Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Shannan Muskopf | flickr

A growing list of Missouri school leaders are organizing to push for changes to the way their students are tested, saying the current model is in constant flux and doesn’t provide useful feedback on student learning.

The end-of-year exams that have become emblematic to public education are an “archaic and broken process,” said Rockwood School District Superintendent Eric Knost, an outspoken critic of standardized testing.

School Illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

With the task of going through a state Senate confirmation process approaching, Gov. Eric Greitens’ picks to the Missouri State Board of Education successfully sped up the process of finding an education commissioner over the objections of the board’s president.

The governor’s five nominees outflanked three other board members during a teleconference Thursday to open and close the application process for a new education commissioner before an early January meeting. The board fired Commissioner Margie Vandeven Dec. 1 over objections of lawmakers from both sides as well as leaders and supporters of traditional school districts.

Even though the school transfer issue aroused passionate debate last year, the issue still isn't resolved.
File | Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri education officials could elevate the long-troubled Normandy school district out of unaccredited status.

Officials at Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are expected to recommend the state Board of Education reclassify Normandy Schools Collaborative as “provisionally accredited” at its monthly meeting Friday.

School Illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Normandy and Riverview Gardens  received high enough state academic performance scores to get the north St. Louis County-based school districts in better standing with state education leaders.

Two districts in the region — St. Louis City and Ferguson-Florissant — saw their annual performance scores dip below the threshold the state considers to be fully accredited. Pattonville and Orchard Farms both received perfect scores.

No district in the state earned marks that would be considered failing in the Annual Performance Report, or APR, published Wednesday by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. APR is a key indicator on how well schools are educating students.

School Illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri education leaders want to spend about $121 million more on K-12 public schools next school year, they told the State Board of Education on Tuesday, though it’s not clear whether the state can afford it..

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education outlined its proposed budget in Jefferson City, which would include a $98.9 million increase in the K-12 funding formula.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth / St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Wednesday that two of the state's high school annual assessments, administered during the 2016-2017 school year are "unusable."

The results for the Algebra I and English II  exam, known as the end-of-course tests, won't factor into the 2017 school accountability measurements, and won’t be publicly reported.

The state is blaming the test maker, Questar Assessment, for making the results incomparable to the tests administered in the 2015-2016 school year.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri education officials are promoting a free, online resource to help kids practice math skills over the summer. Studies show students can lose more than two months of progress during the break.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush visits the Missouri Capitol. (March 2, 2017)
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told Missouri lawmakers on Thursday that expanding charter schools is a way to help students improve their performance.

His visit comes as Missouri lawmakers will consider allowing charter schools beyond St. Louis and Kansas City this session. Gov. Eric Greitens is a backer of school choice.

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.

Unaccredited districts cite progress in latest test score results

Sep 29, 2016
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.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

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
File photo | 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
File photo | 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.

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