Missouri Career Education

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Career Preparation Certificate Program
What Works!



"First PLACE"

The Keeter Center for Character Education is leading a countywide character education initiative in partnership with all public schools in Taney County, Mo. The initiative is called “First PLACE! – Partners Linking Arms for Character Education.” The 17 school buildings in Taney County each sent a team through CHARACTERplus training at The Keeter Center. Each team was comprised of a school building administrator, a counselor, a teacher, a community member, and another teacher or board member. This character education is a process instead of a program; it is ongoing and incorporates 10 essentials in drawing together a comprehensive plan that focuses on school, home, and community.

The First PLACE initiative has three goals:

  1. improve school climate to positively impact achievement, attendance, discipline, and dropout rate
  2. cultivate visible community support
  3. increase parent participation and awareness in character development.

In April 2005, an official kickoff was held with community members and school representatives gathered together for a town hall meeting. Nine traits were selected to represent Taney County: respect, responsibility, citizenship, compassion/kindness, commitment, honesty, cooperation, perseverance, and self-discipline. After the first year, three summer traits were selected to round out the yearly schedule.

Not only are schools implementing numerous ways to incorporate the trait of the month into the classroom, but 355 businesses and civic organizations, as well as churches and community leaders, have become intentional about teaching and demonstrating good character. Anyone can sign up to be a partner as long as he or she is committed to do one thing each month to reinforce the trait of the month. That might be putting the trait on a marquee, in a newsletter, or on a Web site. Some are also including the trait in staff training, on a bulletin board, or in a sermon.

Initial data reflects a decrease in disciplinary referrals, an increase in MAP scores, and an increase in attendance at the schools that are actively engaged in the process of character education. “In order to change the culture, it is going to take everyone linking arms and moving towards a common goal. We don’t have time to wait for someone else to come in and help our kids. We are responsible, and it’s up to us to work together and change the culture in our county,” said Sue Head, executive director of The Keeter Center for Character Education at College of the Ozarks. “College of the Ozarks has been helping develop character in young people for nearly 100 years. We are glad to have a leadership role in this worthy initiative.”

For more information, contact The Keeter Center at (417) 334-6411, ext. 4242.

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A+ Schools Program

The A+ Schools Program was created in 1993 by state law as an incentive for improving Missouri’s high schools. The primary goal of the program is to ensure that all students who graduate from Missouri high schools are well-prepared to pursue advanced education and/or employment.


“The A+ Schools Program will mobilize an intensive partnership among high schools, community colleges, students, teachers, parents, labor, businesses, and communities to give these students the motivation, skills, and knowledge to graduate from high school. It will create an innovative and well-designed path from high school to high skill, high wage jobs.”

Excerpt from a speech on World Class Schools for Missouri

given by Gov. Mel Carnahan, May 1992)

The impact of this program has proven to be phenomenal. There are now 231 designated A+ high schools across the state that have graduated more than 65,000 eligible students since the program began in 1997. At least one semester of the A+ Schools financial incentive has been utilized by more than 28,000 eligible students. More than $16 million was paid by the A+ financial incentive for tuition to community colleges and career/technical schools during the 2005-2006 school year, and more than $18 million was appropriated for the 2006-2007 school year. There has been a reduction in the dropout rate and an increase in the graduation rate at designated A+ schools as compared to the state as a whole. A+ high schools are providing more rigorous coursework as a result of the program, and students are rising to the challenge. The A+ Schools Program has produced thousands of successful students.

One student used his A+ eligibility to attend St. Louis Community College, where he enrolled in the Ford ASSET program. He graduated and is now a Ford Transmission Specialist and Diesel Certified Technician. He used A+ to obtain a degree that led him back home, where he is gainfully employed at a local business.

Another student used her A+ eligibility to attend Moberly Area Community College and earn an associate’s degree in nursing. She then went on to enroll, at her own expense, at the University of Missouri, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing in December 2006. She is now a registered nurse in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital in Columbia.

For more information, contact the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at (573) 751-9094.

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Northwest Regional Culture of Character
— Partners Achieving Character Excellence

The Northwest Regional Culture of Character –Partners Achieving Character Excellence (COC/PACE) was initiated by the Northwest Missouri Regional Professional Development Center (NWRPDC) as a three-county (Worth, Atchison and Nodaway) initiative in August 2006. The entire program was initiated without specific funding and used only resources that participants brought forward. The initial group of 10 school districts and a handful of businesses, industries, and government partners has grown into a regional initiative with more than 200 partners and 20 school districts. In the spring of 2007, the Regional Workforce Investment Board, the Youth Council, and Leadership Northwest Missouri stepped forward to partner with the NWRPDC, growing the model to include the 22 counties of northwest Missouri.

