Principal GeNita Williams presents certificates to eighth graders at Normandy Middle School
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The promotion ceremony for 205 eighth graders at Normandy Middle School featured the usual words of encouragement and advice, plus memories of the past three years and more than a few hoots and hollers from family supporters.

But first, they got an apology.

Mike Jones, vice president of the Missouri state board of education, told the students that he realized the efforts by education officials in Jefferson City to help Normandy haven’t always succeeded. The district remains unaccredited and is finishing up its first year being run by a state-appointed board.

Field of students at a graduation
(via Flickr/j.o.h.n. walker)

An NPR report shows Missouri's high school graduation rate increased five percentage points  between 2011 and 2013, good enough to rank 10th in the country. But that number may not tell the whole story.

The Truth About America's Graduation Rate looks at factors affecting the graduation rate around the country, and why the national rate of 81 percent — an all time high — may not be as good as it seems.

Normandy Middle School
Normandy website

In their continuing struggle to raise test scores and regain accreditation, leaders of the Normandy school district have stressed a positive message: high expectations, strict standards, no excuses.

But students at the often-troubled Normandy Middle School have learned a different lesson.

(From Left) Seckman Senior High School Kyle Edwards, Hazelwood East seniors Justin Mason and Teanna Bass pushed their tables together and created the winning idea for bridging racial divides in St. Louis.
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio


Many schools in the St. Louis Region are wrapping  up their last few weeks of class. For some  the school year was shaped by the August shooting death of Michael Brown, an incident which left many students and adults wondering how they could bridge the racial divide in the region. One solution a group of students came up with: a school exchange program.

Normandy Superintendent Charles Pearson agreed to a list of principles to reduce suspensions on Saturday, May 23, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

High school students with Metropolitan Congregations United are calling for a reduction in out-of-school suspensions in area schools. They presented data and recommendations for change Saturday to a group of about 40 educators and community members.

The group, called Students 4 Change, highlighted  a recent UCLA report, which found that Missouri suspends more African-American grade school students than any other state in the country.  Three St. Louis area schools in particular were singled out in the report: Normandy, Riverview Gardens and St. Louis Public Schools.

Alex Heuer

At one point, Shawntelle Fisher, founder of Soulfisher Ministries, did not know if she would ever make it to become a productive citizen. However, after a life of crime that led to seven trips to prison and even a near-death experience, Fisher mustered the courage to change her life. She is now a University of Missouri-St. Louis honors graduate that works to help other ex-offenders once they return to society.

Images from the "Hearts for Ferguson" project
Great Circle

After Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson last summer, and unrest delayed the opening of classes in the Ferguson-Florissant schools, the district wanted to make sure students had help handling their emotions, so their learning wasn't affected.

Stephanie Zimmerman

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri’s education commissioner said she is optimistic that Normandy schools will have enough money to remain open for the coming school year, but the final recommendation will come from the district’s appointed governing board.

teacher in classroom
U.S. Department of Education

Lloyd Little spent more than three decades in public education in outstate Missouri, so he knows how difficult the job of a substitute teacher can be.

But in retirement, that hasn’t stopped him from taking temporary gigs in classrooms in the Parkway school district.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
(via Google Maps screen capture)

After conducting a nationwide search, the Normandy school district announced Thursday night that it was naming interim superintendent Charles Pearson to the position permanently, effective immediately.

“We were confident in Dr. Pearson’s abilities when we hired him as the interim superintendent in January," said Robert Ryffel, who led the search for the Joint Executive Governing Board. "And a national search confirmed our belief that he is the best candidate to continue to lead the Normandy Schools Collaborative during this critical time.” 

Stephanie Zimmerman

To improve student achievement, the interim superintendent of the Normandy school district wants to move sixth graders to the elementary school, concentrate on “career exploration” at the smaller middle school and possibly reopen a closed school as a kindergarten center.

Remko van Dokkum | Flickr

Proponents of a fix to Missouri's student transfer process scored a victory last week when they passed a bill that addresses the problem. Among the options parents would have to educate their children are expanded opportunities to enroll their children in full-time virtual schools. But the new potential new choices are raising questions about who will make sure that virtual schools are up to snuff.

State law already requires that virtual schools — which do not have brick and mortar buildings and offer classwork online —  have to meet a list of qualifications that includes having Missouri-certified teachers and offering courses that align with state curriculum standards. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, said the legislation doesn’t make clear whose job it is to ensure virtual schools are following the rules.      

In many ways, Missouri youth match the national averages in terms of lost opportunities to get ahead, a new study shows.
Judy Baxter, via Flickr

The Webster Groves school district is working to cut $1.6 million from its budget for the coming year and abandoning plans for free full-day kindergarten and other programs, but Superintendent Sarah Riss insists that education for its students will be as good as ever.

Adjunct instructors at Webster University have lost their bid to join a union. However, both the adjuncts and university officials who campaigned against the union say they will keep discussing the issues that prompted the effort.

Incoming Westminster College President Benjamin Akande accepts a school T-shirt from Molly Dwyer, president of the school's student government association, as retiring president George Forsythe looks on.
Westminster College

Benjamin Akande, dean of the business school at Webster University for the past 15 years, will become the 21st  president of Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., on July 1.

At his introduction to the campus community in Fulton on Friday morning, Akande pledged to lead the 164-year-old school “from success to significance” on a broad scale.

Asia Slaughter (L) and Judith Cochran (R) joined "St. Louis on the Air" host Don Marsh.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

Judith Cochran joined “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh to discuss “Conscious Choice,” a program sponsored by the University of Missouri- St. Louis.

The program focuses on encouraging teen girls in at-risk environments to delay motherhood and graduate from high school. Participating teens that complete the program are recognized and rewarded with various gifts, including scholarships to UMSL.


Updated 9:20 a.m., Thurs., May 7 with comments from Education Plus -- Even though it doesn’t make changes in student transfers that could save Normandy from bankruptcy, several education groups urged Gov. Jay Nixon Wednesday to sign the school bill approved by the Missouri legislature because it expands options for students in failing schools.

From left, SheRon Chaney helps her daughters Anandra and BrenNae with homework at their dining room table.
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio

This week lawmakers put a bill on Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk that’s supposed to fix the state’s student transfer law that doesn't include a hard cap on how much receiving districts can charge.

A lack of a tuition cap has rekindled concerns that the cost of student transfers will bankrupt the Normandy school district. And for the Chaney family, who St. Louis Public Radio profiled back in May of last year, it’s just the latest twist in what’s been a roller coaster ride.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
(via Google Maps screen capture)

As problems with student learning persist in the Normandy school district, and lawmakers in Jefferson City appear to oppose a cap on tuition paid for student transfers, the vice president of the Missouri state board of education said the end of the district could be close.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
(via Google Maps screen capture)

From Jefferson City to Normandy, educators are ready to tackle a math problem that is far from theoretical.

If you multiply the number of students who want to transfer out of Normandy in the coming school year by the average tuition that the district will have to pay, will the costs be so big that the district cannot survive?