Jackson Park Elementary Students Plant for Peace

1 day ago

Students at Jackson Park Elementary made history recently just by planting a tree. Several students who tend the school's community garden participated in the first-ever Planting for Peace ceremony hosted by United Community Services. Michelle Y. Wright, founder of UCS, and a 1982 graduate of University City high School, told students the program was more than just planting a tree.

"You are actually planting the seeds of peace and this tree is a symbol of your commitment to spread peace at Jackson Park and throughout the community," Wright said. "Every time you pass this tree, from now on, you will be able to say that you started something that nobody else did."

Students braved chilly temperatures to plant the tree and recite passages about peace and the importance of being peace-keepers.

"This is an excellent way for our students to demonstrate social justice and the spirit of community," said Superintendent Sharonica Hardin-Bartley. "Age is not a barrier to leadership and these students are demonstrating leadership on a critical issue."

For more about the program visit www.weplant4peace.org.


Jackson Park students water their peace tree,

Students braved the cold to plant this special tree.

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Nat Geo Scientist Shares Wisdom, Giant Snake Skin

1 day ago

How do you make science come alive for students in kindergarten through fifth grade? You bring in Andrés Ruzo, a geothermal scientist and National Geographic Young Explorer... and a giant anaconda skin.

"We are piloting a new science resource for students K-5 with National Geographic and were fortunate enough to be able to bring this amazing scientist to our campus," said Beverly Velloff, math/science curriculum coordinator.

Ruzo, author of The Boiling River: Adventure and Discovery in the Amazon, spent time sharing his adventures and inspirations with a fourth grade students in the District recently. Ruzo is known for his science outreach work and his exploration of Shanaytimpishka, the "Boiling River of the Amazon." In 2011, he became the first geo-scientist granted permission to study the sacred Boiling River of the Amazon. He believes that environmental responsibility and economic prosperity go hand in hand and use science to unite both aims. Andrés is the founder and director of the Boiling River Project, a non-profit dedicated to understanding and protecting the Boiling River by bringing together modern science and traditional Amazonian knowledge. 

National Geographic scientist speaks to fourth grade students about bringing science to life.

Andrés Ruzo, geothermal scientist at Southern Methodist University.

Members of the curriculum team display a large anaconda skin used in the presentation.

UCHS Freshman Thinking Deeply at WUSTL

3 days ago


The following article is excerpted with permission from the ISP News at Washingotn University in St. Louis. The ISP news is a publication of the Institute for School Partnership at WUSTL. Photos courtesy of ISP News



Encouraging University City High School students to think deep


“I think there’s more diversity now,” said one student.  “Oh, I don’t think so at all,” another quickly countered.

It’s mid-morning on November 17, and these ninth-graders from University City High School are at Washington University having a robust discussion on the book Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Written as a letter to Coates’ teenage son, the book explores America’s long and persistent history of racial injustice.

“This was my first time reading about something so deep,” Darion Reed said. “It made me think about what’s actually happening in the world. It brought me out of the dark.”

The students felt the book was very timely, considering the recent election of Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, and the shooting death two years ago of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

In fact, one of the students said she had a family member who was related to Brown, and that the book struck a chord with her.

“I loved reading this book because it related to me and my family,” Shamya Shaw said. “It changed my way of thinking a lot.”

The group of 24 students visited Washington University as a community extension of the University’s Freshman First Year Reading Program.  The K-12 Connections program has provided the free books and campus experiences to high school groups for many years.

The students were broken up into two book discussions, led by Jeffery Matthews, professor of practice in drama; and Stanton Braude, professor of practice in biology.

Braude enjoys the opportunity to volunteer for the program. He says it’s a way to encourage students to be thinkers, questioners and writers. “The committee always chooses powerful texts for the students to read,” he said.

Jayla Fitch paid Braude the highest compliment. “When I got to college I want a professor like him,” she said.

For the complete article click here.




District's Innovation Learning Director Talks Tech

1 day ago


ExploreEDU Event Dec. 6 at University City High School

ExploreEDU is an immersive, peer-powered experience designed to give school administrators and technologists new tools to help create the classroom of the future. Robert Dillon, Director of Innovation Learning for the District,  is coordinating the regional event.


Editor’s note: As part of the ExploreEDU event series, schools are working with Google for Education Premier Partners to throw open their doors and invite neighboring educators to learn from their firsthand experience using Google tools to innovate and improve. To see if there is an event near you, visit the ExploreEDU site. For those who can’t join in person, we’ve asked the host schools to share their experiences and tips in a blog post. Today’s guest author is Robert Dillon, Director of Innovation Learning at University City School District in the St. Louis area. They will host an ExploreEDU event on Dec. 6 with Tierney Brothers.

All students deserve an excellent, engaging education. A big part of our mission at University City School District is to bring rich learning experiences and digital resources to all of our kids, 70 percent of whom are affected by poverty daily. I want to share a few of the ways we’re designing a more equitable learning environment for our students.

1. Igniting positive risk-taking

Taking a new approach to learning requires shifting the mentality of teachers and administrators from compliance and fear to risk and innovation. This starts with senior leadership setting an example, creating a sense of urgency and communicating openly. Our superintendent and principals acknowledge there’s no single formula for creating change, and no one has all the answers; so we need to be willing to fail and to iterate. This culture of experimentation and transparency liberates teachers to try new things, and encourages the team to solve hard problems together. We’ve used Google Classroom as a platform for innovative teachers to gather across buildings to discuss ideas, provide feedback to our education technology solution partners, and decrease any sense of isolation in the district.

