Education | St. Louis Public Radio

Education

Students get ready for a violin class taught by Philip Tinge at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis is one of hundreds of private schools in Illinois that could see a financial boost from the state’s new tax credit scholarship program.

More than 90 percent of the families who send their children to the school fall below the federal poverty line of $24,600 for a family of four. That gives them top priority to receive a scholarship.

Although children from low-income families get priority,  if Illinois follows the pattern of other states with similar programs, most of the tax credit scholarships will go to middle-class families.

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

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri education leaders want to spend almost $100 million more on K-12 public schools next school year, they told the State Board of Education on Tuesday, though it’s not clear whether the state can afford it..

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education outlined its proposed $98.9 million budget in Jefferson City.

Fred Pestello, president of Saint Louis University, joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the school's bicentennial and issues facing institutions of higher education.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

In November 2018, Saint Louis University, the oldest university west of the Mississippi, will mark its 200th year in higher education. It is the second oldest Jesuit university in the United States. SLU is kicking off celebrations a little bit early, starting this Saturday

Kindergartener Maram Alhamadah sings an alphabet song at Nahed Chapman New American Academy, one of two programs dedicated to English-language learners at St. Louis Public Schools.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will make it easier for three Missouri districts to meet new federal accountability metrics for students learning English.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Many current high school students with temporary immigration status won’t be protected by the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program until they graduate.

That could make it difficult for 16-year-old Karla Vasquez of St. Louis and others to plan for their future, including whether to go to college in the United States. Karla already is thinking of going to another country or returning to Honduras, where she lived until she was 3, because she doesn’t want to live in fear of being deported.

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.

Head Start teacher Chea Wyatt guides Kennydi Harris through an exercise June 23, 2017 at the East St. Louis Kindergarten readiness camp.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time this school year, Illinois public schools statewide are required to measure and report how prepared their kindergartners were for school.

The state board of education is collecting the data to better understand what regions are lacking preschool access.

However, area school districts are concerned the reporting process is time consuming. Several expressed doubt that the information will be useful.

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.

File photo | WUIS Radio

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed into law sweeping changes to the way the state funds schools, calling it a historic day that will bring "more equality, more fairness and better opportunity for all the students of Illinois."

Besides distributing state aid more equitably, the long-sought deal the Legislature approved this week gives districts more flexibility on state mandates, allows residents in well-funded districts to reduce their property taxes and creates a new tax credit for donations to private school scholarships.

David Wea, 62, works on a geometry problem in an adult education class. August 25, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Aug. 28 to correct Kris Shannon's title — The director of one of Missouri’s adult education programs is worried high school equivalency tests are being undervalued.

A new Missouri law will establish four adult high schools in the state, including one in St. Louis. The bill sponsor wanted adults to have a chance to complete a high school curriculum because, he said, a diploma is more attractive to employers than a GED certificate.

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.

Joseph Davis superintendent candidate 1.29.15
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Updated 3:50 p.m. Friday with Davis released from county jail  — Ferguson-Florissant schools Superintendent Joseph Davis is charged with fraud for allegedly using a credit card from his previous North Carolina school district in January.

Davis has been with the St. Louis-area district since 2015.

Davis was arrested Wednesday by St. Louis County police based on a May indictment from a grand jury in Washington County, North Carolina. That document accuses Davis of using a Washington County Schools credit card to pay for a hotel room and rental car on Jan. 15.

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.

Adam Frick, the founder of Hugmonster Sound, has turned his ears to new project: podcasts for kids.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Last year, we held a local podcasting panel to help bring new St. Louis podcasters into the fold. In the lead up to that event, we spoke with Adam Frick, the founder of Hugmonster Sound, about his podcasting network STL Vernacular.

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.

Stephen Zwolak discussed how to transition kids into the new enviornment of preschool and kindgergarten on today's St. Louis on the Air.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s that time of year again: children are heading back to school, some for the first time. On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the ways parents, family members and caregivers can support young children in making a successful transition into school life.

