Education

Katelyn Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University philosophy professor Claude Evans remembers the day that one of his students leaned back so far in his chair that the chair broke and a foot-long piece of metal broke off and was lying on the floor.

Right away, his students made sure that Evans took custody of the broken piece until the end of class.

James Shuls, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, and Maxine Clark, founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop, talk about summer learning opporunities for students with 'St. Louis on the Air' host Don Marsh on April 2, 2015.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

What are kids doing when school’s out for the summer? A new app will make finding summer camps, classes and activities easier for parents.

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Normandy school officials say 637 students have signed up to transfer to other districts in the coming school year, far more than the number that officials have said could spell serious financial trouble for the district.

Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

As a girl growing up in Bel-Nor, Melanie Ziebatree recalls riding her bicycle around the neighborhood and taking in the majestic view of the Incarnate Word convent on Normandy Drive, across from the Normandie golf course.

Robbyn Wahby, head of the Missouri Charter School Commission
Courtesy Robbyn Wahby

The Missouri Charter Public School Commission has hired St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s top education adviser as its first-ever executive director. Robbyn Wahby has worked with the mayor’s office on school reform policy since 2001, when charter schools first started taking root in the city. She will start her new job in early May.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio

The high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high in America of 81 percent, and in Missouri it climbed to 85.7 percent during the 2013-14 school year. As more students earned high school diplomas, the gap between graduation rates for white and minority students also began to narrow, both nationally and in Missouri.

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

JEFFERSON CITY -- Going along with a recent court decision, the Missouri state board of education voted Tuesday to classify the Normandy Schools Collaborative as unaccredited, but it also praised progress the troubled district has made toward greater academic achievement.

Cornell University political science professor and author Suzanne Mettler talks to 'St. Louis on the Air' host Don Marsh on March 16, 2015, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

Millions of students are enrolled in college, but graduation rates are uneven. Why? Author Suzanne Mettler says political squabbling is to blame.

Mettler, a political science professor at Cornell University, has written a book that lays out the problem and its solution: “Degrees of Inequality: The Demise of Opportunity in Higher Education and How to Restore the American Dream.”

The Normandy school district board listens to public comment at Thursday night's meeting
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The last time the board that oversees the Normandy Schools Collaborative held an open forum, Charles Pearson asked the crowd whether this year was going better than last – and was met with an overwhelmingly negative response.

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

As Normandy schools begin searching for a new superintendent, residents say they want a strong, experienced leader who can steer the district through tough times and stand up to state education officials who are often seen as an enemy, not an ally.

To add to the district’s turmoil, the principals of Normandy Middle School and Washington elementary school have submitted their resignations, leaving two more key positions to be filled at a time when many qualified educators already have jobs lined up for the coming school year.

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Missouri education officials are agreeing with a St. Louis County judge that the Normandy school district should be unaccredited, but that doesn’t mean they accept the judge’s ruling.

Circuit Judge Michael Burton ruled in February that an earlier decision by the Missouri state board of education that classified Normandy as accredited was improperly arrived at and that Normandy – which had the worst scores in the state on last year’s annual evaluation – should be unaccredited.

Jeff Pittman
Provided

St. Louis Community College has named Jeff Pittman, an education official in Indiana, as the new chancellor of its four-campus system, effective July 1.

Pittman, who turns 58 this week, is currently statewide vice president of corporate college services and online education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. He was one of four finalists for the job, including Rod Nunn, the interim president of the college’s Forest Park campus.

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Moving on fast parallel tracks, with the assistance from Gov. Jay Nixon’s office that has absent in the past, the Missouri House and Senate have advanced legislation designed to change provisions of the state’s student transfer law.

Flickr

Missouri suspends African-American grade school students at a higher rate than any other state in the country.  This was a key finding in a national report issued last week by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA.  But troubled districts have been making some progress.

Kurt Schaefer 2014 mo senator
Official photo

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said his bill restricting university appointments is meant to prevent potential conflicts of interest the public might see as unethical. The Senate gave first-round approval Wednesday to the bill, which bars the University of Missouri System's Board of Curators from appointing the governor who named them to the board as president.

Margie Vandeven, Missouri commissioner of elementary and secondary education, visits with students in Warren County.
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Margie Vandeven has been Missouri’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education for less than two months, but she’s hardly a newcomer to the state’s schools.

Dan Younger with students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
Katelyn Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Picture this:

He’s six-foot-six, with thick-rimmed glasses and a gray ponytail, dressed in dark clothes all the way down to his black Converse tennis shoes, accentuated by a flash of red from his pocket handkerchief.

Dan Younger acknowledges he’s an easy guy to caricature, and that’s pretty fitting because he teaches students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis the undying art of cartooning.

