stowe State University, where many national and local experts will present. Our December 6 meeting will focus on making literacy rigorous in the era of Common Core State Standards, courtesy of Zaner-Bloser.  Our February meeting will focus on media literacy – a growing and important facet to literacy today. Don’t forget about the Write to Learn Conference as noted in our brochure. Our spring banquet speaker will be announced later. 

I believe that we have a program this year that will meet many of your needs. Remember, our website is www.stlsuburbanreading.org. Be sure and visit the website if you have not lately. We thank all of our sponsors for their generous support of speakers for our programs. Again, welcome to a new school year and let us help you realize the power for change in literacy by renewing or becoming a member today.   


Thomas Cornell, Ed.D.



How to Use the Internet to Enhnace Your Teaching


Web Wonders

Mary-Eileen Rufkahr

Hard to believe (well maybe not), but for most of us, we’ve already put in a full month of school . . . preparing our rooms, attending meetings, and actual classroom time.  Our minds are filled with fresh ideas to incorporate along with our tried and true methods.  Following are some quick and easy classroom helpers you can put to use right now!  

What did we ever do before the invention of Post-It notes?  It seems they are wonderful memory-joggers, temporary labels and make-shift bookmarks.  Now these colorful paper pieces can create a great looking story map!  Teachers of younger children can display a Post-It story map in the front of the classroom; older children can easily make their own.  Click onto http://mrsrojasteaches.blogspot.com/2011/07/new-pinterest-inspired-project-freebie.html for details.

One of the oldest “jokes” around this time of the year is to show a classroom of children sitting in their desks on the first day of school writing about what they did on their summer vacation.  As teachers, we know we want to inspire our students to write with enthusiasm and eagerness.  Graphic organizers can guide them in their thought processes while they create their rough draft.  The blog What the Teacher Wants has some downloadable templates to use with your students as you work on writing projects throughout the year.  This blog can be found at: 


A clever way to have your students respond to literature is through reader response bookmarks which are available for free download at:  http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Readers-Response-Bookmarks-Freebie.

While at the site, Teachers Pay Teachers, check out their main page to learn more about their mission and purpose.  You are able to join for free to browse material available at little to no cost.  If you have an original lesson or material to share, you can put it on the site.  http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/About-Us.

A similar site is called Share My Lesson, which has over 230,000 resources available: http://www.sharemylesson.com/.  This free platform gives access to high-quality teaching resources and provides an online community where teachers can collaborate with, encourage and inspire each other.   Share My Lesson has a significant resource bank for Common Core Standards, covering all aspects of the standards, with advice and guides to help with dedicated resources that support the standards.

Looking for some ideas for Readers’ Workshop?  The site http://www.wrsd.net/literacy/launch.cfm has a large number of lessons and ideas all sorted by grade level, K – 5.

Common Core are two words on most teachers’ lips and minds.  A comprehensive suggested book list for Common Core is at:  http://elementarytests.com/common-core-standards/common-core-suggested-reading-list/.  Read-alouds, poetry and informational texts are featured.

Finally, at the end of a long day, when maybe things didn’t exactly go as well as you had planned, and you may be feeling discouraged, click onto this video by poet/teacher Taylor Mali.  His powerful words, coupled with an enthusiastic delivery, will reaffirm what you already know . . . teachers do make a difference!  (And we already knew that, but some days need a little reminder!)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuBmSbiVXo0.


Professional Article September 2012-CCSS-ELA: Practical Strategies for Districts, Schools, and Teachers





By Dan Rocchio, Ed. D., Professor Emeritus

Adjunct Faculty, Maryville University


Where Should a School District or School Begin?

When deciding where to begin your implementation of the CCSS-ELA, Calkins, Ehrenworth, and Lehman (2012) suggest that each school or district begin by identifying its strengths and then build upon those strengths systemically throughout the school or district.  For example, if a district has done a good job of implementing the narrative writing process, and the data indicate that most students are writing at a proficient level, then the district might want to focus initial literacy goals upon the gap between the district writing curriculum and the writing standards of the CCSS (e.g., the focus on opinion/argument and or informative/explanatory writing).  There are six key instructional shifts embedded within the CCSS-ELA at the elementary level that districts should consider as they develop an action plan.

