Charter Schools | St. Louis Public Radio

Charter Schools

Judy Baxter, via Flickr

The rationale for a new collaboration between public school districts in the St. Louis area and Missouri’s association of charter schools can be summed up in five words:

Charter schools are public schools.

Robbyn Wahby, head of the Missouri Charter School Commission
Courtesy Robbyn Wahby

The Missouri Charter Public School Commission has hired St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s top education adviser as its first-ever executive director. Robbyn Wahby has worked with the mayor’s office on school reform policy since 2001, when charter schools first started taking root in the city. She will start her new job in early May.

Eighth-grade communications arts teacher, Kate Berger, leads students through a classroom exercise at South City Preparatory
Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

 

(Updated Feb. 18 with details on South City Prep's new location and the closing of Construction Careers Center High School.)

A stream of eighth graders flowed into Kate Berger’s classroom at South City Preparatory Academy.  College and university banners line classroom walls and hang from ceilings.           

“Find yourself,” the language arts teacher told students.  “Go to where you need to be.”

Missouri Charter Public School Commission holds its organizational meeting on Dec. 16, 2014.  Alicia Herald (back row, right) was elected commission chair.
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri's recently formed Charter Public School Commission is preparing to begin operations next year.

comedy nose | Flickr

Almost 20,000 students in St. Louis and Kansas City attended a charter school last school year. That’s nearly twice as many compared to the 2003-04 school year.  And the breadth of charter school options  could grow as the Missouri Charter Public School Commission begins to take shape.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Angelee and Paul Brockmeyer have a soft spot for urban living and fixer-uppers.  

The couple spent five years rehabbing an old home in Chicago.  So, when they decided to pack up and come to St. Louis to be closer to family, Paul spent his weekends scouring the city's nooks and crannies for their next project. 

What they found was a sprawling Victorian in Compton Heights in need of elbow grease and updates.  

“It’s kind of easy to get sold on the whole package when you have this great neighborhood and you really love your house,” Angelee said. 

school buses
Flickr

In the wake of dissatisfaction at its academic performance and other issues, the top officials at the Construction Careers Center charter school in St. Louis have been dismissed and its board has been dissolved.

The actions came last week. The charter is sponsored by the St. Louis Public Schools.

Doug Thaman, who heads the Missouri Charter Public Schools Association, said that the situation at the center had been building for some time, and last year, they brought in a new superintendent, Paul Smith, to evaluate what needed to be done.

A microscope.
(via Flickr/igb)

Six years ago Mary Stillman attended a lecture by Ann Tisch at Washington University.

“That was my ah-ha moment,” Stillman recalls.  “Here she is talking about this group of public schools for girls who wouldn’t otherwise have this model of education and it’s working.”

Tisch is the founder of the Young Women’s Leadership Network, which operates a network of all-girls public schools and boasts a 93 percent graduation rate at its flagship institution in East Harlem.

Provided by Susan Uchitelle

All of us should be greatly concerned that the continuation of the Sequestration will have an extremely negative impact on the future of our schools and our school age children. It adversely impacts education in many ways
 

Stephanie Krauss
Dale Singer | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Stephanie Krauss remembers clearly a moment when she saw that her vision for Shearwater, a charter school giving new chances to teens whose education had been interrupted by life, might not work.

“I had a student in my office who had been with us for a long time,” she said earlier this week in an interview at the Shearwater campus on the grounds of Ranken Technical College in north St. Louis.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In the wake of a Missouri Supreme Court ruling on transfers of students who live in unaccredited school districts, the state education department has advised districts to adopt policies for class sizes and for how they will determine which students to accept if they get more applicants than they can handle. These guidelines raise the question of whether districts will be able to limit how many students they accept.

(via Google Maps screen capture)

In 2009, KIPP Inspire Academy opened its doors in St. Louis. Since then, the charter school has grown from a single class of 80 5th graders to a school of 330 students in grades 5th through 8th, many of them behind by two years in reading and math.

St. Louis Public Radio's Julie Bierach recently spoke with KIPP's Executive Director Kelly Garrett about the school's education model that puts just as much emphasis on character as it does on reading and writing.
 

KIPP 2012 map scores
Brent Jones | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When DeTony Thomas was in fourth grade, four long years ago, he went to a school that sounds like the model for a badly clichéd movie about the problems with modern urban education.

He saw a new fight every day, he says, and there wasn’t a whole lot of homework. “It was too easy and boring,” he says.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Shearwater High School, a charter school established three years ago to give students who had dropped out a second chance at a diploma, announced Friday that it is shutting down at the end of the current school year.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When my wife and I found out we were having a baby, we began looking for pediatricians. We wanted the best doctor; and because we had choices, we were able to find a pediatrician we loved. In almost every area of our lives, we have choices, but many families do not have options regarding where their children are educated.

Flickr | alkruse24

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay announced Thursday that three new charter schools will open next fall.

That will bring to 18 the number of schools that have gone through the screening process put in place by the mayor's office.

The mayor says quality education is critical to keeping families in the city.

Flickr | alkruse24

The state says five Missouri charter schools are financially stressed.

