Dale Singer

Education Reporter

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and a grandson, Jonah, who is the cutest child in the world.

Ways To Connect

St. Louis Public Schools

As Missouri’s state board of education gets ready to hold the first of three mandated hearings on new standards for public schools, members of the groups charged with writing the standards say politics is starting to take a back seat to education.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
(via Google Maps screen capture)

The new Normandy Schools Collaborative has completed one quarter of its first academic year, but if the experience of one teacher is any indication, conditions in the beleaguered district have not gotten any better under the control of a state-appointed board.

Peter Herschend
DESE website

Updated 1:25 p.m. Wednesday with letter from MNEA president:

Amid indications that the Missouri state board of education may choose a new commissioner next week, school officials throughout the state have urged it to open up the process and consider a wider range of candidates.

The state board already has discussed in closed session the process to replace Chris Nicastro, who has announced her retirement as of the end of December. And the board has several more hours of closed session talks set for its meeting Monday and Tuesday in Jefferson City.

Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

For the typical college freshman, heading for campus means a welcome chance to leave behind all those pesky rules that had to be followed at home and to enter a new environment of freedom and choice.

For the military veteran trying to re-enter civilian society and signing up for college classes, that lack of structure may be far less attractive and more than a little intimidating.

Ryan Barrett, who is studying for his doctorate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, went through that tough transition when he left the Air Force after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Given the angry images and actions out of Ferguson and south St. Louis in recent weeks, you might not think that being too nice would be a problem in dealing with diversity.

Yet in recent discussions about Washington University’s new Center for Diversity and Inclusion – why it is needed, what it hopes to accomplish – the four-letter word that came up repeatedly was “nice.”

Demonstrators sketched a chalk outline of a body on the pavement of the Ferguson Police Station on October 13.
Rachel Lippman | St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated at 10:45 p.m. with additional information about the arrests)

Amid pouring rains and a tornado watch, the fourth day of a national call to action in St. Louis included protests and dozens of arrests in Ferguson and elsewhere.

The events Monday included a march led by clergy to the Ferguson Police Department, a "dead-in" at Washington University in St. Louis and a demonstration at St. Louis City Hall.

Rebecca Smith/St. Louis Public Radio

As far as sexual assaults on a college campus are concerned, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill says no news is definitely not good news.

McCaskill, D-Mo., came to Harris-Stowe State University Monday as part of her continuing efforts to strengthen colleges’ responses to sexual assault – responses that she says too often are half-hearted or, at their worst, harmful to the victim.

When writer and educator Inda Schaenen wanted to find out what really goes on in Missouri’s schools, she decided to ask those who are closest to the action – students, and more specifically fourth-grade students.

So she traveled throughout the state, talking with fourth-graders in public, private and parochial schools, in rural, urban and suburban areas. She asked about their courses, about their friends, about why they think they have to go to school in the first place. And she asked what she said was the best trigger of them all: “What’s it like here?”

Michelle Peltier/Saint Louis University

Fred Pestello may be the first lay president of Saint Louis University, but he is hardly ignoring the school’s mission grounded in Jesuit philosophy.

At his inauguration Friday morning, Pestello told faculty, staff, students, alumni and representatives of other universities that the traditions of a Jesuit education mean that SLU must “ask the most compelling questions of our time. Our mission statement itself is a reflection of this extraordinary vocation. We commit ourselves to the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and the service of humanity….

Rebecca Smith/St. Louis Public Radio

A tutoring program that now serves 150 students in north St. Louis could expand to help 350 more students in the city and north St. Louis County with the help of $500,000 in federal funds awarded by the state of Missouri.

(via Flickr/evmaiden)

Depending on whose opinion you get, this week’s initial meetings to draw up new school standards for Missouri students were a “Common Core cheerleading session” or a strong-arm attempt that was “hijacked by political extremists” on the right.

Either way, the eight committees impaneled under a law passed earlier this year appear to have a long way to go to meet a deadline of having the new standards ready for approval a year from now.

DESE website

As she moves toward her retirement after more than five years as Missouri’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, Chris Nicastro has definite thoughts about what she got done, what she would have liked to accomplish and what her successor needs to bring to the job.

She also – after just a slight hesitation – has a pretty good idea of how, as a teacher, she would grade her tenure in Jefferson City.

“Oh …. probably a C-plus,” she said during a wide-ranging interview this week at the Wainwright state office building downtown.

So you’re a tough grader?

Normandy superintendent Ty McNichols
Dale Singer/St. Louis Public Radio

The detailed form used by Normandy school administrators when they visit a classroom to observe district teachers starts out by saying: “It was a joy to be in your room today.”

How widespread that joy will be as the school year progresses is hard to judge.

One month after classes started, the state-appointed board running what is now the Normandy Schools Collaborative has adopted an ambitious agenda from Missouri education officials that calls for steep, steady improvement by students in the next three years.

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Webster U. website

Elizabeth Robb recalls that when she arrived as a freshman at Webster College from Hopkinsville, Ky., in 1961, if she wanted to leave her dorm room in the evening, a proctor had to sign her out.

When bedtime came – around 10 or 10:30 p.m., as she remembers it, “the proctor came around and made sure you were still in your room and turned off the lights in the hall and your lights went off as well.”

DESE website

Now that she has announced her retirement at the end of the year, how should Chris Nicastro’s tenure as Missouri’s commissioner of education be graded?

Using the guarded tone of academia, Alex Cuenca, an assistant professor of education at Saint Louis University, gave this assessment Tuesday:

“I think she did the best she could with the circumstances she was given and the cards she was dealt.”

The response from state Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, who himself is about to leave public service after a long career in the General Assembly, was pithier.

DESE website

Updated 5:01 p.m. with reaction, more details.

Chris Nicastro, whose sometimes controversial tenure as Missouri’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education has been marked by efforts to improve urban schools and the transfer program out of Normandy and Riverview Gardens, announced Monday she will retire at the end of the year.

Stephanie Zimmerman

As legal efforts continue to open the Francis Howell school district to students who want to transfer from Normandy, a new policy shift has increased the pool of students able to transfer to any local accredited district.

The move raises new concerns about the financial survival of Normandy, which was taken over by the state after transfer costs drove it to the brink of bankruptcy last school year.

Were you paying attention to St. Louis Public Radio this week?

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St. Louis Public Radio File Photo

Even though a campaign to institute tougher evaluation and tenure rules for Missouri teachers is stopping its efforts, opponents of a constitutional amendment on the November ballot say they’re going ahead with their efforts to defeat it.

“We’re going to be campaigning full steam ahead,” Mike Sherman, spokesman for the group Protect Our Local Schools, said in an interview Wednesday. “We still need everyone in the state to vote no.”

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