  • increase the student’s ability to read and write about informational text ( i.e., 50 % literature and 50 % informational) along with an increase in the types of informational texts, including digital texts
  • increase student’s ability to read and write about content area texts in science and social studies; the emphasis is twofold; learning how to read history and science, but also learning new content information
  • all students ( i.e., including struggling readers) should be given the opportunity and the instruction necessary to critically read texts at the high end of the respective grade level band with appropriate teacher scaffolding; this includes the idea of “close reading” of complex texts
  • increase students’ ability to answer-text based questions with evidence from the text 
  • increase students’ ability to write opinion pieces supported by logical reasoning, facts and details; an increase in this type of writing will produce a greater balance among the three types of writing:  narrative, informational, and opinion-oriented
  • increase the direct teaching of general academic vocabulary and the technical vocabulary necessary to understand texts in literature, social studies and science

What Literacy Framework Will Help Children of All Reading Levels to Achieve the CCSS-ELA at the Elementary Level?

There are several research-based principles of literacy achievement that each district, school and teacher should consider as they make decisions about a literacy framework that will optimize each student’s achievement of CCSS-ELA.

1.  Students learn to read well and write well by having lots of guided opportunities to read and write in school and outside of school.      Teachers need lots of authentic texts at a wide range of reading levels and genres, and they need access to them in all content areas. The texts should be related to essential questions and content within units of study (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).  These multi-genre and multi-leveled materials can then be used by teachers for read-alouds, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading.  Allington (2012) suggests that each district set a volume reading standard of 90 minutes of in-school reading daily, and a volume writing standard of 30-45 minutes of in-school writing daily.  These time standards do not include reading or writing activities such as mini-lessons, pre-reading, pre-writing, or conferences. Pearson and Heibert (2012) recommend that teachers help students set and achieve stamina goals in addition to these volume standards.

2.  Students need to have the opportunity to make informed choices related to reading and writing.  Fisher, Frey, & Lapp (2012) have identified six teaching practices that impact motivation positively.  Five of these teaching practices are supported by Guthrie and Humenick (2004) and Guthrie et al. (2009) as noted in Fisher, Frey, and Lapp ( 2012):

· choice in reading materials and activities

· using reading materials that are interesting and relevant to students’ real world problems

· providing texts at the students’ instructional reading level

· collaboration among students in a variety of social interactions including partnerships and small group discussions of readings

· thematic units that teach children key content and strategies

· goal setting and monitoring by students with appropriate modeling and scaffolding by teachers

3.  Explicit instruction in reading comprehension, that is modeled and scaffolded appropriately by expert teachers, leads to the improved comprehension of text and to a student’s independent ability to comprehend narrative and informational text.  Shanahan et. al (2010) have summarized the research and best practice on this principle in a user-friendly guide published by the Department of Education.

The reading workshop, writing workshop and content area workshop are three instructional frameworks that are consistent with these three basic principles, and thus provide an opportunity for students of all ability levels to achieve the CCSS-ELA.  There are several teacher-friendly resources that can help districts and teachers develop and or revise units of study that incorporate these workshop models: 

  • Calkins, Ehrenworth, and Lehman (2012) have written an excellent source for a book study related to CCSS-ELA at the elementary level
  • Units of Study for reading and writing (Calkins, 2010) are available from Heinemann 
  • Many of the resources in the Units of Study (Calkins) are available free of charge at http://readingandwritingproject.com

What is the Most Challenging and Contentious Instructional Shift that Districts and Teachers Face?

