Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Students at St. Louis Public Schools' Mason Elementary met Gov. Jay Nixon when he toured their school Jan. 5, 2017  in recognition of the district's pending accreditation.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated on Tuesday, January 10: The State Board of Education officially granted St. Louis Public Schools full accreditation, a key milestone for a district that's improved after years of struggle.

The state board gave unanimous approval to upgrade St. Louis Public Schools’ status from provisionally accredited to fully accredited. Officials with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education cited the district's rising test scores, improved attendance rates and fiscal stability as the reasons for recommending the change.

KB35 | Flickr

With a new Missouri governor ready to take over, lawmakers are trying once again to solve an old problem: how students in unaccredited school districts can get the education they deserve.

Since the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the transfer law in 2013, students in unaccredited districts have had the right to enroll in nearby accredited districts, at the cost of millions of dollars to their home districts that had to pay tuition and in some cases transportation as well.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon talks to students at Moline elementary school in Riverview Gardens Monday, Nov. 7, 2016.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 7 at 3:55 with Nixon comments: No Missouri school districts scored in the unaccredited range on this year’s annual report cards, but that doesn’t mean that the state’s two unaccredited districts – Normandy and Riverview Gardens – are automatically headed for an upgrade.

And among charters in St. Louis, one – Preclarus Mastery Academy – scored in the unaccredited range for the third straight year. Two others that scored in the same territory, with less than half of the possible points – Jamaa Learning Center and Better Learning Communities Academy – closed at the end of the last school year.

Students at Adams Elementary in St. Louis Sept 2016
File photo, Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While state education officials try to work around obstacles that have blocked efforts to move control of the St. Louis Public Schools back to an elected board, talks on the issue have been suspended until January at the earliest.

And with school board elections set for April, the balloting could take on additional significance.

A person filling in a standardized test bubble sheet with a pencil.
Flickr | Alberto G.

Three more Missouri school districts scored in the provisional accreditation range and one additional charter school scored in the unaccredited range in this year’s preliminary data compared with last year, the state school board was told Tuesday.

As with last year, just one district scored in the unaccredited range, with less than 50 percent of the points possible. But because the annual performance reports (APR) for individual districts will not be available until Nov. 7, no districts were identified by name.

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon said he is optimistic the district will return to provisional accreditation, following a recommendation from the state department of elementary and secondary education board on Nov. 23, 2016.
Kimberly Ney | Riverview Gardens School District

Updated at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 30 with information on charters and standout districts — Superintendents of Missouri’s only two unaccredited school districts say the latest standardized test scores show their students are improving.

But state school officials caution that because the tests taken in the spring were from a different source from those taken the year before, year-to-year comparisons aren’t really valid, so there is no good way to truly gauge how much progress students have made.

Still, the superintendents in Normandy and Riverview Gardens are pleased.

Gov. Jay Nixon announces $57 million in temporary budget cuts one day after the legislature overrode vetoes of two tax break bills.
Marshall Griffin|St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri's current state budget is taking another hit.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday that he's withholding $57.2 million from several state agencies and programs after lawmakers on Wednesday overrode vetoes he made on two tax breaks.

The St. Louis Public Schools elected board discusses business during its June meeting as state board of education member Vic Lenz looks on.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Updated Sept. 14 with comments from Bill Monroe — The vice-president of the Missouri Board of Education warned the elected board of St. Louis Public Schools Tuesday night that if the elected board can’t work together then talks to transition district authority back could be put on hold until after the April election.

“We went around the room (during the state board meeting) and it was pretty clear that if we can’t have a working together meeting to make things happen, then we’re wasting our time,” state board vice president Vic Lenz told the elected board during their regularly scheduled board meeting.

The downtown headquarters building for the St. Louis Public Schools
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The state board of education will discuss the stalled transition talks for the St. Louis Public Schools at its meeting Tuesday and could decide whether the on-again, off-again talks will resume or will be off for quite a while.