Joining the program to discuss was Stephen Zwolak, the CEO of the LUME Institute and Executive Director of the University City Children’s Center.

The Missouri State Board of Education on Tuesday advanced what’s been characterized as a “skinny” plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Better known as ESSA, the Obama-era reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act replaces the controversial No Child Left Behind Act as the law governing school accountability. Among other things, ESSA outlines how federal Title I dollars should be distributed to schools with large populations of students living in poverty.

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.

Harris-Stowe State University students Aaron Betite, Erica Wise and University President Dwaun Warmack discussed the role of HBCUs in the spectrum of higher education with Alicia Lee.
Alicia Lee | St. Louis Public Radio

Historically Black College and Universities, known by the acronym HBCUs, have long been a place for black Americans to receive an education, particularly when other schools would not accept them. The institutions were considered was a safe haven for many.

HBCUs were established after the American Civil War by African-Americans with support from religious missionary organizations in the northern region of the United States. They were initially created as a place for freed slaves who wanted to receive an education.

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.

Affinia Healthcare opened a clinic at Normandy High School on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Chantel Courtney and her two sons took a wrong turn at Normandy’s back-to-school fair last weekend in search of getting her eighth-grader a vaccination. They ended up getting a sneak peek at the high school’s new medical clinic, which opened Thursday.

It’s the first one to open as a direct result of the efforts of a 2014 research project called For the Sake of All, which recommended putting clinics in St. Louis-area schools to bridge gaps in health-care access. Normandy is the third high school in the area with a clinic that offers students services for free or on a sliding scale, and at least two other schools may open a clinic soon.

Construction workers finish up work on the new Stone Creek Elementary School in the Wentzville School District on July 25, 2017. It's one of two new schools that will open next week.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Signs along the road leading to one of the new elementary schools in the Wentzville School District advertise newly constructed homes for sale. It’s something district officials say they closely track, along with hospital birth records.

The data tells them that the district’s rapid growth — the quickest in the state, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education — won’t level off soon. To keep pace, Wentzville is opening two elementary schools this month.

Wentzville’s late to the expansion party in St. Charles County, where the population has been growing steadily for three decades.

Ashley Lock peers out of the window during a district bus tour for new teachers at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, where she'll teach history.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

As children and teens across the St. Louis area enjoy their last few days of freedom before school resumes, districts are putting teachers — old and new — to work.

It’s an especially busy time for new hires, who have to deal with several days of paperwork, learn technology and navigate unfamiliar schools.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:45 p.m. August 2 to correct the percentage of KIPP St. Louis' budget that goes toward marketing in 7th paragraph Photos of smiling children in school uniforms grace the sides of buses, large billboards and flyers in mailboxes throughout the St. Louis area. Those images — and the selling points written underneath them — are meant for parents trying to figure out which school to send their kids.

With the dozens of charter schools and St. Louis Public Schools vying for students (and the state tax dollars that follow), the institutions have to act more like businesses, marketing themselves — sometimes heavily.

Eureka residents fill sandbags outside Eureka High School in April in preparation for the Meramec River's rising waters. Flooding this spring caused about $1.5 million in damage to the school, according to the district.
Provided | Rockwood School District

St. Louis County is one of the highest-risk counties in the United States for flooding in schools, according to a Pew Charitable Trust report released Tuesday.

The 100 most at-risk counties identified in the report have 6,444 schools educating nearly 4 million students. Three of those are in St. Louis County, and one of them, Eureka High School, has flooded twice in as many years.

William Thomas, 18, of Chicago Heights, Illinois, fills out residential housing paperwork at a Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville freshman orientation on Friday, July 28, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville has morphed over the last decade from a commuter college into a regional university that attracts out-of-state students.

The secret to growing while other public universities and colleges across the state shrink: broadening recruitment efforts and constructing more dorms.

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