· The close reading of complex texts has engendered controversy among literacy experts writing about CCSS-ELA.  The question remains: how do we teach all children to read complex grade-level texts (i.e. literature, science, and social studies) with critical understanding that leads to an increase in a student’s content knowledge and an ability to read grade level texts independently and with proficiency? There are at least two models in the current literature.

o David Coleman (2011), one of the authors of the CCSS, has proposed one model of instruction with his demonstration video using Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail. “  This whole class lesson includes the following steps:

  • a cold read by students of the first section of the text without a teacher-developed purpose for reading or pre-reading strategies; the rationale for this lack of pre-reading scaffolding is to determine what students can understand without scaffolding and to develop a culture of students who can tackle close reading without lots of teacher-provided information
  • an oral rereading of the first section of the text by the teacher with an emphasis on fluency
  • a second reading of the first section by the students and teacher with a teacher-developed set of text dependent questions so that students must use text evidence 
  • the reading and rereading of each section of the text to determine the major arguments proposed by M.L. King and finally a critique of the content and craft embedded in the letter.
  • Coleman finishes the video by noting that this kind of close and slow reading might take 6-8 days of instruction.

o Additional written/and video lessons on close reading that follow this model include

o Most of these sample lessons do not include pre-reading strategies, the teacher modeling of reading strategies, or the gradual release of responsibility framework that would eventually help students to read these complex texts independently and proficiently. 

o Coleman and the sources noted above provide no quasi-experimental, classroom-based research studies to support this lesson model 

o An alternative model is presented by Fisher, Frey, and Lapp (2012) in their new book, related articles and videos (Principal Leadership, 2012a and 2012 b). This model is consistent with the research on the explicit teaching of comprehension strategies (Fisher and Frey 2012a) and the prudent use of pre-reading strategies as discussed by Fisher and Frey (2012b) and Shanahan (2012).  We need to develop more sample lessons and videos like those published by Fisher and Frey–especially lessons for struggling readers.  

o The model proposed by Fisher, Frey, and Lapp (2012) includes the following steps and is accompanied by the suggestion that teachers use short passages for the teaching of close reading:

  • the teacher establishes a brief purpose for reading the text but does not provide a summary of the text nor background information that might take away from the student’s struggle to make sense of the text; in some cases brief background information may be necessary for students to be successful with the an initial reading of the text
  • students read the text independently and note words they figured out on their own and ideas that confused them; the teacher carefully observes the difficulties students encounter
  • first discussion led by the teacher might include the students sharing what amazed and/or confused them
  • using what was learned from the initial discussion, the teacher leads a read aloud and think aloud of the text that models how the teacher figured out main ideas or key vocabulary
  • teacher leads another discussion using text dependent questions that focus on the literal, inferential and critical understanding of the text
  • teacher asks each student to write about the understandings garnered in the prior discussion
  • similar to the Coleman model this lesson involves a lot of rereading and may take several days

o Shanahan (personal communication, June 16, 2012) indicated that Coleman has changed his opinion regarding the lack of pre-reading during the teaching of the close reading lessons with complex text.  In his original video-recorded lesson, Coleman does mention that his model lesson is only one way to teach close reading.  But given the videos at other sources noted in the references below, it appears that some “experts” have offered Coleman’s lesson as the “preferred model.”  

What Practical Steps Can Districts and Teachers Take to Help with Close Reading?

· The teaching of close reading is dependent upon finding text selections (i.e., literature and informational) that teachers can use in developing lessons.  Included below is one recommendation for districts, literacy coaches, and teachers : 

  • Experiment with complex texts using the rubrics in Text Complexity; Raising Rigor in Reading by Fisher, Frey, and Lapp (2012). Teams of teachers need time to read and discuss these texts.  As teachers prepare the close reading of these texts, they must consider the quantitative and qualitative factors related to text difficulty in addition to the match between the reader, the task and the text.  So teachers need to ask questions such as:
    • Do the readers have the background information necessary to makes sense of the text?
    • Is the text of interest to the readers so that students will stay engaged and remember the key information?
    • What reading strategies can be modeled given the purpose of the reading task and the students’ prior cognitive strategies?   

The teaching of these lessons along with appropriate feedback by literacy coaches, and the data analysis of student work samples can eventually lead to the development of model video-recorded lessons that can be shared among teaches in a district.  As these lessons are developed and refined, it is crucial that teachers identify the context for these lessons. Model lessons can only be used effectively when the developers carefully explain the conditions surrounding the lesson; these would include the key characteristics of the students, the purpose of the lesson in the context of the unit of study, and the social dynamics of the group.

