Education | St. Louis Public Radio

Education

Margie Vandeven, Missouri commissioner of elementary and secondary education, visits with students in Warren County.
Provided | Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Updated at 2:15 p.m. with governor's comments —

Missouri’s commissioner of education survived a rare move to oust her by appointees of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens.

The State Board of Education, though stacked with appointees by Greitens, did not vote in favor of firing Margie Vandeven in a closed-door meeting Tuesday. The board tied 4-4.

Fontbonne University opened in Clayton in 1923. It's buying the closed John F. Kennedy High School in Manchester for a west St. Louis County campus.
Provided | Fontbonne University

In a move to “significantly expand enrollment,” Fontbonne University is buying the recently shuttered John F. Kennedy High School in western St. Louis County to be a new home for the Catholic University’s athletics and continuing education.

Leaders of Fontbonne and the Archdiocese of St. Louis announced the transfer of ownership of the Manchester-based property at a news conference Monday morning. A price on the property sale was not disclosed.

School Illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Normandy and Riverview Gardens  received high enough state academic performance scores to get the north St. Louis County-based school districts in better standing with state education leaders.

Two districts in the region — St. Louis City and Ferguson-Florissant — saw their annual performance scores dip below the threshold the state considers to be fully accredited. Pattonville and Orchard Farms both received perfect scores.

No district in the state earned marks that would be considered failing in the Annual Performance Report, or APR, published Wednesday by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. APR is a key indicator on how well schools are educating students.

St. Louis Community College Chancellor Jeff Pittman at a Board of Trustees meeting on April 20, 2017.
File | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Community College could once again cut its faculty and staff this year as it continues to lose students and state funding.

The public two-year college’s Board of Trustees listened to feedback Tuesday for more than an hour to a budget reduction plan at its downtown headquarters.

Ray Cummings, second from left, a St. Louis Public Schools teacher and member of the governance task force, asks a question during a meeting Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A task force assigned with recommending how St. Louis Public Schools should be governed heard a consistent message from city residents during a series of public meetings: Return control of the district back to an elected board of education.

At three meetings over the past 10 days, St. Louis residents repeatedly said that the appointed, three-person Special Administrative Board, or SAB, has achieved its objective during a decade of running SLPS — and contended that a democratically elected board should control the district again.

Students at Adams Elementary in St. Louis Sept 2016
File | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Schools’ elected board of education has continued to hold elections and conduct meetings, even though it’s had no authority over the district for a decade.

The task belongs to a Special Administrative Board, or SAB, which is appointed. As the district moves back to improved academic performance, the three-person SAB has said its time of rule is nearing an end. The governor of Missouri, the mayor of St. Louis and the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen each get to select one of the board members. 

Former President Bill Clinton exercises with fourth grader Jasmine Balven during a visit to Gateway Elementary School in St. Louis Nov. 1, 2017. Clinton visited the school to witness healthy food and exercise initiatives.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Former President Bill Clinton briefly exercised with elementary school students and kicked the tires of a retrofitted bus that delivers fresh produce to low-income neighborhoods during a Wednesday visit to St. Louis.

St. Louis is the third and final leg on a national tour of initiatives the 71-year-old’s foundation is supporting.

Students listen to a book reading during a giveaway event at Koch Elementary School in Riverview Gardens School District on March 2, 2017.
File | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The Riverview Gardens School District is falsely boosting its attendance numbers under an orchestrated effort to regain full state accreditation, two district principals allege in federal lawsuits.

The principals, Danielle DeLoatch and Amanda Bell-Greenough, filed the suits on Tuesday against the north St. Louis County district, alleging that they faced disciplinary action and retaliation for objecting to changing attendance records.

Riverview Gardens, which is trying to return to good standing with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, denies the allegations.

St. Louis Community College freshman Isaiah Wilson, 19, rallies in support of adjunct faculty's contract negotiations on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Community College’s part-time faculty continued pressuring the school administration on Monday for a new contract with a rally on its Kirkwood-based, Meramec campus.

The protest comes a few days after a professor involved in those negotiations was tackled and arrested at a Board of Trustees meeting.

Marlysha Tucker of River Roads Lutheran School connects a wire in order to program a computer to turn on an LED light during a Webster University cyber workshop Oct. 21, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Webster University held a workshop Saturday to introduce middle school girls to computer science and cybersecurity, with a goal of encouraging them to pursue careers in the field.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, less than 20 percent of the country’s cybersecurity analysts are women. The field is expected to grow rapidly in the next decade.

