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Second Brief: For the Sake of All

The second of five briefs from a multi-disciplinary study on African-American health in St. Louis and St. Louis County was released last week. It details how health issues lead African American high schoolers in the region to drop out of school.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Despite an improved showing in this year’s performance report, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will not recommend that the Kansas City schools be upgraded from their current unaccredited status.

The decision opens the door for students living in the Kansas City district to possibly follow those in Normandy and Riverview Gardens and transfer to adjacent accredited districts under a law upheld in June by the Missouri Supreme Court.

(via Flickr/NWABR)

A multi-disciplinary study released today finds that in relation to school dropout rates, health plays a bigger role than one might think.

The study is part of ‘For The Sake of All,’ a five part series from Washington University and Saint Louis University that focuses on the health of African Americans in the St. Louis region.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The transfer of students from Normandy and Riverview Gardens to accredited school districts has forced a lot of dislocation and financial stress, but panelists at an education forum said Tuesday it has also prompted people to look at students in a new way.

And, insisted Chris Nicastro, Missouri’s commissioners for elementary and secondary education, despite what some people say, the process has not resulted in a mess.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Missouri’s commissioner of education said Monday that until three years of data are available from the St. Louis Public Schools under the state’s new evaluation system, she doesn’t see a move toward restoring control of the school district to an elected board.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Yesterday, we profiled the new superintendent at the Normandy schools.

Now, we introduce you to the man who finds himself in the same position at another struggling school district- Riverview Gardens. 

knittymarie / Flickr

With less than three months on the job, Normandy School District Superintendent Tyrone McNichols has a clear plan to regain accreditation from the state and a strong message about the help he needs to make that plan successful.

The main academic components of McNichols' plan involve a new literacy program in partnership with the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a new focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). As part of the focus on STEM, a new science program is being implemented through a partnership with Washington University.

Courtesy Normandy School District

Now that the school transfer process is in full swing, we’re taking a look at the new superintendents who are hustling to earn back state accreditation for their school districts.

Both men have only been on the job for a few months, and facing long odds, they’re reaching out the community to help get their schools back on track.

This two part report starts on the first day of school in the parking lot of Normandy High School. 

Intel Free Press/Wikimedia Commons

Students at Kirkwood High School became the latest to join AT&T's nationwide push to stop texting and driving.

(via Flickr/evmaiden)

Missouri education officials are seeking an additional $6.8 million to help Normandy school district.

The State Board of Education approved the budget request on Tuesday. That's the first step in a process that ultimately requires the support of the governor and Legislature to become a reality.

Students started transferring out of the Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts this year under a state law that requires unaccredited districts to pay the costs for students who want to attend other public schools.

Courtesy Normandy School District

Normandy and Riverview Gardens School Districts are unaccredited. St. Louis Public Schools is only provisionally accredited. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Missouri board of education is asking lawmakers for another $6.8 million to help the Normandy school district survive until the end of the school year.

Without the money, state education officials say, Normandy may disappear and its students be divided up among other districts. If the legislature does not come up with the supplemental money, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education does not have funds to keep Normandy afloat, a spokeswoman said.

Destiny Esper
Dale Singer | St. Louis Beacon | 2012

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When classes began last month, Normandy schools lost more than 1,000 students who decided to transfer to accredited districts nearby. The district also lost a former valedictorian who had come back to her old middle school to teach.

Destiny Esper, who had studied journalism and public relations before deciding  to go into education, started her career teaching English at Normandy Middle School last year after going through the Teach for America program.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Many of the factors typically cited for dropout problem in American schools – money, overcrowding, poverty, testing – came up during a live television town hall Monday night, but the one that seemed to resonate most was more personal than institutional.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: After reading the president’s “Plan to Make College More Affordable” I couldn’t help but recall the scene in the “Wizard of Oz” in which the Wizard awards the stalwart travelers symbols of their true characteristics. The Cowardly Lion receives a medal, for he truly was brave. The Tin Man a heart, for he truly was compassionate. And the Scarecrow gets a diploma because even though he actually was quite intelligent, he just didn’t have the college degree to prove it.

St. Louis Beacon graphic | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Anyone who wants to play what Normandy’s school superintendent calls the “MSIP game” better make sure to know the rules.