· Districts and teachers can use the resources of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to inform their work on the close reading of complex texts or other action plans.  Missouri is a member of this organization that is developing the assessment package that will be used to assess CCSS.

o Item/task specifications for ELA at all grade levels can be found on this website; these specifications include 

  • sample items for each standard
  • sample passages, the designated grade level band of passages, and how this grade band was determined 
  • rubrics for writing related standards

As we work together to tackle the challenges presented by the CCSS-ELA, it is important that we keep a sharp focus on the end goal: to help children read, write and talk critically so that they can take part in civil discourse related to key issues (e.g., the development of mental and physical health, a peaceful school, the sustainability of our environment, friendship, equity, preparing oneself for work).  Along with parents, it is also our responsibility to help children develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary to work and play as responsible citizens in our democracy.  I welcome responses on this blog, or please contact me at drocchio@maryville.edu if you wish further information related to this article.


Allington, R. L. (2012).  What really matters for struggling readers: Designing research-based programs.  Boston, MA: Pearson.

Calkins,  L. , Ehrenworth M., & Lehman C. (2012).  Pathways to the common core: Accelerating achievement.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 

Coleman, D. (2011).  Middle school ELA curriculum video: Close reading of a text: MLK “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Retrieved July 27 from engageny.org/resource/common-core-video-series Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2012a).  Text complexity. Principal Leadership. Retrieved July 27, 2012 from http://www.nassp.org/tabid/3788/default.aspx?topic=Instructional_Leader_0112

Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2012b).  The perils of preteaching. Retrieved July 27, 2012 from http://www.nassp.org/tabid/3788/default.aspx?topic=Instructional_Leader_0512

Fisher, D, Frey, N. & Lapp, D. (2012).  Text complexity: Raising rigor in reading. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association.

Fisher, D., Frey, N. & Nelson, J. (2012).  Literacy development through sustained professional development.  The Reading Teacher. 65. 551-563.

Guthrie, J.T., & Humenick, N.M. (2004). Motivating students to read: Evidence for classroom practices that increase motivation and achievement. In P. McCardle &V. Chhabra (Eds.), The voice of evidence in reading research (pp. 329–354). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Guthrie, J. T., McRae, A., Coddington, C. S., Klauda, S. L., Wigfield, A., & Barbosa, P. (2009). Impacts of comprehensive reading instruction on diverse outcomes of low-achieving and high-achieving readers. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 195-214.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010a). Common core state standards for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Washington, DC: Authors. Retrieved May 26, 2012, from www.corestandards.org/assets/ CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf.

Pearson, P. D. & Heibert, E. (2012).   Understanding the common core state standards. In L. Morrow, T. Shanahan, & K. Wixson (Eds).  Teaching for the common core standards in the English language arts.  Article to be published in this book by Guilford Press.

Shanahan, T. (2012).  Practical guidance on pre-reading lessons. Retrieved July 27, 2012 From http://www.shanahanonliteracy.com/2012/03/part-2-practical-guidance-on-pre.html.

Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N. K., Pearson, P. D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010).  Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade: A practice guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from whatworks.ed.gov/publications/practice guides.

Item/Task specifications. Retrieved July 27, 2012 at http://www.smarterbalanced.org/smarter-balanced-assessments/

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005).  Understanding by design. Expanded second edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.



2012 Fall Leadership and Literacy Institute at Lake of the Ozarks



Save the date! The fall leadership and literacy institute is coming. This event is being hosted by the Missouri State Council of the International Reading Association (MSC-IRA) on August 2-3 at Port Arrowhead Resort at the Lake.

August 2 is geared toward local council officers with information on strengthing the local council and planning for positive change.

August 3 is aimed for ALL local council members. You will get information on digging more deeply into the Common Core State Standards, getting your students ready to become deeper thinkers, and engaging students in conversation to build reading comprehension.

As always, there will be fun door prizes and OF COURSE, shopping at the Outlet Mall! 

MSC-IRA has invited each council to send a team of 4 from its Executive Board. One complimentary room for Thursday night will be provided which will sleep up to four people. Also, meals are included. If you as a local Suburban Council of the IRA member wishes to attend on August 3 only, a nominal fee of $20 per person will be charged. 