Special education teacher Tiffany Andrews teaches a fourth grader about possessive nouns on Oct. 17, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a limited pool of people certified to teach special education in the St. Louis metro area, putting districts from St. Charles County to the Metro East in intense competition for qualified candidates.

Even more well-off schools feel the impact of the shortage, but schools with higher needs and less money often have the most trouble filling positions.

Ritenour teacher Deepa Jaswal helps her high school students at the district's International Welcome Center, which is for English-language learners, mark the regions of the United States on a map.
File | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

When nearly half the students in a school can’t speak English, every teacher becomes a language instructor to some extent.

Recognizing that reality, federal grants will help Missouri public school districts and local universities to train more teachers to be help those students in the classroom.

School Illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Third-grader students who live in low-income homes  underperformed their more well-off classmates by 50 percentage points in seven Illinois school districts in 2016, according to the advocacy organization Voices for Illinois Children. 

In its annual Kids Count report released last week, the group also noted that only 22 percent of Metro East third-grade students met expectations on the most recent state English test.

Daje Shelton and her high-school boyfriend, Antonio Shumpert, welcome their baby boy, Ahkeem, into the world.
File | Provided | Jeff Truesdell

By the time Daje Shelton of St. Louis was 17, she’d already lost lots of friends to gun violence. One was shot while waiting at a bus stop, another while walking to the store.

Shelton had few outlets for expressing her grief and coping with emotions about that trauma. In her world, fighting, not talking, was a typical way to address conflict. After one fight, she was expelled from high school.

Shannan Muskopf | flickr

Thousands of Missouri students over the last three years have accepted a state-funded opportunity to take the ACT college entrance exam for free. After a $4 million cut to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s assessment budget, the state ended the program in July.

Now, school districts in the St. Louis region are finding money to allow students to take the ACT.

Mallinckrodt serves as one of three full curriculum certified gifted public elementary schools in the St. Louis region offered by the St. Louis Public Schools. High expectations are set for students who have tested and been recognized as gifted students.
Provided | Fontbonne University

Fontbonne University has been awarded a $1.25 million federal grant earmarked for special education teacher training. It’s aimed at addressing a shortage of special education teachers in Missouri, Illinois and 44 other states.

The private, Catholic university, based in Clayton, will use the funding to provide scholarships to 40 graduate students in its speech-language pathology and deaf education programs over the next five years.

Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton (left) spoke with education reporter Dale Singer (right) on "St. Louis on the Air" on Aug. 24, 2015.
File | Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton is planning to retire after two decades leading the school.

Wrighton told Washington University’s board of trustees of his decision to step down on Friday, the 22nd anniversary of being inaugurated chancellor. He was hired in 1995.

Ranken Technical College officials, elected leaders — including Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, center — and donors hold a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new manufacturing incubator at the school's St. Louis campus on Friday.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Ranken Technical College broke ground on a manufacturing incubator the school says will also provide training to its students that they can use in their careers.

The two-year college held a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday morning as part of a larger day devoted to promoting manufacturing.

Clockwise from top left: Affton Superintendent Steve Brotherton, Kirkwood Interim Superintendent Michele Condon, Lindbergh Superintendent Jim Simpson and St. Charles Superintendent Jeff Marion. Brotherton, Simpson and Marion are retiring in June.
Provided

There’s a competition afoot among St. Louis-area school districts that are trying to find the best person to fill open superintendent positions.

But it’s not an unusual situation, especially because the area has so many districts, Missouri School Board Association associate executive director Mike Parnell said.

Dan Ludwig, a math teacher at the soon-to-open Great Circle Academy, prepares his classroom on Aug. 26, 2017. The so-called "recovery school" will educate teens who recently completed substance abuse treatment.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Teens who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse face many temptations after complete treatment. A new private high school opening soon in suburban St. Louis will offer them an educational environment free of some of those potential triggers.

Great Circle, a behavioral health provider that operates private schools in Missouri for children with learning or developmental challenges, plans to enroll up to 20 students at a so-called “recovery school” on its campus in Webster Groves.

Children run past a box of welcome packets at new parent orientation at St. Ann Catholic School in Normandy on Aug. 10, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Catholic education is a tradition almost as old as St. Louis itself. Saint Louis University was founded by Jesuit priests in 1818, and is gearing up for its 200th anniversary.

Yet from kindergarten to college, Catholic education in the area is undergoing a shift due to declining enrollment and cultural evolutions.

