Education
3:34 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

St. Louis Area Schools Receive More Than $6.2 Million To Improve Academic Performance

Twelve St. Louis area schools with low academic performance will receive a total of more than $6.2 million in federal money to kick start classroom improvement.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, which is distributing more than $43 million nationally to seven states. 

Four of the schools receiving the money are in the unaccredited Riverview Gardens School District in north St. Louis County and eight are in the St. Louis Public Schools.  One school is in Columbia, another is in Kansas City. Missouri was awarded a total of $7,531,890 under the grant program.   

Below is a list of St. Louis area schools awarded SIG money.

Riverview Gardens

  • Lewis and Clark Elementary, $464,300
  • Lemasters Elementary, $480,600
  • Meadows Elementary, $470,800
  • Moline Elementary, $457,300  

St. Louis Public Schools

  • Dunbar Elementary, $500,800
  • Laclede Elementary, $504,500
  • Roosevelt High School, $650,600
  • Meramec Elementary, $524,550
  • Earl Nance Elemntary, $500,300
  • Yeatman-Liddell Middle School, $550,800
  • Oak Hill Elementary, $503,550
  • Sumner High School, $651,050

Schools receiving SIG money must follow one of four possible models to improve academic performance. All of the above St. Louis area schools receiving SIG money are using the “transformation” model, which requires the following:

  • Replace the principal and take steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness
  • Institute comprehensive instructional reforms
  • Increase learning time and create community-oriented schools
  • Provide operational flexibility and sustained support.

Margie Vandeven, the deputy commissioner of learning services at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), said because the grants have a three year timeline, administrators have to hit the ground running.  

“It’s a very quick time to see turnaround in our lowest performing schools,” Vandeven said.  

One of the first things they’ll look at, she said, is whether or not kids are actually getting to school.

“And once they’re there, is there rigorous curriculum in place, high expectations for success for all children,” She said.  

The SIG program awards money to state education departments. They then distribute competitive subgrants to school districts that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds and the strongest commitment to raise student achievement in their lowest-performing schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Missouri schools have typically used SIG funds to hire additional staff, including instructional coaches or college and career readiness counselors, according to DESE.  Schools have also used SIG money to implement reading and math programs, extend learning opportunities such as Saturday school, or lengthen school days or classes during spring and winter break.  SIG money has also been used to provide professional development for teachers and staff.

The money also comes with far more state scrutiny to ensure administrators are following up on their plans to improve student success.

“We have people through the department that are in the schools at least once a month, often more frequently,” Vandeven said.  

Implementing data-based decision making will be a central part of the program.  

“We also have a group of data collectors that go into each of these buildings,” Vandeven said.  “They have climate observations tools, they have classroom observations tools.  But we are looking at attendance rates, graduation rates.  Ultimately, it comes down to: Are we seeing a difference in student achievement.”

The first group of Missouri schools has just wrapped up participation in the program, and Vandeven said the program had mixed results.

She said preliminary findings show that things like after school programs and strong school leadership weigh heavily into ramping up academic success in struggling schools.

Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin also received SIG funding to improve struggling schools. 

Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter@TimSLloyd