Please RSVP to Mitzi Brammer by July 26, 2012 by emailing mbrammer@ssdmo.org.


See you at the Lake!

Legislative Report – April, 2012


Legislative Recap Report


Mary-Eileen Rufkahr

Legislative Representative

As always, there were many legislative issues of interest to Missouri educators during this year’s session of both houses.  Following is a list of the bills that passed and those that did not pass.


Charter schools:

SB 576 (Stouffer) - The bill expands the authority for charter schools to cover the entire state, expands the list of entities allowed to sponsor charter schools, creates a statewide chartering commission and makes some of the changes needed to improve the accountability and transparency of charter sponsors and charter schools. The bill does not require existing sponsors to participate in and to pass a comprehensive review process before being allowed to sponsor new charters or renew existing charters.

Gifted Program Reporting:

SB 599 (Schaefer) - The bill requires districts to include reporting for gifted education programs in their district report cards. 


HB 1219 (Elmer)  VETOED - Governor Nixon vetoed the bill on March 16 and the legislature did not override the veto. The Senate passed SB 592 (Lager), a similar bill, but the House did not pass the bill. 

The bills made several changes to the state's anti-discrimination law in employment, disability and housing and significantly limited and weakened “whistle-blower” protections. 

Higher Education Omnibus Bills:

HB 1042 (Thomson)

SB 563 (Dixon)

The original bill modifies the term lengths of the board of governors of Missouri State University so that no more than three members' terms expire in any given year. The HCS and amendments add the provisions of several other higher education bills and amendments from this session:

 SB 482 (Stouffer) relating to Alzheimer's disease research projects,

HB 1201 (Sifton) correcting the law regarding the Education Commission of the States,

HB 1855 (Wallingford) to create the Missouri Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Initiative within the Department of Higher Education,

SB 681 (Lager) to revise residency requirements of regents of Northwest Missouri State University, and

SB 811 (Dixon) authorizing land conveyances by the Missouri State University Board of Governors,

SB 655 (Green)/HB 1502 (Jones) to create the Higher Education Capital Fund,

HB 1803 (Korman) to allow a document showing school social work degree program completion for graduates meeting other criteria,

HB 1192 (Koenig) to require the Missouri Higher Education Savings Program (MOST) to expand investment offerings,

HB 1214 (Torpey) to require the Missouri Small Business Technology Centers to manage a virtual network for entrepreneurs, a provision limiting designations of public college personalized license plates, and authority for community colleges to own property outside the territory of the community college district. 

Career and Technical:

SB 599 (Schaefer) – DESE to provide staffing support for career-related student organizations and to establish standards allowing private schools to establish local FFA chapters.

Ft. Zumwalt School Board Terms:

SB 450 (Rupp) - Governor Jay Nixon signed the bill into law on April 2, allowing it to go into effect for school board elections on April 3. The bill specifies that any St. Charles County school district that becomes an urban school district because of the 2010 federal decennial census will continue to have terms of three years for its school board members. Without specific language to the contrary, the default school board term length for an urban school district is six years. The bill applies to the Fort Zumwalt school district because it contains more than half of the population of O'Fallon, and that city now meets the urban district population criterion. 


Tenure Repeal, Layoff, Evaluations and Test Scores:

HB 1526 (Dieckhaus), SB 806 (Cunningham) - The Senate briefly debated HCS/HB 1526 on May 18, before laying the bill over for the year. Senator Lager withdrew his SA 1 regarding evaluation and offered an amendment to the layoff statute to address other factors while leaving evaluations as the primary basis for layoffs. Senator Engler offered a substitute amendment to repeal the entire section regarding layoffs.  Engler's amendment was defeated 12-20 on a standing division vote. The bill was laid over, and Senate work on bills was done for the session. HB 1526 (Dieckhaus) and SB 806 (Cunningham) contained various provisions, such as tenure repeal, weakening of layoff protections and imposing detailed state mandates on teacher evaluations tied to student test scores.   