Internet service at Glenwood R-8 School in West Plains is "very good, very reliable," Superintendent Wayne Stewart said. It's not the same when his students go home.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

There are evenings where Brittney Berry’s five children fight over the internet connection at her rural south-central Missouri home. If one tries to research a homework assignment while another sibling streams a video, someone’s getting kicked offline.

“It’s super crappy,” Berry said.

It’s a scenario that plays out in the homes of families throughout the vast Glenwood R-8 School District in Howell County near West Plains, as well as other rural parts of Missouri. There, families have few options for home internet access — none high-speed or cheap.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth / St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Wednesday that two of the state's high school annual assessments, administered during the 2016-2017 school year are "unusable."

The results for the Algebra I and English II  exam, known as the end-of-course tests, won't factor into the 2017 school accountability measurements, and won’t be publicly reported.

The state is blaming the test maker, Questar Assessment, for making the results incomparable to the tests administered in the 2015-2016 school year.

Affton High School seniors Malahja Smith (left) and Isabella Millen participate in a discussion in their cultural studies class, Other Voices, Other Rooms on Aug. 23, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

An uncomfortable silence broke up the thriving discussion about race in Affton High School teacher Brian Jennings’ class this week.

He had just asked the dozen or so white male teenagers in the room how they’d feel if all monuments of people who looked like them were taken down across the United States.

The question was one of several Jennings posed to his senior cultural studies English class, which he’d always used to address race and prejudice. But the current political climate and this month’s violent white nationalist event in Charlottesville, Virginia, forced the conversation to happen as school began.

East St. Louis teachers walk out of their union hall after voting to approve a tentative contract agreement and end a month-long teacher strike Friday Oct. 30, 2015.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois’ teacher pension system creates an unequal funding structure between rich and poor public school districts, a report released Wednesday said.

That’s because the state pays the majority of teachers’ pensions, which are tied to a teacher’s salary. The more the teacher earns, the more the state’s share of his or her pension. According to the nonpartisan Bellwether Education Partners report, when pay and benefits are factored in, the gap between per-student funding in rich and poor schools widens.

Third-grader Donoven Cruz tries out his eclipse glasses with classmates while looking up at a projector light at Gotsch Intermediate School in Affton. Aug. 17, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

One of the first science lessons of the year for thousands of students in Illinois and Missouri won’t happen in the classroom, but high above it.

Teachers are using Monday’s solar eclipse as an opportunity to inspire a new generation of stargazers, stockpiling special viewing glasses and planning activities and eclipse-specific lessons.

Of course, there’s the other side of the moon: Dozens of schools in the St. Louis area are closing, mostly for safety reasons.

Ninth-graders take notes during a social studies class at the recently opened KIPP St. Louis High School on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

KIPP St. Louis is taking its disciplined approach to education to high schoolers.

The charter school network opened a high school this week to go with its two elementary and two middle schools. It’s also one of three new charter schools opening for the 2017-18 academic year in St. Louis.

But overall, charter school growth in St. Louis is slowing from its peak during 2009, 2010 and 2011; there are 33 charter schools in the city.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 3:20 p.m. Aug. 15 with details from the State Board of Education meeting — Missouri’s board of education will stay out of the process to return decision-making control to St. Louis Public Schools after a decade, at least for now.

The decision came Tuesday at the Missouri State Board of Education meeting.

Though ending state oversight of SLPS is up to the board, it has no obligation to be involved in the transition process.

East St. Louis instructional coach Tracee Wells taught AVID to Chaya Cary, 16. Cary is studying at Southwestern Illinois College in the fall of 2017. "We don't hear enough about these kinds of stories coming out of East St. Louis," Wells said.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Belleville’s two public high schools have doubled the number of low-income students and students of color in advanced placement courses in the coming school year — part of a statewide goal to enroll 100,000 underrepresented students in such classes by 2019.

And East St. Louis Senior High is encouraging students to try more rigorous coursework even if they aren’t the top students.

Experts say high schoolers who take challenging classes have a leg up in college. But studies show black students, Latino students and low-income students are less likely to take them.

Sparta Public Schools Superintendent Gabe Schwemmer said her district doesn't have bonding authority, so it's borrowing from banks in order to open this year. Aug. 11, 2017
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Dozens of Metro East school superintendents made one thing clear Friday: They need state money, and they need it now.

Illinois’ new school funding formula is tied up in another political battle, one that could end next week when lawmakers have a chance to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s partial veto.

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