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(Springfield) (AP) – Authorities say a southwestern Illinois man died after being shot while on a hunting trip in northeastern Missouri.

Sangamon County Coroner Cinda Edwards says 31-year-old James Funk of Mascoutah died Thursday in a Springfield hospital, three days after being shot in Missouri’s Knox County.

Edwards says the shooting appeared to have been accidental, though an investigation by the Missouri Department of Conservation continues.

The department’s Matt Wolken has told KTVO-TV of Kirksville, Missouri, that Funk apparently was shot by a relative after the hunters chased a deer from a wooded area.

(St. Louis) (AP) – For years, schools have grappled with how to help the most struggling pupils catch up to their classmates.

In many cases, holding them back to repeat a grade hasn’t worked. Neither has social promotion – allowing children to move to the next grade with their classmates, where they may fall further behind.

So what would it take to get a pupil the needed help without the stigma of repeating a grade? Two schools in the Pattonville School District are shaking up schedules and class structures in an effort to find out, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

It’s an experiment that could lay the groundwork for other schools to follow suit.

Already, the concept has transformed the typical school day for hundreds of Pattonville pupils.

At one school, traditional elementary classrooms have been swept away. Rather than sitting in front of one teacher with the same classmates, pupils move from group to group based on their skill levels in reading and math.

That kind of customized instruction played out on a recent day at Holman Middle School.

Pupils filtered out of classrooms and onto buses to go home or to after-school sports and clubs. But the school day wasn’t over for some sixth-graders, who were heading to one more class. Teacher Kevin Combs wanted to see how much his pupils had grasped from his English lesson earlier that day.

About 30 pupils at Holman are part of a new extended school day twice a week. By year’s end, the pupils – some two or three grade levels below their peers in English and math – will have absorbed an additional 72 hours of teaching. The goal is to be ready for high school when they leave Holman.

“If we’re going to grow, we need the time,” Combs said.

Across the country, some districts and schools are embracing the concept, called proficiency-based learning. It can get pupils the help they need, when they need it.

“If we want all students to be college and career ready, we’ve got to do something different,” said Margie Vandeven, deputy commissioner in the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “It just makes sense.”

But barriers exist to schools offering such flexibility. Typical school schedules work against it. And school leaders worry about covering grade-level materials in time to take state tests.

For the second year, Drummond pupils in first through fifth grades are on the move every 40 minutes, except for lunch.

With some creative scheduling, administrators have been able to group pupils in each grade with others at the same level in reading and math. Some groups work above their grade level, allowing children to excel at an accelerated pace.

Other groups are a little below grade level, while some are more than two years behind.

“Typically, the kids that leave a classroom are the ones that struggle,” said Principal Jason Van Beers. “We’ve changed it so there isn’t that stigma. Every kid moves throughout the day.”

In Kristen Webber’s room, a small group of fourth-graders take turns with a timed reading test. They have one minute to read as far as they can on a page. Using a computer program, Webber can highlight and track the words missed each week.

“One day Russ had a wonderful idea,” a girl starts reading. “He found a large bucket. He filled it with warm water and added a . g-g-generous amount of dish soap,” she said, pausing to sound out the word.

The week before, she had five errors, and today just three. If children feel comfortable when they make mistakes, they can learn from them instead of feeling embarrassed, Webber said.

In the past, educators were largely limited to either holding a child back a grade, or moving them along. Research shows neither option reliably improves long-term achievement for struggling pupils.

Several studies have shown that pupils who are held back in middle school are more likely to drop out of high school. Others say the trauma of repeating a grade outlasts any improved performance.

Education leaders, including Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro, have said that’s why schools need to think differently about how to help kids succeed.

Thinking creatively about how to help children catch up also can mean thinking differently about when they should take state standardized exams.

Critics of rigid state testing schedules argue that it makes more sense to focus on closing the learning gaps, even if that means delaying testing.

That’s part of the idea behind an “Algebra for All” program that Pattonville adopted 15 years ago.