Teaching Evaluation, Improvement Plans, Study:

SB 654 (Lager), HB 1366 (Fitzwater) - SB 654 would require school districts to establish high-quality teacher and teaching evaluation systems and commit resources to implement high-quality evaluations. The bill was heard by the Senate Education Committee, but did not come to a vote. The bill also requires districts to establish standards for professional improvement plans. HB 1366 contained similar language. 

Formula underfunding “crash”:

SB 454 (Pearce), HB 1043 (Thomson) - The bills would spread the impact of formula underfunding to both formula and non-formula districts, beginning next school year, the first year the formula will be fully phased in. The existing law’s wording is unclear on how the impact of underfunding will be distributed, possibly producing a massive shift of funding from formula to non-formula districts. The language was debated on other bills and blocked by a filibuster by Senators Lamping and Schmitt.


DESE has recently announced its plan for distribution of formula aid next year. The Department plans to use existing law that applies beginning next year during underfunding to hold the state adequacy target fixed at the current value of $6,131, rather than phasing in increases provided by law based upon changes in performance districts that would have raised the adequacy target and the cost of the formula. However, DESE plans to prorate payments to all districts based upon available appropriations using that $6,131 base amount, as it has in preceding years, rather than to further reduce the adequacy target. 


SB 599 enacted language to allow school districts receiving fine payments from the 2011 Doe Run settlement to receive those payments without having a deduction in state aid based on counting such fines as increased "local revenue" under the formula calculation.

State Board Intervention in Unaccredited Districts:

HB 1174 (Lair), SB 677 (Pearce) – House leaders killed SS/HCS/HB 1174 on May 18 by refusing to bring the bill up for a final vote. The bill had originally passed the House 148-0 and passed the Senate in a slightly different form by a 31-0 vote. Representative Dieckhaus stated, while the House had no real issues with HB 1174, the House would not vote to approve the bill until the Senate passed HB 1526 regarding teacher layoffs. When the Senate did not bring HB 1526 to a vote, House leaders made good on their threat  and killed HB 1174.

 SS/HCS/HB 1174 would have revised the timelines and options for State Board intervention when it classifies a district as unaccredited. The bill allows the State Board to consider possible changes in governance when classifying a district as unaccredited, rather than waiting two years and automatically lapsing the district. The bill also incorporates language to require that the State Board hold a hearing in the unaccredited district to help bring community resources and stakeholders together in support of a district improvement plan.

Unaccredited districts & Turner v. Clayton:

SB 456 (Pearce), SB 839 (Lembke), SB 451 and 706 (Cunningham), HB 1997 (McNeil), HB 1830 (Stream)

St. Louis County Circuit Judge David Lee Vincent ruled on May 1 that section 167.131, RSMo, the transfer law upon which the Turner v. Clayton decision relied, was unenforceable in the Turner/Breitenfeld case as it violates the limitation of the Article X or "Hancock" limitation that the state may not require a new or increased level of activity or service without providing full state funding for that activity or service. The judge also concluded that it would be impossible for SLPS and receiving county districts to comply with the law under the forecast transfer of more than 15,000 students from St. Louis City to county schools, and thus the law is held to be void.


If the decision stands, it appears to remove the need to seek a legislative change to restore local control regarding the enrollment of non-resident students seeking to transfer from unaccredited districts, at least as it relates to students transferring from St. Louis City and perhaps from other unaccredited districts.


SB 456 (Pearce) and HB 1830 (Stream) would have required school districts to establish criteria for the admission of nonresident students from unaccredited districts based upon availability of qualified instructional staff in existing classroom space.. 

State Revenues/Streamlined Sales Tax:

SB 548 (Purgason), HB 1571 (Oxford), HB 1356 (Funderburk) and HB 1215 (McNeil) - The legislature failed to pass comprehensive legislation regarding tax credit accountability, including bills such as SB 548 and HB 1571.  These bills sought to ensure that tax expenditures are efficient in accomplishing a public purpose and to protect the revenues the state needs to fund public schools, public higher education and other vital services. HB 1356 and HB 1215 would enact the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. The House did not pass either bill and House leaders maintained that the positive revenue impact of the bills be offset with corporate tax giveaways to make the bills “revenue neutral.” The bills would help ensure that more of the sales and use taxes that should be collected for purchases in Missouri from online and remote sellers are actually collected.  The bill also helps level the playing field for Missouri-based businesses that are already collecting and remitting state sales tax and facing increasing competition from online and remote sellers who do not collect sales taxes. 


