Education

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A St. Louis County Circuit judge ruled Friday that students from three families living in the Normandy school district have the right to transfer to nearby accredited districts.

Those districts – Pattonville, Ritenour and Ferguson-Florissant – had denied the students access in the new school year, even though they had transferred to schools in those districts in the last school year. But the families argued successfully that the state had improperly given the new Normandy Schools Collaborative a status that freed it from the requirements of the Missouri transfer law.

Dean Benjamin Akande and Michelle Tucker
Provided by Webster University

As an aspiring English teacher during her undergraduate studies more than 20 years ago, Michelle Tucker’s ambition was to become a key leader within corporate America. Michelle’s aspirations led her to Webster University to pursue her graduate degree, which she completed in 2000. Michelle’s encounters with nurturing, farsighted professors at Webster University played a key role in refining her talents and maximizing her strengths in strategic planning, people management and employee development.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Figures released today Tuesday by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) show an overall drop in standardized test scores for the state's public school students.

Fewer students during the past school year achieved "proficient" scores for English, math and science sections of the Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, tests.  Social studies was the only subject that saw overall scores rise.  

Credit Cast a Line / Flickr

Updated 8:44 p.m. with statement from Normandy schools:

As the school year begins around the area, some districts in north St. Louis County are particularly wary following unrest in Ferguson over the weekend.

In Jennings, where students walk to school, the opening of classes Monday was postponed to Tuesday, to ensure student safety.

In a letter to families and staff released early Monday morning, signed by Superintendent Tiffany Anderson, the district said:

Courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis

Paul Sorenson was working his way toward a master’s degree from Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work when he kept bumping into the same questions over and over again.  

As an intern for the nonprofit health-care provider Grace Hill, Sorenson was supposed to connect poor families with resources that could help get them caught up on rent and utility bills. But what if one of these agencies  had its funding reduced, moved its offices or was no longer open?  

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

As a St. Louis County circuit judge weighs whether four families who live in Normandy have the right to send their children to nearby accredited districts in the upcoming school year, Missouri education officials are trying to clarify action they took recently that is central to the case.

Emanuele Berry

A white van travels though the Spanish Cove apartment complex in North St. Louis County. On top of the vehicle a loud speaker blasts classic ice cream truck tunes. The van pulls over on the side of the road. The driver flings open the doors to reveal a wide selection of … books.

The St. Louis County Library’s Sweet Reads program provides a traveling collection books to Spanish Lake residents during the summer. This is the program’s second year.

Starting this fall, however, the program will run year long.

Stephanie Zimmerman

The end of summer is coming for most area students, if it hasn’t already arrived, but the uncertainty over transfers out of Normandy remains.

The attorney for parents suing to allow their students to transfer out of Normandy accused state education officials Wednesday of using “linguistical magic” to change the rules by saying that the new Normandy district is accredited and Missouri’s transfer statute does not apply.

Field of students at a graduation
j.o.h.n. walker | Flickr

Online education seems to be the wave of the future. Today's college students should have no problem finding courses online — whether at a local college or university, or through an accredited online college.

Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:15 p.m. with information about discussion of Kansas City schools:

Jennings Superintendent Tiffany Anderson wasn’t 100 percent sure that her schools had made enough progress to reach full accreditation, but she had a pretty good hunch.

So she went out anyway and had a banner made celebrating what she hoped would be the long-sought results. Then she got the word Monday night from state education officials: Jennings’ preliminary 2014 scores were high enough to be in the full accreditation category.

comedy nose | Flickr

(Updated 10:55 a.m., Tues., Aug. 5, with certification for the ballot)

As Missourians prepared to vote on a variety of issues at the August primary Tuesday, the secretary of state's office announced that a constitutional amendment changing how teachers are evaluated will be on the November ballot.

Secretary of State Jason Kander said petitions submitted in May by the organization known as Teach Great have been certified and the issue will appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot as Amendment 3.

Normandy superintendent Ty McNichols
Dale Singer/St. Louis Public Radio

The new Normandy Schools Collaborative kicked off the new school year Monday by spelling out for teachers and other staff members how its new approach will help it regain accreditation from the state.

Part pep rally to generate excitement, part orientation session to set expectations, the three-hour session at Viking Hall on the Normandy High School campus was designed to show how things will be different now that the state has taken over the district with an appointed board and close oversight.

How was the session received?

An archway entrance to Saint Louis University
chuteme | Flickr | Creative Commons

A delegation of religious and education officials from the Central American country of Belize arrives in St. Louis Monday for a meeting of the minds with Saint Louis University faculty.

The purpose of the conference is to determine ways that SLU students and faculty can provide training and support for St. Martin’s de Porres, a Jesuit parish and grade school in Belize City.

Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

With just over a week before the first day of classes for St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS), the district partnered with the Urban League to host an annual back to school fair Saturday.

An estimated 10,000 people attended the Back to School and Community Empowerment Festival, lining up outside St. Louis University's Chaifetz Arena to get free school supplies and find out about area resources.

Urban League President and CEO Michael McMillan said the purpose of the fair is to make sure students—and their families—are ready for the school year.