Sharing information is key to building trust and energy in the system.  We’re constantly talking with other districts, and bringing people together at events like ExploreEDU to break down the walls between educators in our region. We’re also meeting with all of our principals to talk about their moonshot ideas and the resources they might need to realize these changes.

2. Expanding capacity through the community

The district leadership team also harnesses the power of our community by enlisting parents to share their expertise with us. For instance, one student’s parent who previously led a nonprofit organization is helping my team coordinate parent focus groups to test new ideas surrounding learning academies, competency-based learning, and building a greater sense of belonging in our schools.

Other parents get involved by leading student groups: one parent who sees the learning power with teaching robotics leads our middle school robotics club. Other parents who are active in the arts connect us to community organizations and build relationships with their leaders so we make the most of our partnership. This extends our network of teachers and mentors, giving students access to a breadth of knowledge and experience.

3. Improving learning through technology

We’re able to try new approaches to learning because we have the tools to support it; we also recognize that learning comes first. We selected our technology platform to meet specific goals: increasing collaboration and teaching real-world skills.  Those goals drove us to choose Google for Education which we’ve used for over six years now to help students, teachers and administrators create and share information. In our fifth grade classes that are learning through robotics class, students use Google Docs to write stories about their experiences building robots. They now have the ability to share their stories with fifth graders across the region who are working on similar projects. The power of storytelling, and its application in the real world, is amplified when students have the tools to reach an audience beyond their class and teacher.

4. Encouraging student choice

A challenge to equity is giving students the flexibility to learn about topics they’re passionate about, in ways that work best for them. In social studies and elective classes in particular, teachers are introducing opportunities for students to choose projects that have local impact. For example, many families in our district live in food deserts, which means they have limited access to affordable, healthy food. One middle school class discussed this problem in the context of race and poverty. They proposed solutions: What if schools served as farmer’s markets, or donated surplus cafeteria food to families in need? It’s inspiring to see students learn by solving problems that are relevant to our community.

Achieving greater equity in learning starts with giving our kids everyday opportunities to close the experience gap. A lot of that has to do with having the attitude, partners, tools and autonomy to make these opportunities real.

District Remains Fully Accredited; Superintendent Hosts Community Meeting on December 5 at UCHS

1 day ago

Sharonica Hardin-Bartley was hired as Superintendent of The School District of University City in January 2016. For nearly a year, she has been walking, talking, listening and learning about the opportunities to make the District a beacon of excellence. For Hardin-Bartley, academic achievement is a non-negotiable.

“We have amazing teaching and learning in our District, but we have to do more to ensure those important efforts happen across the board for every student,” the superintendent said. “Improved instruction and student learning are absolutes.”

The critical work to chart a course for continued improvement in the District includes participation and feedback from parents and community stakeholders. Superintendent Hardin-Bartley is hosting an open meeting to discuss academic progress, priorities and action plan on Monday, December 5 from 6-7:30 PM at University City High School. The meeting will be held in the Joylynn Pruitt Library. Childcare is available and light refreshments will be served.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently released the 2016 annual performance report (APR) data for individual schools and school districts based on testing from last school year. The District remains fully accredited but Hardin-Bartley says opportunities for growth are evident.

“While we are seeing some successes we have much work to do to make our District the beacon of excellence that we know it can be,” Hardin-Bartley said.

This year’s assessments are the first to be tied to the newly-revised Missouri Learning Standards. Due to the design of the new assessments, it not appropriate to compare this year’s assessments to previous year’s. Although there is no trend data to analyze, the superintendent is clear that the District must improve service and practice to ensure that every student is college and career ready.

The APR outlines performance on five standards for K-12 districts and charters: 

 1. Academic Achievement—Schools administer assessments required by the MAP to measure academic achievement and demonstrate improvement in the performance of students overtime. 

2. Subgroup Achievement—The district demonstrates required improvement in student performance for its subgroups. The performance of students identified on each assessment in identified subgroups, including free/reduced price lunch, African American and Hispanic students, English language learners, and students with disabilities, meets or exceeds the state standard or demonstrates required improvement. 

3. High School Readiness (K-8)—The district provides adequate post-elementary preparation for all students. The percent of students who earn a proficient score on one or more of the high school end-of-course (EOC) assessments while in elementary school meets or exceeds the state standard or demonstrates required improvement. College and Career Readiness (K-12)–The district provides adequate post-secondary preparation for all students. The percent of graduates who attend post-secondary education/training or are in the military within six months of graduating meets the state standard or demonstrates required improvement. The percent of graduates who complete career education programs approved by the department and are placed in occupations related or non-related to their training, continue their education, or are in the military within six months of graduating meets the state standard or demonstrates required improvement. 

 4. Attendance Rate—The district ensures all students regularly attend school. The percent of students who regularly attend school meets or exceeds the state standard or demonstrates required improvement. 

5. Graduation Rate—The district ensures all students successfully complete high school. The percent of students who complete an educational program that meets the graduation requirements as established by the board meets or exceeds the state standard or demonstrates required improvement. 


For information about the annual performance reports (APRs), click here. To learn more about the Missouri School Improvement Program, click here. For PDF of Superintendent's letter emailed to parents on Nov. 6, 2016, click here.

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