“We’re not going to continue to try to hold meetings as they were planned if, every time, we have to suspend the meeting or call it off,” said Vic Lenz of south St. Louis County, one of two state board members who has been involved in the discussion of when and whether an elected board will resume control over the city schools. “We’re not going to waste people’s time like that.”

A person filling in a standardized test bubble sheet with a pencil.
Flickr | Alberto G.

Fewer than half of the students in grades five through eight who were tested in Missouri in the spring scored proficient or advanced in math, according to new numbers from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

In English, scores were better, with the percentage of students scoring in the top two categories hovering around 60 percent in grades three through eight.

State education officials say the latest numbers shouldn’t be compared with those from previous years because the English and math tests were new.

A person filling in a standardized test bubble sheet with a pencil.
Flickr | Alberto G.

The latest statewide averages for ACT scores are out, and for the first time both Missouri and Illinois have a complete picture of how well their students did.

With 100 percent of 2016 graduating seniors participating, Missouri students scored an average of 20.2 and Illinois students scored an average of 20.8 out of 36.

The downtown headquarters building for the St. Louis Public Schools
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 8:50 p.m. Aug. 16, with results of an attempted meeting - A meeting to discuss moving the St. Louis Public Schools back under the control of an elected board was adjourned just five minutes after it started Tuesday evening because one member of the elected board who was not supposed to be there refused to leave.

The dispute could scuttle any effort to have the elected board replace the appointed Special Administrative Board that has run the district since 2007.

A person filling in a standardized test bubble sheet with a pencil.
Flickr | Alberto G.

Schools seem to start classes earlier each year, but the results of student tests — and the annual district report cards that depend on them — will be later once again.

The reason: As Missouri learning standards keep changing, education officials have to take more time to figure out what the test scores mean.

Missouri Department of Higher Education

When it comes to education, Missouri has no shortage of goals.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education wants the state to be in, as its slogan says, in the Top 10 by 20 – among the leaders in a variety of school measures by the year 2020.

Not to be outdone, the state’s Department of Higher Education has its sights set a little further out, on 2025. Nine years from now, it wants Missouri to have 60 percent of its working-age adults with postsecondary credentials, to be in the top 10 for investment in academic research and to rank among the 10 most affordable states in which to obtain a postsecondary degree or certificate.

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.
File photo |Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the Missouri state school board praised progress made by Riverview Gardens in recent years Tuesday but postponed any vote that could upgrade its status from unaccredited.

Because the board put off until at least this fall any consideration of making the district provisionally accredited, students living in Riverview Gardens will remain eligible to transfer to nearby accredited schools in the coming school year.

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon discusses the district's progress at a state hearing May 5, 2016
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

Riverview Gardens has made solid gains over the past two years, but Missouri education officials will not recommend that the state board upgrade the district from unaccredited to provisionally accredited for the coming school year.

A better level of accreditation would mean that students who live in the district could no longer transfer to schools in other districts, as they have since the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the state’s transfer law in 2013.

St. Louis Public Schools

In 2007, the St. Louis Public Schools were placed under the control of a three-member appointed board. Its assignment was to fix problems in finance, governance and academic achievement.

The district has made progress in all three areas. A deficit became a surplus, infighting among board members has turned into civility, if not always unanimity, and student test scores have made steady gains. On its most recent state report card, the district, which was once unaccredited, scored solidly in the range for full accreditation.

St. Louis Public Schools

Updated at 12:50 p.m. June 1 with response from St. Louis Public Schools: Two parents who say their children have thrived in charter schools after struggling in St. Louis Public Schools want to have their voices heard in a lawsuit that could force charters in the city to lose tens of millions of dollars.

The parents filed a motion in federal court Tuesday asking to intervene in the lawsuit filed in April by the city public schools against the way proceeds from a 1999 city sales tax for education has been distributed by the state.

St. Louis Public Schools

After a lively discussion, the Missouri state school board agreed Tuesday to convene a meeting that could lead to the St. Louis Public Schools returning to the control of an elected school board.

