Education | St. Louis Public Radio

Education

East St. Louis students spend about a month without school last fall due to a teacher strike. In this Oct. 1, 2015 file photo students spend their free day outside the school district office.
File photo | Wiley Price | St. Louis American

The East St. Louis School District is one of 10 Illinois schools that will help design a learning plan based not on how much time students spend listening to their teacher, but rather how many skills they’ve mastered.

It’s a new approach to education called competency-based learning, meant to transition away from credit hours that traditionally have tracked a student’s progress.

Mizzou's Columns
File Photo| Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Officials in University of Missouri System are considering layoffs as it makes adjustments in the face of a major loss in state funding and shrinking enrollment, system President Mun Choi said Monday.

In Choi’s open letter, which starts the process of making deep budget cuts to the state’s largest provider of higher education, he said the four campuses will need to trim 8 percent to 12 percent out of their budgets. The cuts will target specific programs and not be across-the-board, he said.

Clockwise from left: Incumbents Rob Chabot and Donna Thurman, along with first-time candidates Jessica Ponder, Donna Dameron and Roger Hines, are running for the Ferguson-Florissant school board on April 4, 2017.
Ferguson-Florissant School District

The Ferguson-Florissant school board election Tuesday will use a voting system a federal judge ruled unconstitutional last year.

The judge ruled that method unfair to African-Americans and ordered the district to implement cumulative voting, which allows for as many votes to be cast as there are seats up for election. Those votes may all be cast for the same candidate or may be spread around as a voter sees fit.

But because the district appealed, this year’s election is still operating under the old, at-large system. That means, with five candidates running for three open board seats, residents will cast one vote for each of the three candidates they like.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth / St. Louis Public Radio

School districts across the St. Louis area are asking voters Tuesday to consider various funding measures.

Two Metro East counties are hoping to join more than 40 others in Illinois that have started using sales tax increases to bolster school funding in the face of less state support due to a nearly two-year budget crisis.

And in St. Louis County, there are a half-dozen funding measures. Kirkwood would raise property taxes, while the rest are bonding measures, all of which need to pass with about 57 percent of the vote. The largest bonding measure, in the Rockwood district, seeks to spend $95.5 million on a new elementary school in Eureka and expand other buildings.

The St. Louis Public Schools elected board discusses business during its June meeting as state board of education member Vic Lenz looks on.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Public Schools’ elected board hasn’t had direct control of the district for a decade. Regaining that control from the state may hinge on the April 4 election, when voters will choose from among seven candidates for three open seats.

Board member Bill Monroe is seeking a second term. But the president of the SLPS board and some state-level education officials see his continued presence as a possible disruption in getting back local control.

Michael Smith, an adjunct English professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis speaks at a small union rally on Thursday, March 23, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Some teachers at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who are trying to form a union sued the state’s university system Thursday, alleging that the rules the board of curators set forth for organizing are too restrictive.

They contend there are gender and minority wage gaps, and that the best way to close them is to unionize. The effort started last summer on the heels of successful union votes at other colleges in the region.

Malindi Henning answers questions during a science class at Miriam School in Webster Groves. (March 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Miriam School is a small, private school in Webster Groves that serves children who've struggled to learn in typical classrooms. Thirteen percent of its students are adopted.

At first glance, that may seem surprising, as nationally, fewer than 2 percent of school-aged children are adopted. But studies suggest that adopted and foster children suffer from learning disabilities at twice the rate as children raised by both birth parents. For adoptive parents, that may mean a greater challenge in finding the right school or learning environment for their child.

Lincoln School, the county's first public school for African Americansthe county's first public school for African Americans, prior to the construction of its new building in 1911 is one of many photos archived in Madison Historical.
Provided | Madison Historical and the Madison County Historical Society

Madison County has a new online archive that documents local history through century-old photographs, articles and recorded interviews.

The Madison Historical website produced by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville invites exploration of the Metro East county’s history, sorting content by era (19th, 20th, or 21st century), theme (industry, education, government) and community.

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

A long, slow decline in both state funding and enrollment has public colleges in Illinois cutting staff and increasing tuition. In the face of a financial shortfall, it would seem campuses would seek out every dollar available.

But Western Illinois University and Southern Illinois University are trying a different tactic. They’re eliminating higher out-of-state tuition rates so any undergrad from any state will pay what used to be the lower in-state tuition.