The House approved HB 1639 (Nolte), but the bill did not pass the Senate. The bill reduces the taxes on business income and corporate income, and reduces the amount available for historic rehabilitation tax credits. The bill will significantly reduce state revenues by as much as $180 million per year within three years. 

Collective bargaining:

HB 1418 (Colona) - The legislature did not pass legislation regarding collective bargaining for public employees.  The bill would treat all public employees fairly and is built on broad consensus among public employee groups and public employers.


Paycheck Deception:

SB 553 (Brown) – This bill would have banned labor union payroll deductions for any purpose, including collection of union dues and impose additional paperwork mandates on political contributions. The Senate debated the bill briefly but did not bring it to a vote.


“Fair” tax:

HJR 69 (Funderburk) - HJR 69 is a proposed constitutional amendment, which, if approved by a statewide vote, would replace the state personal and corporate income taxes, corporate and bank franchise taxes, existing state sales and use taxes and local earnings taxes with a greatly expanded and increased sales tax on most sales of goods and services. The HJR did not pass the House.



SB 842 (Lamping), HB 1741 (Leara)

School Retirement - The Senate gave first round approval (Perfection vote) to SCS/SB 842 , but the bill was never brought to a final vote in the Senate. The bill would enact into permanent statute provisions similar to the Funding Stabilization Policy adopted last year by the PSRS Board of Trustees. The original bill would have frozen the PSRS and PEERS contribution rates at current levels until the system becomes 100 percent funded, while the SCS version allows the system to raise the contribution rate for PSRS by 1/2 percent per year, if needed.


Public College Retirement Plans

The House approved HB 1741, but the bill did not pass the Senate. The bill would stabilize the institutional contribution rate for the College and University Retirement Plan (CURP) at seven percent. CURP is a defined contribution plan for instructional staff at public colleges and universities other than the University of Missouri System. The CURP institutional contribution rate is currently set at one percent below the normal cost of the MOSERS plan for state employees. Recent changes to reduce the benefits and cost of the MOSERS plan for new hires will reduce the normal cost of that system. The bill decouples the CURP rate from MOSERS, ensuring that institutions will continue to contribute seven percent to the plan on behalf of employees.. 


SB 706, (Cunningham), HB 1718 (Scharnhorst) “Bryce's Law” special education voucher

SB 706 (Cunningham) would have created procedures for vouchers and open enrollment of public school students across school district boundary lines under certain circumstances, but the Senate did not pass the bill. The bill was drafted in the form of a response to the Turner vs. Clayton decision, but created a program of vouchers allowing public funds to support students attending private and religious schools. 


The House defeated an amendment to HB 1854 (Gris more) offered on May 2 by Representative Scharnhorst to add his HB 1718 to the bill. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 51-104. The bill would create an 80 percent tax credit for donations to private “scholarship granting organizations” providing payments for certain disabled students to attend private or religious schools or out-of-district public schools. The bill allows an unlimited total amount in tax credits for “contributions” to a scholarship fund, though the bill only allows students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Angelman Syndrome, or cerebral palsy to receive funding under the program.

Virtual Charter Schools:

SB 735 (Nieves), HB 1629 (Barnes) - SB 735 and HB 1629 would have allowed nonresident students to attend a school district or a charter school to access virtual courses or programs. Neither bill was passed by the legislature. Under the bills, the state would pay the district or charter school 72.5 percent of the statewide average per pupil spending the previous year. 

MO Accountability Portal/School Info:

HB 1140  - HB 1140 passed the House, but did not pass the Senate. This bill requires the Office of Administration to maintain public school, city and county government accountability information on the Missouri Accountability Portal. The bill also requires information regarding state travel expenses incurred by the Governor to be maintained on the Portal. School districts and public charter schools must annually provide detailed employee compensation data, the school calendar, the district budget, and school policies to the department in a commonly used electronic format as specified by the department. 


Voter ID:

HJR 89 (Schoeller) - This bill would have authorized the legislature to enact voter photo ID requirements, but it was not approved by the House. The ballot title of SJR 2, a similar joint resolution already approved by the legislature, was recently rejected as defective by a Missouri court. Due to the court ruling, the proposed constitutional requirements for voter ID and early voting will not be placed on a statewide ballot at the November 2012 election. SJR 2 would have allowed the legislature to enact a bill to require any person seeking to vote in a public election to provide election officials a driver's license or other government-issued photo identification. The SJR also authorized early voting up to 17 days prior to the election date.  

Student Study Plans:

HB 1609 (Nasheed) - The House passed HB 1609 as an amendment on SB 599 (Schaefer), but the language did not pass this session. The bill would require each school district to ensure that every student develops a personal plan of secondary and post-secondary study prior to the end of the student's eighth grade year. 

Promotion of Students:

HB 1425 (McNary) - HB 1425 would have required each school district to establish a program for student academic progression. The House did not pass the bill. 

Anti-Bullying Policies:

HB 1049 (Allen) - The House passed HB 1049, but the Senate did not pass the bill. The House version of the bill expands the law regarding school anti-bullying policies and removes the language preventing school district policies from prohibiting bullying perceived as being motivated by certain enumerated categories.

Student Immigration Status:

SB 590 (Kraus) - The Senate General Laws Committee voted to approve SB 590 but the Senate did not pass the bill. Among other provisions, SB 590 requires all public schools to determine whether enrolling students are born outside of the United States or are children of an unlawfully present alien. In such cases, the bill requires the parent or guardian to notify the school of the citizenship or immigration status of the child.  

Teacher Contract Renewal Dates:

HB 1157 (Rowland) - HB 1157 would delay the deadline for the notification of reemployment and the offering of teacher contracts for probationary teachers from April 15 to May 15. The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee approved the bill, but the House did not vote on the bill.

Mandatory Reporter Requirements:

HB 1491 (Haefner) - HCS/HB 1491 would have required individual mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect, such as teachers and nurses, to report suspected abuse or neglect directly to the Children's Division, rather than reporting to a designated agent at the school, such as a counselor or administrator, and relying on that agent to make the report. The bill was later amended onto HB 1515 (Schad), but was not enacted into law. The bill includes whistle-blower protections preventing administrators from inhibiting reports and protecting employees from sanction for making reports.

The House passed HCS/HB 1169 (Franz). The provisions were eventually approved in SB 599 (Schaefer). The bill changes the reporting requirements and investigatory authority for allegations of child abuse relating to spanking by school personnel. The school district report shall be made to local law enforcement, rather than the county juvenile officer, and the investigation shall be made by local law enforcement in the county.

Vision Screening:

SB 641 (Pearce), SB 649 (Ridgeway) - SB 641 would extend the sunset on the state mandate for kindergarten and first grade students to have eye exams by an optometrist before entering school.  Neither bill was passed by the legislature. SB 649 implements the recommendations of the Children's Vision Commission and maintains requirement for all students to have vision screenings at the beginning of kindergarten, first grade and second grade. SB 649 also requires every child who is referred for a comprehensive vision examination to receive one comprehensive vision examination performed by a state licensed optometrist or physician.

School Services:

SB 451 (Cunningham) - This bill would have enacted additional authority for school districts to cooperate with other entities to provide school services and own and operate school-related facilities, but the bill did not pass the Senate.

Administrator Compensation:

SB 543 (Chappelle-Nadal) - SB 543 would have enacted several requirements regarding administrator evaluation and compensation. The bill did not pass the Senate. SB 543 would have required districts to reduce administrative costs by at least the same percentage as the district reduces instruction cost by reduction in force, required DESE to establish an evaluation instrument for superintendents and granted a three year MSIP waiver for any districts that are consolidated and for any district experiencing more than a ten percent increase in enrollment due to a boundary change.


Math and Science Tutoring for St. Louis School District:

HB 1466 (Nasheed) - The House approved HB 1466, but the bill did not pass the Senate. The bill creates a pilot program for tutoring centers for struggling students in any St. Louis City public school.