Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

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.

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.

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.

teacher in classroom
U.S. Department of Education

Missouri needs to strike a balance between making sure that all teachers are prepared to enter the classroom and that minorities and women are treated fairly by tests that certify them to teach.

That balance was a main topic of discussion Tuesday at a joint meeting in Columbia between the state Board of Education, which represents interests of K-12 school districts, and the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, which governs public colleges and universities in the state.

(via Flickr/albertogp123)

As August approaches and the back-to-school mindset takes hold, schools and parents typically wonder how students did last year and what adjustments may be needed when classes resume.

For Missouri schools, some of those answers are delayed this year. Even when they are available, their meaning won’t be clear, and that uncertainty is likely to persist for many years to come.

Peter Herschend
DESE website

JEFFERSON CITY -- When Peter Herschend joined the Missouri state Board of Education in 1991, schools in the state were rated in three ways – A, AA or AAA.

But the rankings weren’t based on detailed accounts of how well students were doing in the classroom. Instead, Herschend noted in a recent interview, the factors that went into the classification ranged from salary structure to secretarial personnel to how many fire escapes the buildings had.

Andrea Terhune
Normandy website

JEFFERSON CITY – One year after the Missouri state Board of Education dissolved the old Normandy School District and put an appointed board in place to run the new Normandy, state board members say a credibility gap still exists between Normandy residents and state education officials.

And that gap could grow, with the announcement Tuesday that the president of the appointed Joint Executive Governing Board, Andrea Terhune, is resigning for personal reasons. She is leaving the board as of July 6, education Commissioner Margie Vandeven told state board members.

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.

Normandy N
Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

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Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

Flickr

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.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
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?

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

Missouri state school officials called a public hearing Thursday night to hear opinions on how the Normandy school district could improve.

Instead, for more than an hour they heard 18 speakers criticize how the state has failed to support the district since appointing a board to run it last year and predict that the schools are doomed to close.

Computer keyboard
frankieleon | Flickr

As Missouri schools head into the heart of standardized test season, with new exams given in new ways, state education officials are checking closely to see if districts will make the grade.

For students in grades 3-8, this year’s Missouri Assessment Program, the MAP tests, in English and math are different in two ways. First, pencil-and-paper answer sheets have given way to computerized exams. Second, the tests are based on the Common Core standards, which will be in force while work groups devise new Missouri-based standards to replace them.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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

As the Normandy Schools Collaborative begins the process of finding a replacement for Superintendent Ty McNichols, its board is finalizing details of a severance package and educators are wondering who might be available to take his place.

Margie Vandeven
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

(Updated at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 17, with news conference)

Margie Vandeven may be Missouri’s new commissioner for elementary and secondary education, but she’ll enter the job at the first of the year concentrating on some old problems.

One of them, she told reporters in a conference call Wednesday after her unanimous selection by the state board of education, is working for changes in Missouri’s student transfer law, to help protect the budgets of districts whose students are eligible to leave.

Mike Jones talks with education commissioner Chris Nicastro.
File photo: Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

When Chris Nicastro was chosen as Missouri’s education commissioner in 2009, her experience with school districts in north St. Louis County was cited as a big factor.

Now, as the Missouri state board of education prepares to interview five finalists to succeed Nicastro, they have a list of four white men who have been superintendents in Joplin, Branson, Springfield and Wentzville, plus a white woman who has been actively involved in north county as deputy commissioner but has never served as a superintendent.

St. Louis Public Schools

(Updated with interviews from all candidates.)

The Missouri state board of education has narrowed to five the field of candidates seeking to become the state’s next commissioner of elementary and secondary education.

After reviewing 12 applications in closed session Friday, the board announced Monday that it would interview:

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Renewed efforts to change Missouri’s law on school transfers look pretty much the same as the bill vetoed earlier this year by Gov. Jay Nixon, but sponsors of the newly filed legislation say events in Ferguson have changed the atmosphere for the upcoming debate.

Peter Herschend
DESE website

The Missouri state board of education has a field of 14 candidates from which to choose the state’s new commissioner of elementary and secondary education.

After the board’s open meeting in Branson Thursday, where it approved added responsibility for the appointed school board that is running the Normandy Schools Collaborative, board president Peter Herschend said in a telephone interview that the applications of the 14 people who want to succeed retiring Commissioner Chris Nicastro would be reviewed in a closed session on Friday.

Stephanie Zimmerman

As the appointed board that runs the new Normandy Schools Collaborative is about to take on new responsibilities for personnel decisions and improved academic achievement, it is working with outside agencies to find substitute teachers and help its littlest residents on the road to learning.

Following acceptance by the Joint Executive Governing Board of a proposal that it be in charge of evaluating, hiring and disciplining personnel, the state board of education is expected to approve the new plan at its meeting Thursday in Branson.

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After complaints from teachers and others about how the initial year of the Normandy Schools Collaborative has gone so far, the state board of education wants to give more authority to the local appointed board.

Peter Herschend
DESE website

JEFFERSON CITY -- The Missouri state board of education voted Tuesday to put the search for a new commissioner on a slower track, then had a lengthy discussion about one of the big issues the next commissioner will face – turning around Normandy schools.

Rather than the accelerated process that board president Peter Herschend had favored, in which a successor to Chris Nicastro would have been chosen this week, the board bowed to objections from a variety of education groups that said such a fast track would have left them out of the process.

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