Updated 1:20 p.m.
The Missouri state auditor gave the St. Louis Public Schools a “fair” rating in an audit of the district released Wednesday.
Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican, said the district was not initially cooperative with his office.
Superintendent Kelvin Adams, who also attended Wednesday’s press conference, said the audit got off to a “rocky” start because the district did not initially believe Schweich had the authority to do the performance audit.
“Once that was clear I called him and said ‘come on in we’re ready to start,’” Adams said.
As to the audit, Schweich said he was most concerned that the district continues to promote students to the next grade level even when they fail to meet reading requirements.
The auditor said that may be in violation of state law.
He said district administrators had indicated it would be too costly to keep students back.
“I don’t know what [the] financial priorities are, but at least in our view students who can’t read should be the highest financial priority,” Schweich said. “Saying that we don’t have enough money to do it or comply with the law and we’re going to go ahead and promote students who don’t meet the basic reading requirements and are totally at risk is not the right answer.”
In the 2011 and 2012 MAP testing, more than 2,000 students in grades 3 through 8 scored “below basic.” The audit found the district kept back 155 students in 2011 and 128 in 2012.
Superintendent Kelvin Adams acknowledged the law but said research has shown students kept back without further intervention often don’t graduate.
“Our intervention is what we think is the most important piece to make sure students are reading at level,” Adams said. “Not just holding back for holding back’s sake. If we do that we’re holding students back a year or two years but not providing interventions they need to get where they need to be.”
The audit also found problems with the monitoring of MAP testing. Schweich said of about 400 forms delivered to Quality Assurance Monitors, who were paid by the district, about 100 forms were not returned.
He said there was no indication of cheating but that more oversight is needed.
Schweich emphasized that the audit of SLPS was done as part of his goal to look at the state’s four biggest districts.
“I know SLPS have been almost under siege with a lot of bad news lately,” the auditor said. “They’ve got a very challenging task ahead of them and our objective in doing the audit and releasing the audit is entirely constructive.”
The district has 90 days before a follow-up audit.
Adams said SLPS has already responded to many of the audit’s requests, including trying to hire an internal auditor for the future.
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