Preclarus Mastery Academy, located inside Third Baptist Church, has 200 students enrolled in the 2016-2017 school year.
File photo | Brit Hanson | St. Louis Public Radio

A small charter school in St. Louis’ Grand Center district will stay open next year after all.  

The University of Missouri-St. Louis has overruled its charter school office and agreed to continue sponsoring Preclarus Mastery Academy.

Incoming UM President Mun Choi speaks to a reception at UMSL Tuesday, 11-29-16
File | Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The University of Missouri System’s incentive program for its top executives is being terminated just a few days after a state audit found the program lacked transparency.

New UM System President Mun Choi acknowledged the current program’s lack of transparency was a part of his decision to end it, but he also said paying “the market rate” for administrators is key to the university’s overall success.

St. Louis Public Schools curriculum instructor Sylvester McClain talks to Workforce High School student Cedric Deshay on Thursday, March 2, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Cedric Deshay has seen a lot in his 17 years. His dad died when he was a baby, followed by his mom when he was 13. Gun violence plagues his northeast St. Louis neighborhood; a recent killing was three houses down.

"I was falling behind in classes, falling asleep in class and stuff because of what was going on at home,” he explained. It was to the point that when his senior year began in August, Cedric was at risk of dropping out.

Harris-Stowe State University President Dwaun Warmack discussed his recent meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on St. Louis on the Air.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

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By now, you know the uproar over the photo: Kellyanne Conway with her feet on the Oval Office couch. While Conway has asserted she meant no disrespect, a huge amount of attention was diverted to that moment from what the actual event was about: A meeting of leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with President Donald Trump.

What were they meeting about and what did they discuss? Harris-Stowe State University President Dwaun Warmack knows intimately: he was in the room (and, indeed, in the now-infamous picture) to meet with President Trump. In fact, Warmack was in D.C. for a lot more: he met with legislators and Cabinet leaders in order to drum up support and money for financially struggling HBCUs.

Quadrangle at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
(Flickr Creative Commons User Adam Procter)

Gov. Eric Greitens’ three nominees for the University of Missouri System’s Board of Curators skated through a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday.

Darryl Chatman, Jamie Farmer, and Jeffrey Layman answered questions regarding the future of the university system, which is facing millions of dollars in proposed budget cuts and was ripped by state Auditor Nicole Galloway this week for giving expensive incentives to administrators.

The positions are open because Greitens withdrew former Gov. Jay Nixon’s appointees last month.

Quadrangle at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
(Flickr Creative Commons User Adam Procter)

Updated at 6:10 p.m. with Greitens' statement — Missouri’s auditor criticized the University of Missouri System on Monday for giving excessive bonuses and other incentives to several current and former top administrators at a time when the system grapples with funding cuts and mulls raising tuition.

Trish | Flickr

Saint Louis University announced Friday it will cut 120 employees — or 4 percent of its workforce — because of a funding crisis.

University President Fred Pestello detailed the layoffs, which were expected for several weeks, in separate emails to staff and students.

The Milburn campus of O'Fallon Township High School, where the district's ninth-graders attend class.
O'Fallon Township High School via Facebook

Updated March 3, 2017 with results of an emergency meeting — A Metro East high school has reversed the severity of its planned teacher cuts for next school year.

At an emergency meeting Thursday, the O’Fallon Township High School board of education unanimously approved a new budget deficit reduction plan. The new plan eliminates four classroom teaching positions instead of six full-time and one part-time teacher.  Guidance counseling and library services are no longer impacted by the cuts.

Julie Dubray, co-author of the children's book Goodnight St. Louis, reads to students at Koch Elementary Schools on March 2, 2017.
Ryan Delaney / St. Louis Public Radio

Second-graders at a predominantly low-income north St. Louis County school district went home with new books Thursday as part of a national reading day.

Two St. Louis children’s authors spent part of the afternoon at Koch Elementary School in the Riverview Gardens district, which is struggling with reading proficiency. Just 17 percent of third-graders at Koch Elementary School were considered to be at state standards for reading in 2015, though the district has improved enough regain provisional accreditation.

Sidney Keys III, the founder of Books N Bros.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

If you Google the terms “boys and reading,” you will find thousands of results laying out the state of the gender gap between boys and girls when it comes to reading and literacy. “The Boys Have Fallen Behind,” writes Nicholas Kristof. “Why Women Read More than Men,” says NPR.

(via Flickr/Tracy O)

Some trustees for the St. Louis Public School Retirement System have been traveling extensively on the system’s dime and answered questions at Monday's board meeting about the benefits of such trips.