Under the program, the type of algebra a student takes depends on his or her needs and ability. Some take it as early as seventh grade, while others complete a two-year course in high school and take a state-mandated end-of-course exam accordingly.

At Drummond Elementary, administrators decided to have 28 third-graders delay taking the Missouri state standardized exam last spring.

Those pupils received intense help this summer, and even though they are fourth-graders, they are still getting ready for the third-grade exam. Tim Pecoraro, an assistant superintendent in Pattonville, said the approach makes more sense than giving them a test they aren’t ready for.

But changing testing schedules can be controversial. Schools and districts in Missouri are rated by how many pupils pass exams within a spring testing window.

Pattonville officials say simply boosting test scores isn’t their aim. And they say the state education department has given the district permission to pilot the idea.

“It’s not about trying to game the system . delaying kids to pump up our test scores,” Pecoraro said. “You do it to help kids.”

This year, Pattonville scored among the top school districts in the St. Louis area on its annual performance report with 96.8 percent – even as its poverty rate is three times that of others such as Kirkwood and Rockwood.

Overall, students are slightly above Missouri’s state averages in math and English language arts scores, with 57 percent passing.

But the district tops others in St. Louis County for black student achievement on end-of-course-exams in Algebra I, biology, English II and government.

High standards and believing that every child is capable have been key, said Superintendent Mike Fulton.

“It definitely is not how any of us went to school,” Pecoraro said.

FILE - The West Plains High School Zizzer Pride Band performs in the 2013 West Plains Christmas Parade (ORN Photo)

FILE – The West Plains High School Zizzer Pride Band performs in the 2013 West Plains Christmas Parade (ORN Photo)

(West Plains) – The West Plains Chamber of Commerce invites the public to enjoy the Annual Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 13.

The parade will begin at 4 PM on the corner of Porter Wagoner and Missouri Avenue. The parade will then travel down Porter Wagoner past People’s Park, rounding the corner onto West Main and then disbursing at the four way stop on the corner of West Main and Preacher Roe/Minnesota.

This year’s theme is “A Hometown Christmas”. The parade will be led by Grand Marshals from the Chamber of Commerce “Walk of Fame”, including Jan Howard.

Everyone in the Parade will enter the lineup at the corner of Minnesota and 2nd street beginning at 1 PM. Volunteers will check you in and distribute judging numbers at this point. The lineup will travel up Minnesota to 6th Street, turn right onto 6th and then left on Missouri. Parents delivering children to floats may drop them at the corner of 6th St. and Minnesota, 2nd and Minnesota or Concord and Missouri. Parade volunteers will shuttle the children to floats on the parade route compliments of the vehicles provided by Mega Motorsports & Larson Farm & Lawn.

For more information on the parade, prizes, or entry forms, call the Chamber office at 417-256-4433 or email them at

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Fresh off his re-election, Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich confirmed Thursday that he is considering a bid for governor in 2016 and touted an encouraging letter from supporters as “a powerful incentive to go forward” with a campaign.

Schweich, a Republican from the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, was elected to a second four-year term this month after facing no Democratic opposition. Until now, he had declined to publicly discuss his gubernatorial aspirations. He told The Associated Press that he will announce a decision about a gubernatorial campaign early next year.

Schweich’s comments came as supporters released a letter signed by more than 120 people encouraging the 54-year-old auditor to run for governor.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

So far, former U.S. Attorney and Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway is the only declared Republican candidate for governor, and Attorney General Chris Koster is the only Democrat running.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – A Missouri lawmaker promised Thursday to try to block proposed pay increases for legislators and other elected officials, which had been recommended by a state board days earlier.

Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St.Charles, said he plans to introduce a resolution against the raises next session.

The Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials suggested Tuesday 8 percent pay raises both in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 for the governor and other statewide officials, although they haven’t written an official report yet.

The governor, who currently is paid $133,821 a year, would make about $156,088 a year under those recommendations. State lawmakers would receive a $4,000 raise from the current $35,915 over two years, and the lieutenant governor would make $9,500 more to $95,984.