Four of the schools are in St. Louis - Carondolet Leadership Academy, Grand Center Arts Academy, South City Preparatory Academy and Jamaa Learning Center. The fifth is Pathway Academy in Kansas City.

This is the first time the state has declared schools financially stressed under a new state law that requires more supervision of the publicly funded but independently run schools. The designation is based on ending balances in two key funds.

Gov. Jay Nixon says he will sign legislation allowing charter schools to operate in more areas of Missouri but with greater oversight.

But the governor vetoed a separate education bill that would have made it easier for some students to transfer to other districts.

Nixon plans a formal signing ceremony for the charter school bill Wednesday night at the Missouri Girls State convention in Warrensburg.

(via Flickr/Lauren Manning)

More than 3,500 students will be displaced when a network of St. Louis charter schools run by Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc. is shuttered in a closure so massive it may be unprecedented nationally.

Todd Ziebarth of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the closure was "definitely" the largest he knew of.

(via Flickr/alkruse24)

The Missouri Senate has passed bills that would allow for more charter schools in the state and would also allow the state to take over failing school districts more quickly.

In a 31-2 vote Wednesday, the Senate gave final backing to a measure that would allow charter schools to be set up in districts that have been declared unaccredited.

Kansas City and St. Louis are the only districts allowed to have charter schools under current Missouri law.

(via Flickr/Lauren Manning)

Will be updated.

Updated at 4:44 p.m. with additional reporting.

Updated 2:59 p.m. with additional comment from Imagine's executive vice president.

The Missouri Board of Education voted Tuesday to close six charter schools in St. Louis run by Virginia-based Imagine Schools Incorporated.

The schools will close at the end of this school year.

Imagine's executive vice president, Jason Bryant, calls the decision disappointing and says the company is exploring its options.

(via Flickr/evmaiden)

The Missouri Senate has endorsed legislation that could allow charter schools to be formed outside of Kansas City and St. Louis.

In a voice vote Wednesday, the Senate backed a measure that would allow charter schools to be set up in districts that have been declared unaccredited. It would also allow charter schools in some districts that would have been provisionally accredited for three straight years, starting with next school year.

(via Flickr/alkruse24)

Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says Missouri Baptist University will relinquish its sponsorship of four charter school systems in St. Louis.

The university’s sponsorship included six schools with the Imagine Academies that had come under fire for poor student performance and deficit spending.

(via Flickr/Lauren Manning)

The Missouri State Board will review Missouri Baptist University’s authorization to sponsor charter schools next month.

MBU holds four charters, which include six Imagine Academy schools in St. Louis.

The board will hold a public hearing April 16 in Jefferson City and is expected to a make a decision the next day.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman Michelle Clark says the board has never revoked a sponsor or even held a public hearing.

(screenshot via Google Maps)

The St. Louis Public Schools will ask the Missouri State Board of Education for permission to sponsor a new charter school that will lease space in a vacant district property on the city's north side.

The state board that oversees the district approved the request last night.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

The 2012 Missouri legislative session is underway, and much of the first-day talk revolved around the challenges facing the state’s public schools.

In addition to Missouri’s K-12 schools not being fully funded, suburban school districts near St. Louis and Kansas City may be forced to accept thousands of transfer students from the inner cities, thanks to the State Supreme Court’s ruling in Turner v. Clayton.  House Speaker Steven Tilley (R, Perryville) says any solutions to those problems should include tuition tax credits for kids in unaccredited areas, and statewide expansion of charter schools.

(Alex Taylor/St. Louis Public Radio)

In August, four new charter schools opened in the city of St. Louis. One of the four is Better Learning Communities Academy, a small school for kindergarten through 2nd grade students.

Since the St. Louis Public School District lost its accreditation in 2007, charter schools have been popping up around the city to offer alternate choices for education.

Charter schools are not required to follow a state curriculum and many are reporting scores at drastically low levels.

Better Learning Communities Academy, however, might be one of the new charter schools turning that statistic around.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Alex Taylor takes a look at BLCA after its first semester and reports a brighter side of St. Louis charter schools.

(via Flickr/Lauren Manning)

Two under-performing St. Louis charter schools will close at the end of the school year.

James French, chairman of Missouri Baptist University's Education Division, which sponsors the schools, announced Monday that Imagine Academy of Academic Success and Imagine Academy of Cultural Arts, will close.

The university, which began sponsoring the schools in 2006, said neither school was living up to academic performance standards, was financially sound, or was showing signs of improvement.

(Maria Altman/St. Louis Public Radio)

There are 20 charter schools in the city of St. Louis, and when classes start Monday, four more will open their doors.

Charters get public funding, but they have more autonomy from the state.

The free schools are a draw for parents who want to avoid the unaccredited St. Louis Public Schools system.

But some charters are performing far below state standards.

And as St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman reports in the second of a two-part series, no one is holding them accountable.

(Maria Altman/St. Louis Public Radio)

Classes begin Monday in the St. Louis Public School District.

But four new charter schools also will be opening their doors.

Charters receive public funding but have more freedom with their budgets, staff, and curriculum than traditional public schools.

Many parents in St. Louis welcome the charter alternative and more than a quarter of the city’s students attend charter schools.

As part of a two-part series on charters, St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman looks at how that trend is affecting the city’s public school district.

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