The seeming infighting among members of the board, which controls the pension fund for about 10,000 current and retired employees, stems from two trustees racking up the bulk of the nearly $117,000 in travel expenses from 2012 to 2016.

River Roads Lutheran School

Updated 5 p.m. Feb. 28 with decision on school's future – The 78 students of River Roads Lutheran School on St. Louis’ north side will not need to find a new school to attend mid-year.

The school community raised $136,000 — enough to stay open until at least June, principal Yvonne Boyd announced Tuesday.

Tayler Leverenz, 19, is from Illinois, but is taking advantage of the University of Missouri-St. Louis' offering of in-state tuition for Illinois residents.
Ryan Delaney / St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a tug-of-war happening across the Mississippi River for students in the St. Louis region, with some colleges erasing the borders of in-state tuition prices to help navigate tough financial times.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale was the vanguard in the area, offering Missouri students a reduced price in 2009, a move that’s resulted in 95 more students from west of the Mississippi in the last five years. And the University of Missouri-St. Louis, which for five years has offered in-state tuition for Metro East residents, is expanding that benefit to all Illinois residents.

But the big winners in all of this are the students, who now have more colleges to choose from and at more affordable prices.

Flickr | orangeacid

Illinois State Superintendent Tony Smith is touting the state’s 2016 Advanced Placement test results.

Illinois ranks 4th in the nation for increasing the percent of students who take and pass AP exams according to a report from the College Board, which administers the tests.

Andy Sminds / Flickr

Updated 9:40 a.m. — This story and the accompanying photo have been correct to reflect the charter sponsors of the Confluence Academy network.

Missouri’s State Board of Education has limited power when it comes to charter schools, mostly making sure they meet the state’s requirements, such as staying open a certain number of days. Academic performance is out of its hands.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth / St. Louis Public Radio

Increasingly, college life is less about walking across the quad or stopping at the dining hall before sitting in a big lecture hall, and more about flipping open a laptop at home.

Take Royal Witcher, a St. Louis native and Army veteran who lives in Belmont, Mississippi. He completed most of his bachelor’s degree through the University of Phoenix, a fully online institution, but often felt like just a number.

When it was time for his MBA, the 45-year-old did his research — lots of it — and decided on Maryville University, which has a campus in suburban St. Louis. But he didn’t return to Missouri, instead taking advantage of an online degree.

St. Louis area high school juniors Connor Ouchi (left) and Shawnee Boswell work on an exercise about making tough decisions during Youth Leadership St. Louis' Diversity Day on Sat., Feb. 18, 2017.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

Clusters of St. Louis area teens dotted the atrium of the Nestle Purina headquarters on Saturday as the 70-odd students intently debated several mature issues that challenge many adults.

Racial diversity. Transgender identity. Religious tolerance. New Americans and immigrants. Despite taking on different topics, the groups had one thing in common: intense, but civil discussions.

Mizzou's Columns
File Photo| Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Eric Greitens wants a former Mizzou football player and two others with ties to the state’s flagship university campus to help oversee the University of Missouri System.

The new curators-in-waiting are Darryl Chatman, Jeff Layman and Jamie Farmer. They all studied at the Columbia campus, and need to be confirmed by the state Senate.

Greitens announced the three appointments to the Board of Curators on Wednesday. The spots were open after he withdrew former Gov. Jay Nixon’s interim appointments.

Mizzou's Columns
File Photo| Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Feb. 11 with correction about how state universities can raise tuition -- The University of Missouri System is strongly considering tuition increases for its four campuses due to declining enrollment and declining state funding.

It’s still early in the budgeting process, but this week’s Board of Curators meeting was the first chance for the governing body to discuss Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ proposal for another large cut in state funding — 9 percent — in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

Millennium Student Center at UMSL
File: Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The University of Missouri-St. Louis is extending its in-state tuition rate further into Illinois, offering the cheaper price to all the state’s residents, not just those in the Metro East.

The University of Missouri curators approved the change Thursday as part of its quarterly meeting, held in Columbia at the system’s flagship campus.

Jerome Morris is the Endowed E. Desmond Lee Professor of Urban Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He's standing next to his bookshelf in his office on Feb. 6, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

With St. Louis’ voluntary desegregation program on its final extension, University of Missouri-St. Louis education professor Jerome Morris has been asked to recommend the best way for the region to continue fulfilling the promises of Brown vs. Board of Education.

To fulfill that task, Morris is first researching how well the program has done in the past.

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