Since 2007, the city schools have been under the authority of a three-member appointed Special Administrative Board. Since the schools scored solidly in the full accreditation range on their most recent state report card, talk has increased about when the switch back to the elected board could occur.

A person filling in a standardized test bubble sheet with a pencil.
Flickr | Alberto G.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. May 17 with comment from state board members

A task force looking into better ways to accredit Missouri school districts says the state should judge its schools like it judges its teachers — with a number of different measurements that don’t rely so heavily on student test scores.

In a report presented to the Missouri state board of education at its meeting in Jefferson City on Tuesday, the task force concluded that Missouri should retain accreditation of districts but change the criteria it uses to determine whether schools are accredited, provisionally accredited or unaccredited. The task force is made up of superintendents and others.

Riverview Gardens students entertain before Thursday night's state hearing, May 5, 2016
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

When he opened Thursday night’s state hearing on the status of the unaccredited Riverview Gardens schools, assistant education commissioner Chris Neale spelled out the two big decisions the district faces.

First, the state school board will decide, as early as next month, whether the district’s progress merits an upgrade to provisional accreditation.

State board President Charlie Shields and education Commissioner Margie Vandeven listen to Tuesday's discussion
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

After more than two years of sometimes contentious debate by lawmakers and educators, new Missouri learning standards won unanimous approval Tuesday from the state board of education.

Meeting in Jefferson City, board members stressed that the new standards — which replace Common Core standards — spell out what Missouri students should know in English, math, social studies and science at various grade levels. But local districts retain the authority and the responsibility to determine how those subjects will be taught.

File photo

The superintendent of the Normandy school district says younger students there are making impressive gains, particularly in reading, because of learning strategies that influence them from the time they start school.

But older students still struggle, and their lack of progress concerned members of the state board of education who heard an update on the unaccredited district at their meeting Tuesday in Jefferson City.

Computer keyboard
frankieleon | Flickr

Missouri education officials have 3,600 reasons to postpone approving proposed new learning standards for students in the state.

That’s how many comments the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has received on the proposed standards since work groups submitted the final version last year. About 600 of those comments came in the last month alone, after the state board of education heard the latest update on the process at its meeting in February.

Edmund Lee
provided by family

Headlines screamed the basics: A 9-year-old St. Louis boy will be barred from remaining at the school he loves, just because he is black.

The stories fed outrage across the nation and around the world and fueled an online petition that now has more than 90,000 signatures, imploring Missouri education officials to change the rules and make things right.

Ashland Elementary School Principal, Lisa Brown, helps students work through a classroom assignment using iPads.
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Board of Education is extending the governance period for the St. Louis Public School District’s Special Administrative Board for three more years. But it also asked its staff to present a transition plan at the April meeting.

“A review of the district performance shows steady increase in student performance on the MAP (test) since 2006," said Margie Vandeven, Missouri commissioner of education. "Although, there is still a long way to go as a whole for the students of this district."

State school board President Charlie Shields and education Commissioner Margie Vandeven listen to Tuesday's discussion.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

In the wake of progress made by schools in St. Louis and Riverview Gardens, state education officials want appointed boards to continue in both districts for another three years.

school buses
Flickr

JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri state board of education unanimously approved on Tuesday a framework for an accelerated review of the accreditation status of the Riverview Gardens School District.

But a key question that hangs over the whole process remains unsettled: What happens to students who have transferred from the district under state law if its status is upgraded?

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.
File photo |Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 7:55 p.m. Monday with Adams not getting L.A. job: St. Louis schools will get another hearing by the state school board Tuesday on their request for an upgrade to full accreditation, while board members will also discuss a framework that could lift Riverview Gardens up to provisional accreditation.

Stephanie Zimmerman

Even as hundreds of students living in the Normandy school district continue transferring to nearby accredited schools, challenges to a court ruling in the longstanding case continue.

The next court date will be Feb. 9 in the Missouri Court of Appeals. At issue is whether the state board of education acted properly in classifying Normandy as accredited when the district became the Normandy Schools Collaborative at the start of the 2014-15 school year.

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