(via St. Louis Public Schools)

(Updated Fri., Feb. 20) Angel Matthews decided to leave the Riverview Gardens School District after her cousin, who graduated from the district’s high school, had trouble enrolling in college.

“She was told her diploma didn’t mean anything because it wasn’t accredited,” Mathews said. “So she had to get her GED to go to the school she wanted to go to. I decided I’d rather go to an accredited school and take advantage of the opportunities they have.”

Stephanie Zimmerman

(Updated 3:09 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19)

On Thursday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that it was changing the deadline for Normandy students to apply for transfer to April 1.

"In light of the court ruling on Normandy’s accreditation coming after the Feb. 1 deadline to transfer," DESE said in a statement, "the department is updating its student transfer guidelines.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time, two St. Louis city schools -- Nottingham Community Access Job Training High School and Busch Middle School of Character – have earned the label “Missouri School of Character.”  A total of 11 St. Louis area schools received the designation this year.      

In the St. Louis Public Schools, the designation comes after staff at the two schools spent years proving that their focus on students' character improved academic achievement, student behavior and created a school environment that championed learning.

Margie Vandeven
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Missouri's top educator says the state may have to take emergency action in the wake of a circuit judge's ruling last week that declared the Normandy schools to be unaccredited.

In a meeting of the state board of education on Tuesday, Margie Vandeven, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said the board will consider calling an emergency meeting in the next month if the circuit judge’s ruling forces them to make any decisions on the district and its future.

Program works to rebuild trust between cops and kids

Feb 16, 2015
Students who participate in an after -school program at Hanrahan elementary speak with a St. Louis County Police officer.
Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

Sixth grader Jmarria Franklin of Kenneth C. Hanrahan Elementary School in Jennings says she didn’t have a good opinion about police after Michael Brown’s death.

“I thought they were kind of bad because when the Michael Brown situation had happened everybody started hating police and stuff because he got shot for no reason,” she said.

Maurice Quiroga of PNC Bank believes the first five years of a child's life are critical in long-term development.
PNC Bank

Early childhood programs have become a focus for those trying to improve the educational and social development of preschoolers. Finding what works has also been a key component in the attempts to lessen the achievement gap and other challenges some students in underserved communities experience later in life.

Students talk about racial issues during a panel discussion at Ritenour High School on Feb. 25, 2015.
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated 2:55 p.m., Wed., Feb. 25)

Students from across the St. Louis area regrouped this morning as a follow-up to a first of its kind race summit last month.  

At the initial event, students voted on what they thought was the best solution to bridge racial divides in the St. Louis area. The winning idea was to create a sister-school program. Students from matched schools would temporarily "exchange" schools as a way to build relationships and understanding.   

Charles Pearson, seated, talks with Superintendent Ty McNichols.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Former Normandy school Superintendent Ty McNichols, who resigned last month, will continue earning the balance of his $180,000 annual salary through the end of June in exchange for serving as a consultant for the district.

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(Updated at 8:17 p.m. with reaction from Normandy and its interim superintendent)

In unusually strong language, a St. Louis County judge has ruled that Normandy schools are unaccredited and students who live in the district have a right to transfer to whatever area accredited school district they want to attend.

Joseph Davis, the newly selected superintendent of Ferguson-Florissant, gives students a round of applause, saying that they are the reason he's here.
Camille Phillips | St.Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8:00 p.m. to include details from Wednesday afternoon’s news conference.

Ferguson-Florissant school board president Rob Chabot officially introduced the district’s new superintendent Wednesday afternoon in front of a backdrop of Ferguson-Florissant students.

Mary Nelson
St. Louis Community College

In recent weeks, the Missouri Senate has considered the nomination of four lawyers to be members of the University Missouri Board of Curators, but only three of them won confirmation.

The fourth, Mary Nelson of St. Louis, was rejected by a committee vote. State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said that if she joined the board, that would mean that eight of nine curators – all but David Steward of St. Louis – would be lawyers. He said that would be too many members from one profession.

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe talks to 'St. Louis on the Air' host Don Marsh on Jan. 29, 2015, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio

Continuing his push to build backing for stronger financial support from the state, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe said Friday that residents, industry and political leaders have to work together to make a convincing appeal.

“We’ve got to stop playing the blame game,” Wolfe told members of the UM Board of Curators in Columbia. “We’ve got to stop pointing fingers. We’ve got to stop looking in the rear-view mirror and start looking through the windshield.”

NathanReed / Flickr

Cheap living, a network of startup incubators and a couple of hometown success stories have raised St. Louis’ profile among investors looking to get in early on the next big thing.

Though much of the focus has been on financial services, the life sciences and agriculture, momentum is building in another field -- education. And even though plans are still being drawn up, an effort is underway to harness local startup energy toward improving classroom success.

At the same time, questions linger about what education should look like in the digital age.

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