Some eligible for raises would only get part of the benefits before their terms end in January 2017.

A spokeswoman for the Office of Administration said the estimated cost of the increases to the state has not yet been determined.

The state constitution requires the commission meet every two years to evaluate whether to increase officials’ pay, and the panel’s suggestions take effect automatically unless two-thirds of the Missouri Legislature votes against them.

(West Plains) – A recap of the educational European trip students in the William and Virginia Darr Honors Program took this summer will be the topic of the next Friends of the Garnett Library monthly luncheon meeting Friday, December 12, on the Missouri State University-West Plains campus.

Darr Honors Program Director Alex Pinnon and the students will present a program about their Honors Abroad trip to Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland in May and discuss the impact traveling abroad had on what they have learned.

The luncheon and meeting will take place from noon to 1 p.m. in rooms 104 and 105 on the lower level of the Lybyer Technology Center. Parking is available in the lot off Cass Avenue on the north side of the building. The cost of the meal is $10, and it’s payable at the door. Those wishing to eat are asked to make a reservation by calling 417-255-7940 or emailing by Tuesday, Dec. 9.

(Mountain Home) – The Baxter County Sheriff’s Office is joining forces with other state and local law enforcement officers over the 2014 Thanksgiving holiday.

The “Click It or Ticket” enforcement campaign during the holiday period begins Monday, November 24 and continues through November 30.

The Thanksgiving holiday is among the busiest of travel periods both in Arkansas and across the nation, and deputies will be working overtime to ensure the highways and streets are safe by strictly enforcing the laws, including the Arkansas mandatory seat belt law.

There were 301 traffic deaths nationally during the 2012 Thanksgiving reporting period, and sixty percent of the passenger vehicle occupants who died were not wearing seat belts. In Arkansas, during the same holiday reporting period, ten people lost their lives and 201 people were injured.

According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during calendar year 2012 seat belts saved more than 12,000 lives nationwide.

(Mountain Home) – Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (ASUMH) and other two-year colleges across the state will celebrate Community College Work$ Week December 1-5.

In a recent proclamation, Governor Mike Beebe declared the week a celebration of the work of community colleges across the state, and vital role that these institutions play in meeting local economic development and workforce needs.

As a part of the state-wide celebration, ASUMH will host government and business leaders at the ASUMH Technical Center from 7:30-8:30 AM on Monday, December 1 for a continental breakfast, facility tours, and information on training programs. The center is located at 4034 Highway 62 West in Mountain Home, AR.

Community College Work$ is joint project of the twenty-two members of Arkansas Community Colleges (ACC), formerly the Arkansas Association of Two Year Colleges (AATYC). For more information on Community College Work$, contact Christy Keirn, Director of Communications and Institutional Advancement, at 508-6109.

(Mountain Home) – Area teens are invited to Teen Tuesday at the Donald W. Reynolds Library Tuesday, November 25 from 5-7 PM.

Teen Tuesday is a monthly program at the Library designed especially for teens in grades 7th – 12th, which includes snacks, movies, or activities with a different theme each month.

For additional information, contact Teen Librarian John Dyer at or 870-580-0703 or visit The Donald W. Reynolds Library Serving Baxter County is located at 300 Library Hill, Mountain Home, AR.

(Melbourne) – Ozarka College offers an Associate of Science degree and a Certificate of Proficiency in Criminal Justice and Corrections, both of which can be completed fully online.

The Criminal Justice and Corrections program prepares students for career opportunities, as well as transferability for a Bachelor of Science degree.

Earning a degree in the field of Criminal Justice and Corrections provides students with career opportunities for Federal level law enforcement, such as the FBI, DEA, ATF, Air Marshal Service, Secret Service, and Border Protection.

Spring and summer registration is currently open, and financial aid is available for students who qualify. For more information about Ozarka College’s Criminal Justice and Corrections program, please contact Nick Wilcox, Ozarka College’s Criminal Justice Program Coordinator at 870.994.7273 or email: