Education

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

There is this term that gets thrown around in education circles that we felt needs some exploring.

School to prison pipeline.

It sounds like schools are some kind of factory for future inmates, which is not what most people think of as the mission of our education system. Rather, school is the place that prepares children for work, for life, for being good citizens. And for a lot of students, that is exactly what happens.

Alton school board finance committee director Chris Norman said though negotiations went long, a teachers strike would have still been weeks away.
Courtesy Alton Community School District #11 Facebook

A teachers strike in the Alton School District has likely been averted, and a new two-year contract for teachers is one step closer to being approved.

At a special meeting Friday morning, the school board's finance committee tentatively approved a counter proposal from the Alton Education Association, which is representing district teachers.

St. Louis Community College at Meramec
STLCC website

Updated at 7:43 p.m., Nov. 1, with results of vote: ​Part-time instructors at St. Louis Community College have voted overwhelmingly to join a union.

Jonathan Huskey, a spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, reported Sunday night that two days of balloting over the weekend resulted in approval of the union proposition by a vote of 188-15. He said 574 adjunct instructors were eligible to vote in the election.

Nine Network of Public Media

Updated 12:15 p.m., Nov. 5 with audio from the town hall—More than 100 educators, parents and students came together Wednesday, Oct. 28, to talk about the longstanding racial disparities in school suspensions in Missouri.

The state has grappled with the issue for several years, earning headlines in recent years for having the nation’s highest suspension rates.


Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon (center) talks with state board member John Martin (left) and deputy education commissioner Ron Lankford at the state school board meeting in October 2015.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY — The superintendents of schools in Riverview Gardens and Normandy earned praise Tuesday from members of the state board of education for their solid progress on the latest Missouri school report cards 

Now, board members say, the districts need to get more money to help the momentum continue.

Educator Brian Schultz of Independence testified about social studies standards before the state board of education.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY – Proposed school standards for Missouri are designed to make students more active learners, rather than just memorizing rote facts, writers of the standards told members of the state board of education Monday.

Angie Muse, Hazelwood school district
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

After lawmakers decreed that Missouri drop the Common Core school standards and instead come up with a more local version, task forces worked for more than a year to come up with a new blueprint for what the state’s students should know.

But to Angie Muse, an instructional coach in the Hazelwood school district, the revised standards don’t change much, at least for the English courses she has been involved with for 20 years.

Kimberly Ney | Riverview Gardens School District

For three of the St. Louis area's low-performing school districts, this year's Annual Performance Review showed marked improvement. But the success has not been even across the board.

While St. Louis Public Schools' score takes it out of the provisionally accredited zone and Riverview Gardens' improvements could be the first step toward regaining its accredited status, Normandy School District is still below the margin. The key to these districts' successes isn't universal.

Judy Baxter, via Flickr

Struggling school districts in the St. Louis area got some welcome good news with this year’s annual report card from the state.

Riverview Gardens, Jennings and St. Louis Public Schools all posted scores that would put them into the fully accredited range, with more than 70 percent of the 140 points possible on the Annual Performance Report (APR).

Robert Dillon, director of innovation for the Affton School District
courtesy photo

Racial disparities are a huge topic in education. And Missouri schools — specifically those in the St. Louis area — have been singled out as having some of the nation’s highest rates of suspensions that are disproportionately allocated to African Americans. 

Over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you stories of people directly participating in that system. This week, we spoke to educators, who shared their own journeys of grappling with issues of race, poverty and discipline in local schools. 

Judy Baxter, via Flickr

Groups that have been meeting for the past year to come up with new standards for Missouri schools have turned their homework in to state education officials.

Where those standards go from here is the next big test.

Jennings Superintendent Tiffany Anderson takes her turn as a crossing guard.
Jennings School District

The arcane world of school finance in Missouri can be harder to understand than the most obscure poem or the most difficult calculus problem. But clear away all of the acronyms and calculations and modifications, and it comes down to two simple questions:

Should the quality of children’s education depend on where they live? And how important is money to education anyway?

Washington University

Updated 6:59 p.m., Sept. 21, with McCaskill comment: New research about sexual assault on college campuses shows Washington University in somewhat better shape than its peer institutions, but officials at the school admit they still have a lot more work to do to prevent problems for students.

Rep. Lacy Clay
St. Louis Public Radio

For Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, this week’s arrest of a 14 year old Ahmed Mohamed, of Texas, with his Muslim background and dark skin, is more proof the U.S. criminal justice system needs to be rebuilt in order to ensure equal treatment for people of color and whites. 

Clay adds that special attention needs to be paid to how inappropriate discipline, as early as pre-school, can leave a lasting impact and set a child on a path toward prison.

 

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

From student suspensions to dirty cafeteria tables, concerns and complaints by parents and others in the Normandy school district were the topic of conversation at the district’s first community forum of the new school year Wednesday night.