Since his district’s annual performance review score was revealed last month to be 11.1 percent – lowest in the state – Ty McNichols and other Normandy administrators have been poring over the numbers, trying to determine the best way to rise out of unaccredited territory by achieving a score of at least 50 percent.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: A federal judge has ruled that mandatory drug testing for students at Linn State Technical College is unconstitutional unless they are enrolled in certain programs where drug use could pose a safety hazard.

The 62-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey is the latest in a two-year legal battle between the college, which instituted the mandatory drug testing for all students, and students who say their constitutional rights have been violated.

Isaak Dore addresses Clayton students.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: With the Syrian situation changing almost by the hour, students at Clayton High School had the chance Thursday morning to get valuable perspective on global relations from a man who has helped shape international law and human rights.

Not surprisingly, the issues are more complex than they may seem at first.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When schools are putting so much emphasis on numbers – MAP scores, accreditation points and the like – finding a place in the curriculum for something as tough to measure as character education might seem difficult.

But with a pioneering local program known as Characterplus about to celebrate its 25th anniversary, its supporters say that a solid background in character education is a great way to help boost academic achievement.

Kelvin Adams 2012
courtesy St. Louis Public Schools

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The St. Louis Public Schools are headed for financial problems, do not adequately address the difficulties of students who fall behind, need to monitor test results more closely to detect possible cheating and should seek bids more often for goods and services, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When an outside consulting firm takes a hard look at ways to improve the Kansas City schools, its report may not have the answers to achieving the same goal in St. Louis, but it could certainly be asking the right questions.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: This time last year, the St. Louis Public Schools were pushing for an upgrade in their accreditation classification, making the argument that the latest state evaluation gave them enough points to climb out of unaccredited territory.

Chris Nicastro, who heads the department of elementary and secondary education, originally said the district had shown improvement, but not enough to win provisional accreditation.

St. Louis Beacon graphic | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Besides hearing updated figures on Normandy High School's discipline incidents, the district's school board meeting Wednesday night also featured a lengthy presentation of Normandy’s scores in last week’s release of numbers from the first year’s evaluations under the fifth cycle of the Missouri School Improvement Plan, or MSIP5.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Let’s be very specific about last week’s breaking news in education: The state will be paying nearly $400,000 to a consultant to tell us why Kansas City, one of Missouri’s three unaccredited school districts, is failing. As in the other two unaccredited districts — Riverview Gardens and Normandy — Kansas City students are predominantly African American and live in communities that are economically disadvantaged. All three districts, as well as St. Louis (again) are having a hard time getting a sufficient number of kids to pass the state’s high-stakes tests — MAP and end-of-course exams — that Missouri children take every spring.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Normandy school superintendent Ty McNichols says the district has a secret legal strategy to address the student transfer situation, but in the meantime it needs to make sure that the 3,000 students who have stayed behind receive the best education possible.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: If Missouri educators were to use the first year of a new evaluation plan to classify school districts, St. Louis Public Schools would slide back into unaccredited territory, joining Normandy and Riverview Gardens, and other local districts would be downgraded to provisionally accredited.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Dear Beaconites -

Last month, I worried that the school transfer issue could evolve into a perfect storm of our region's most emotional and intractable problems. Urban-exurban resentments, timid leadership, educational inequality and race -- all potentially feed the mix.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Now that hundreds of students have started their long bus rides from Normandy and Riverview Gardens to accredited districts, can they expect to have greater academic success in their new schools?

Nothing is certain, of course, but educational research – and the long experience the St. Louis area has with the voluntary desegregation transfer plan – suggest that where students attend class can have a definite positive effect on how much they learn.

St. Louis Beacon graphic | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has been working for years to get authority to step in more quickly to help unaccredited school districts.

Now that a newly signed law gives it that power, the state board of education wants to make sure that it uses it in the right way.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: JEFFERSON CITY -- With more than 2,500 students in unaccredited school districts in St. Louis County transferring elsewhere this fall, and the possibility of more transferring out of Kansas City schools, Missouri education officials have hired an outside consultant to help failing districts improve and prevent others from losing accreditation.