Good morning Wildcat Nation! What a beautiful day it is in the Ozarks, the weather lately has been wonderful and refreshing. I always look forward to those mornings with a nip in the air and the promise it brings with it of fall.

As I thought about what to share this week I decided to highlight one of the programs that the Neosho R-5 School District has an opportunity to be a part of. The program I want to highlight is OERI (Ozarks Education Research Initiative). This program was developed as a partnership between Missouri State University and school districts in Southwest Missouri. The program was started around five years ago to identify and research key topics related to the field of education. We all know that districts need information and research, but with the busy-ness of school there isn’t enough time to do it adequately. This is where the partnership with MSU comes in. The district’s meet and agree on a topic that is at the forefront of education. From that point the districts along with faculty representatives from MSU develop a research plan and MSU begins the research. The university manages all of the research, with data taken from schools and other outside sources they produce a document at the end of the study period that districts can use to enhance what they are doing in their respective schools.  

The district’s that are currently part if the OERI group include Aurora R-8 Schools; Bolivar R-1 Schools; Branson R-IV Schools; Fair Grove R-10 ; Hollister R-5 Schools; Joplin R-8 Schools; Lebanon R-3 Schools; Logan-Rogersville R-8 Schools; Marshfield R-1 Schools; Monett R-1 Schools; Neosho R-5; Nixa Public Schools; Ozark R-6 Schools; Reeds Spring R-4 Schools; Republic R-3; Springfield R-12; Schools West Plains R-7 Schools; and Willard R-2 Schools; and, Missouri State University’s Greenwood Laboratory School.

The OERI group shall be a means for providing a collaborative network of educational researchers and educators in Southwest Missouri. Such collaboration in educational research shall provide benefits that include, but are not limited to:

• Careful and collaborative planning;

• Developing and identifying evidence-based practices;

• Generating new knowledge;

• Improving educational practices;

• Developing educational policy;

• Developing improvements/changes in educational theory;

• Facilitating dialogue and negotiating between educators and researchers;

• Developing new learning for all parties;

• Developing innovative instruments and methods for schools conducting educational research and evaluation;

• Assuring protection of human subjects through clearly defined methodologies for research and evaluation; and

• Enhancing dissemination of results to other districts.

The 2013-14 academic year will focus on the characteristics and research-based best practices of effective teaching and learning in a technology-enriched, personalized learning environment. Primary analysis will involve the impact of technology-enriched instruction upon the academic and social achievement of PK-12 students, including student engagement and teacher-student relationships. All data will be disaggregated and analyzed by district and individual reports will be prepared for each district. Data will also be aggregated across districts to study trends.  

While OERI has been around for a few years, this is the first year Neosho has had the privilege to be a part of the group. This group is an invitation only group which makes being included even more of an honor. I am also in the process of working with the Southwest Center in Webb City to begin the process of putting together a research group in cooperation with them and MSSU for this side of the state that could include Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma school districts. This is an exciting time in education and I feel it is important to use every resource available to provide the best education we can for our students. Have a great week!

Dan Decker is superintendent of the Neosho R-5 Board of Education.