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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri education officials are having statewide meetings to talk to the public about a new uniform set of benchmarks for math, reading and writing.

The gatherings will get started at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Florissant, St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Springfield, Marceline, Camdenton, Warrensburg and Kansas City.

The new Common Core standards replace a hodgepodge of educational goals that varied wildly from state to state. The federal government was not involved in the state-led effort to develop them but has encouraged the project.

The only states not to adopt the standards are Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia. Minnesota adopted the reading but not the math standards.

Backers say they will better prepare students for college and careers. But critics worry they'll be costly to implement and nationalize public schools.

Published in Local News
Friday, 05 April 2013 09:43

ESL Dist. 189 announces teacher lay offs

   Cuts in the classroom are coming to the East St. Louis School District. Teachers layoffs were announced  during Thursday night's packed school board meeting.  

   In all, 69 teachers in District 189 will lose their jobs.  Five elementary school principals and two middle school principals will also be cut.  

   East St. Louis is just the latest in a long list of metro-east school districts forced to make the cuts because of state and local budget issues.

Published in Local News
Funding for many metro-east schools is nearing "crisis" status. The situation is getting so bad, that state education officials are pleading with state legislators to increase school funding by more than $800 million.

But the budget proposed by Governor Pat Quinn would cut education spending by more than $300 million.

Many Illinois school districts are already operating on deficits after the state failed to fully fund its obligations for the past two years. Virtually every metro-east district is laying off teachers in anticipation of less state funding next year. Some are cutting sports programs and closing schools.

St. Clair County schools superintendent Susan Sarfaty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that "Districts are no longer cutting fat from their budgets — they’re cutting bone." Sarfaty says "there's no more fat to cut."
Published in Local News
NEW YORK (AP) — A government survey of parents says 1 in 50 U.S. schoolchildren has autism, surpassing another federal estimate for the disorder.

Health officials say the new number doesn't mean autism is occurring more often. But it does suggest that doctors are diagnosing autism more frequently, especially in children with milder problems.

The earlier government estimate of 1 in 88 comes from a study that many consider more rigorous. It looks at medical and school records instead of relying on parents.

For decades, autism meant kids with severe language, intellectual and social impairments and unusual, repetitious behaviors. But the definition has gradually expanded and now includes milder, related conditions.

The new estimate released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would mean at least 1 million children have autism.

The number is important — government officials look at how common each illness or disorder is when weighing how to spend limited public health funds.

It's also controversial.

The new statistic comes from a national phone survey of more than 95,000 parents in 2011 and 2012. Less than a quarter of the parents contacted agreed to answer questions, and it's likely that those with autistic kids were more interested than other parents in participating in a survey on children's health, CDC officials said.

Still, CDC officials believe the survey provides a valid snapshot of how many families are affected by autism, said Stephen Blumberg, the CDC report's lead author.

The study that came up with the 1-in-88 estimate had its own limitations. It focused on 14 states, only on children 8 years old, and the data came from 2008. Updated figures based on medical and school records are expected next year.

"We've been underestimating" how common autism is, said Michael Rosanoff of Autism Speaks, an advocacy group. He believes the figure is at least 1 in 50.

There are no blood or biologic tests for autism, so diagnosis is not an exact science. It's identified by making judgments about a child's behavior.

Doctors have been looking for autism at younger and younger ages, and experts have tended to believe most diagnoses are made in children by age 8.

However, the new study found significant proportions of children were diagnosed at older ages.

Dr. Roula Choueiri, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said she's seen that happening at her clinic. Those kids "tend to be the mild ones, who may have had some speech delays, some social difficulties," she wrote in an email. But they have more problems as school becomes more demanding and social situations grow more complex, she added.
Published in Health & Fitness
Two more districts have joined the growing list of metro-east school districts that plan to lay off teachers and other staff. Belleville District 118 and Highland Community Unit District 5 both announced staff layoffs Tuesday due to the state's budget shortfall.

District 118 will lay off six teachers and 20 staff members. The state of Illinois owes the district nearly two-million dollars.

In Highland, several teachers are being let go, but the specifics haven't been released.

Earlier this week, officials with Belleville District 201 and the Collinsville School District announced layoffs.
Published in Local News
There's a fight brewing in Jefferson City over new education standards in math and English, called the Common Core.

The national standards define the skills and knowledge students should have. And proponents say Missouri students need Common Core in order to stay competitive with students from 45 other states that have adopted them.

But some state lawmakers are balking, claiming that the move to Common Core will give federal education officials too much control over local schools. Senator John Lamping co-sponsored a bill to repeal Common Core in Missouri. The Ladue Republican has accused federal education officials of coercion. He and other opponents have also questioned the cost of implementation, since the standards call for computerized testing.

The State's Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro says the new standards only outline what students should know, not how schools and teachers should go about teaching, because Common Core doesn't dictate curriculum.

Both Missouri and Illinois adopted the standards in 2010. Illinois will achieve full implementation in the 2013-14 school year, a full year ahead of the Show-me state.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to call today for additional cuts and more scrutiny of money that's automatically sent to local governments, public transportation and other programs as he presents his proposed budget.

The Chicago Democrat will propose slashing $400 million from education in the fiscal year that starts July 1. It also will pin the blame for the cuts on lawmakers' failure to fix the state's worst-in-the-nation pension problem.

The automatic fund transfers include more than $2 billion in spending that Quinn's aides describe as "on autopilot." The amount those programs receive is set in state statute. Trying to cut it is likely to cause a contentious debate.

Quinn's proposed budget also attempts to pay down $2 billion in unpaid bills.
Published in Local News
Residents in the City of St. Louis may learn Wednesday night which public schools are facing closure.

St. Louis Public Schools superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams has said he will make several proposals at the 6 p.m. meeting of the special administrative board. Among his proposals, Dr. Adams is expected to recommend that some schools close next year and other be phased out as a cost-cutting measure.

Dr. Adams says several factors, including academic performance, would be considered in deciding which, if any, schools would close.

There has been wide-spread speculation that the Cleveland NJROTC Academy would be phased out, accepting no new freshmen after this year.

Wednesday’s Special Administrative Board meeting is at 6:00 p.m. at 801 North 11th Street.
Published in Local News
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 00:39

MO Senate endorses bill to allow gun safe course

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri first-graders could see an addition to their curriculum under a bill given first-round approval in the Missouri Senate.

The measure endorsed Tuesday would give school districts the option to teach a National Rifle Association-sponsored gun safety program to students in first grade. SB75 would also allow schools to implement a training program for teachers and other personnel on responding to intruders.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Dan Brown, of Rolla, originally would have required schools to adopt both programs. But opposition from Democratic senators caused Brown to make the training and gun safety course optional.

The measure needs one more affirmative vote before moving to the House.
Published in Local News
SEATTLE (AP) - A new study has found teaching parents to switch channels from violent shows to educational TV can improve preschoolers' behavior, even without getting them to watch less.

The results were modest and faded over time, but the study authors and other doctors say they may hold promise for finding ways to help young children avoid aggressive, violent behavior.

The research involving 565 parents was published online Monday by the journal Pediatrics.

They periodically filled out TV-watching diaries and questionnaires measuring their child's behavior.

Half were coached for six months on getting their 3-to-5-year-old kids to watch shows like "Sesame Street" and "Dora the Explorer" rather than more violent programs like "Power Rangers."

Low-income boys appeared to get the most short-term benefit.
Published in Health & Fitness
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