The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has released its Annual Performance Report (APR) for all of Missouri's school districts, using a different grading scale than the one used in previous years to determine whether or not districts should be accredited.
At first glance under the new scale, the APR score for St. Louis Public Schools looks bad – the district landed at 24.6 percent on a scale of zero to 100 percent. Any school district that scores below 49.9 percent under the new standard, entitled MSIP5, is classified as unaccredited. However, Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro told reporters during a conference call Thursday that St. Louis schools are not about to lose their provisional accreditation, which they regained nearly a year ago.
"The department has stated repeatedly that we will not classify nor reclassify a district based on this first-year Annual Performance Report under MSIP5," Nicastro said. "It has always been our intent…that we wait at least two years, and in the vast majority of cases we've indicated we will wait three years, to use this new accountability system for determining accreditation."
Nicastro says one reason for the delay is to allow for sustainable trends, be they up or down, to be taken into consideration before determining a school's accreditation level.
"We believe that one (annual performance report) does not constitute a sustainable trend of either improvement or decline," Nicastro said.
The former grading scale used by the state to determine accreditation, known as MSIP4, ranked school districts on a scale of zero to 14. A district had to meet 9 out of 14 accreditation standards in order to be fully accredited, a district meeting between 6 and 8 standards would be provisionally accredited, and those meeting 5 or less would be unaccredited.
The new scale (MSIP5) is structured this way:
0 to 49.9% -- unaccredited
50% to 69.9% -- provisionally accredited
70% to 89.9% -- accredited
90% to 100% -- accredited with distinction (will also include additional criteria that has yet to be determined by the State Board of Education)
Last year, St. Louis schools regained provisional accreditation when they moved up from 6 out of 14 to 7.
Normandy schools in St. Louis County lost their accreditation after meeting only 5 out of 14 standards in 2012. Riverview Gardens school district met 4 out of 14 standards in 2012 – it lost accreditation six years ago and has been under state control since 2010.
SLPS Superintendent speaks out on new APR score
St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams says this year's results were disappointing, but he's confident next year will be better.
"It's very easy to jump to a score. 'Wow. 24. The district is failing,'" Adams said. "Based on this assessment the district has struggled with MSIP5. The district will not struggle next year with MSIP5."
Dr. Adams says SLPS is already making changes that will help next year, including putting $3 million into one-on-one tutoring programs in the lowest-performing schools. And he says at 17 schools there have been changes in principals, along with administrators getting smaller groups of schools to oversee.
Adams says the district would have held steady under the old assessment, but he says the new standards must be met.
"I will not remain as superintendent unless we can do better," he said.