Several dozen people gathered at Normandy High School for a 45-minute session where eight people spoke. The forums are designed to replace the opportunity for the public to make comments at meetings of the district’s appointed school board.

University of Missouri-Columbia

Updated 1:22 p.m., Sept. 16 with audio from "St. Louis on the Air" - R. Bowen Loftin found that a lot of things were the same when he moved from the top job at Texas A&M to become chancellor of the University of Missouri-Columbia last year, but he did have to make one big change.

Instead of greeting his Aggie crowd with a hearty “Howdy!” he learned to get a big response at Mizzou with three simple letters: “M-I-Z”.

ketc building
Courtesy KETC

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting's inspector general says the Nine Network of Public Media in St. Louis should repay more than $422,000 it received for its role in leading other public media stations in the American Graduate program, an effort to help more students earn their high school diplomas.

A dance class at Grand Center Arts Academy
Grand Center Arts Academy

Teachers at the Grand Center Arts Academy charter school have begun the unionization process that could end with their being represented by the American Federation of Teachers.

SHUTTRKINGKT / Flickr

Lost learning time often means lost potential.

That’s the message from a new national report from nonprofits Attendance Works and Healthy Schools Campaign. 

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Pastor Willis Johnson of Wellspring Church led fourth graders at Koch Elementary in an affirmation.  

“I am somebody!” Johnson exclaimed.

“I am somebody!” students replied.  

Johnson was there to hand out teddy bears donated by Build-A-Bear and books from the American Federation of Teachers. The effort was organized by his church’s Center for Social Empowerment and Justice, which was launched to support local business and schools in the Ferguson area.

File photo

Normandy school officials hope disappointing test scores from last year don’t dampen the enthusiasm they’re seeing for improvement in the school year just begun.

Presenting the district’s latest MAP scores – the first report since it became the Normandy Schools Collaborative, run by a state-appointed board – Superintendent Charles Pearson acknowledged to board members Thursday night that “these are not high scores to say the least.”

teacher in classroom
U.S. Department of Education

To get an idea about how difficult it can be to interpret test score data when it comes to charter schools, consider Lafayette Preparatory Academy, just west of downtown.

Kathy Boyd-Fenger (left) and Colin Miller (right) joined "St. Louis on the Air" to talk about Logos School's 45 years of serving at-risk students.
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

For young people with mental health conditions or behavioral disorders, school can be frustrating, and even counter-productive; many such students are considered ‘at risk’ of failing out of the education system. It’s a nationwide problem: the National Alliance on Mental Illness indicated that approximately 50 percent of high-school-age students with a mental illness drop out of high school, and that mental illness plagues 70 percent of youth in juvenile justice systems.

Judy Baxter, via Flickr

For any school district, the path to success is rarely clear, but in Missouri, new numbers create a MAP that is particularly hard to read.

And that picture is likely to remain fuzzy for a few more years at least.

teacher in classroom
U.S. Department of Education

Test results for Missouri schools released Monday show that Normandy and Riverview Gardens, the only unaccredited districts in the state, continue to struggle.

State education officials stress that because the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests given in the spring were based on new standards, the results cannot be compared with results from previous years.

Judge Patricia Riehl presides over Jefferson County Veterans Treatment Court
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Robert Brummel’s troubles began even before he left the Army in 2010. Then things went downhill when he became a civilian.

“It was all alcohol and drug abuse because of certain things that were going on,” he recalls. “Marriage issues. Divorce. Yeah, homeless.”

St. Louis Public Schools

You can’t teach kids if they’re not in class. 

With more than 27,000 students heading back to St. Louis Public Schools next week, as well as many of the city's charter and private schools starting classes, officials are reinforcing that point. Because, they say, lost learning time only leads to lost potential.     

Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Missouri students took a new MAP test in the spring, but results released Tuesday show that the achievement gap between all students and disadvantaged students persists.

According to figures released at the meeting of the state board of education in Jefferson City, students who are black, Hispanic, low-income, disabled or English language learners -- known in education language as a "super subgroup" --  lagged behind students as a whole in all four content categories measured: English, math, science and social studies.

Judy Baxter, via Flickr

When it comes to letting the public know how well schools in Missouri are doing, Pattonville Superintendent Mike Fulton has a simple goal:

He would like to see a system that is clear enough that a third-grader can explain it to adults.

“After all,” he says, “these tests ought to be designed for the child to be the first and most important audience. That’s an important theme here. If it’s not meaningful to the child, then why are we giving the test?”

The Missouri Eastern Correctional Center hosts Washington University's prison education pilot program.
Katelyn Mae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

The question of quality of life for imprisoned persons is a difficult one.

What kind of opportunities do prisoners deserve? And if imprisonment merits any kind of effort to improve quality of life, which initiatives are most important? Most helpful? Most appropriate?

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