(via Flickr/alkruse24)

As summer break winds down, East St. Louis School District 189 is gearing up to begin spending $10.5 million in federal money to kick start academic performance at its two middle schools.   

In the coming days the district will begin the hiring process for 20 new positions to focus on everything from professional development to community engagement. The grant will also pay for an extended school schedule.       

(Via University of Missouri-St. Louis)

The University of Missouri-St. Louis is announcing Wednesday that it raised a record-setting $31 million in the fiscal year ending June 30. This year’s total was $10 million more than last year and included nine gifts of more than $1 million each.

In a statement, Martin Leifeld, the vice chancellor for university advancement, praised alumni and friends for their commitment to UMSL.
 

Even though the school transfer issue aroused passionate debate last year, the issue still isn't resolved.
Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

The Normandy Schools Collaborative is looking for a fresh start. So is Andrew Nardi. He’s hoping the two desires fit and he’ll get his first teaching job when classes start next month.

Peter Herschend
DESE website

(Updated at 3:46 p.m. with revised transfer policy)

JEFFERSON CITY – With its president acknowledging that an earlier vote was an overreaction, the Missouri state board of education reversed itself Tuesday and broadened the terms under which students living in Normandy may transfer to nearby accredited districts in the upcoming school year.

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With two weeks to go until teachers report for the beginning of the new school year, the Normandy Schools Collaborative said Monday it has hired 80 percent of the staff it needs, from custodians to principals.

But just to make sure it hasn’t overlooked any good teachers who are still looking for employment, the district said it will be holding a job fair two days later this week.

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(Updated 1:29 p.m., Fri., July 18)

Even though the University City School Board has voted to change course and accept students who are qualified to transfer from Normandy, uncertainty surrounding the transfers remains.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Even though Barbra Pener teaches science and robotics, she likes to start the school year with a quick history lesson.

She points to a picture of the famous late 19th and early 20th-century scientist Marie Skłodowska-Curie that hangs on her classroom wall.

“Her husband Pierre is in the photo, and she’s holding the baby,” Pener said.  

She then rattles off for her eighth-grade students Skłodowska-Curie’s list of accomplishments, including multiple Nobel Prizes and the discovery of two radioactive elements.

(via Flickr/kcds)

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed on Monday a bill that would have allowed teachers to carry guns in the classroom, saying that ““arming teachers will not make our schools safer.”

Stephanie Zimmerman

Several parents of students who live in the Normandy school district filed suit in St. Louis County Circuit Court Monday, challenging the state’s move to limit the number of students who may transfer out of Normandy to accredited school districts.

Dale Singer/St. Louis Public Radio

Rodney Norman grew up in the St. Louis neighborhood near Mitchell School, though he didn’t go there, and he knows what the closure of the school did to the area near Page and Goodfellow boulevards.

Now, say Norman and his wife, Juanita, they know what the reopening of the building, as the KIPP Victory Academy for 200 students in kindergarten and first grade, will mean when classes begin next month.

Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio

The Ritenour school district has become the latest to decide it will not allow students who live in Normandy to transfer there in the coming school year.

The decision, announced Thursday night after a Ritenour board meeting, means that 78 students who had applied to transfer from Normandy will not be able to attend an accredited district when classes resume next month.

In a statement released late Thursday night, the board said:
 

via Flckr/Caleb Cherry

Updated at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday with new Durbin comments:

As part of a nationwide settlement with the federal government, the campus of for-profit Everest College in Earth City will be closing. The college has about 250 students, and they will be able to complete their courses, according to company spokesman Kent Jenkins. Everest stopped enrolling new students June 23, he said.

University of Missouri System

The University of Missouri is expanding an early alert system that tracks academic performance to all four of its campuses this fall.

The system, developed by the company Starfish Retention Solutions, is designed to improve retention and graduation rates by better connecting students, faculty and staff.  

The expansion follows the success of a pilot program at the university's Columbia campus that gives advisors real-time grading information on students and tracks performance trends among classes and subjects. 

Normandy superintendent Ty McNichols
Dale Singer/St. Louis Public Radio

Now that the dramas of the state takeover and the uncertainty of student transfers have mostly passed, the board of the new Normandy Schools Collaborative started working Monday night on their main goal: Raising student achievement.

Missouri's education commissioner Chris Nicastro sat at the board table while some of her assistants presented detailed plans on how to evaluate teaching and learning. The five board members heard the state’s plans for turning the district around.

In their presentation, the process was described this way:

Elijah Haahr
Campaign site

A newly signed law designed to protect religious expression in Missouri’s public schools reinforces a constitutional amendment passed two years ago, but some say that it could lead to fewer opportunities for students to express their religious views.

The law, HB1303, was signed last week by Gov. Jay Nixon. Dubbed the “Missouri Student Religious Liberties Act,” it says that:

Stephanie Zimmerman

The scaffolding surrounding DuBourg Hall on the Saint Louis University campus is as much symbolic as it is structural.

While the administration building gets a facelift, the president’s office got a new occupant this week. Fred Pestello, SLU’s first non-Jesuit president, took over on Tuesday after a six-year career as president of Le Moyne College, another Jesuit institution in Syracuse, N.Y.

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