During the spring, summer, and fall of 2006, the NWRPDC provided training for all participating school districts and partners by CHARACTERplus personnel and other nationally recognized professional trainers. Schools, communities, and industry/business representatives met to formulate a list of character traits that were then formally reviewed and processed by a representative regional team. This process resulted in 12 character traits, one for each month of the year. Starting in the month of August, they are: responsibility, respect, self-control, citizenship, compassion, tolerance, honesty, cooperation, perseverance, patience, confidence, and integrity. “Character education is more than imparting knowledge; it is the development of human beings. Therefore, character education is vital to our business, community, and region in our ability to remain on the cutting edge, and be a vibrant entity going forward,” said Charla Wiederholt, plant manager at Deluxe.

NWRPDC envisions its efforts as a movement with the following goals:

The communication process is driven by an online Web site that records and celebrates what schools and partners are doing each week to implement the trait of the month and to identify shared resources. Northwest Missouri State University FM-Radio regional programming broadcasts segments authored by students, parents, teachers, employees, and mangers to tell their personal success stories relating to the character trait of the month. These will be compiled into a CD and/or DVD to be made available to the all COC/PACE members for use in the classroom, workplace, Sunday schools, and on other radio stations in the region.

For more information, contact the Northwest RPDC at (800) 663-3348.

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St. Joseph Guarantees Its Graduates

In 1987, a partnership was formed in St. Joseph between community organizations, business entities, and the school district. The partnership identified several critical issues: the educational level of residents, limited student success within the workforce, and the high dropout rate. The group recognized that, with a majority of students remaining in the area, improvements would have a great impact to the skilled workforce. With the ultimate goal of improving the overall quality of the workforce in the community, the Profit in Education© (PIE) Initiative consisted of four basic requests from area employers:

The school district took the responsibility of providing skilled graduates with several improvements. The curriculum was improved to better meet businesses’ needs. When a student graduated, they were given a written  guarantee of their skills. With this guarantee, the community would benefit from a stronger work force and a higher rate of student success because students neededSt. Joseph guarantee card to stay in school to get a job. If within three years of graduation a student was found to be lacking in basic skills, the district would provide tuition-free access to adult education classes, tutoring, and worksite instruction for the deficiencies.

The school district worked with employers to handle students who returned in a dignified and positive manner. Areas of remediation were identified, and adult classes were offered to improve knowledge and skills. As an example, a class called Business Communications or Technical Writing might be offered to improve writing skills. With larger companies, the school district created professional learning opportunities with instruction delivered at the worksite.  While the initial written guarantee has faded away, many of the partnership activities and supports still exist.

The next step in the movement toward creating a community of lifelong learners is a new initiative called Another Smart Move. This initiative is being launched to help employers and employees benefit from a better-trained and better-educated workforce. “Our purpose is to help employers improve their business by developing a better trained and more productive workforce,” said Dr. James Scanlon, president of Missouri Western State University. The ultimate goal of Another Smart Move is for the phrase to become synonymous with the importance and value of education, training, and character development in St. Joseph and the northwest Missouri region.

For more information about Another Smart Move, contact the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce at (800) 748-7856.

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Cape Girardeau Area Ready to Work

In 2000, the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center, in partnership with the Workforce Investment Board of Southeast Missouri, conducted a solutions mapping conference to address workforce development strategies for the Southeast region. A wide range of individuals representing business, industry, K-12 education, higher education, economic development, and workforce development came together. The developments from the solutions mapping brought forth the decision of capitalizing on the WorkKeys system presently in place among numerous businesses and industries in the region, as well as the creation of the Workplace Readiness Credential project.

The WorkKeys system has been utilized in the Cape Girardeau region for over a decade and has proven to be a very valuable asset to business and industry. Presently, more than 20 companies in the region utilize the WorkKeys system. Birdie Legrand from Nordenia USA said, “WorkKeys testing is something our company is committed to utilizing. It has proven to help our retention rate over time.”

The Workplace Readiness Credential program was originally designed to target individuals who lost a job through downsizing, lost government benefits, or merely needed a refresher on securing employment and retention skills. The Workplace Readiness Credential program simulates an employee’s probationary period in a two-week, intense time frame. Soft skills such as working as a team player and problem-solving play an integral role in the program.

An Evolving System
Presently, the components of the programs are being utilized by secondary schools as a ready to work tool. The Workplace Readiness Credential curriculum has been integrated into the career education curriculum taken during the high school experience to enhance the soft skills of the students. Secondary schools are proctoring the WorkKeys tests (Reading for Information, Locating Information, and Applied Mathematics) so that students will leave with a meaningful certificate in hand. Rich Payne, director of the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center said, “I feel that we can now say to the employers of this region the individuals that complete these soft skills and WorkKeys components are ready to work.”

For more information, contact the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center at (573) 334-0826.

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