School Accreditation

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

Updated 7:10 p.m. Friday with Anderson being hired in Topeka, her comments: Tiffany Anderson, whose leadership in the Jennings school district since 2012 resulted in its earning full accreditation, will become the new superintendent of schools in Topeka, Kan., starting July 1.

The head of the school board in Topeka, Patrick Woods, made the announcement late Friday. Anderson had been one of two finalists for the job.

school buses

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.
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.

Riverview Gardens students sing before a public hearing on the district in December 2015.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

A mandatory state hearing on the status of the Riverview Gardens school district Thursday night turned into a cheerleading session on the progress the unaccredited district has shown over the past two years.

But the question of whether it will win the upgrade it has asked for, to provisional accreditation, remains unsettled.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Accreditation, school transfers and issues of race and discrimination on college campuses have all been big stories in education in 2015. On Monday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” St. Louis Public Radio’s education reporter, Dale Singer, joined host Don Marsh in discussing some of the biggest developments of the year.

Jennings Schools
Dale SInger | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:50 p.m.: JEFFERSON CITY – The Jennings School District’s steady improvement in recent years was rewarded Tuesday when the state board of education granted it full accreditation. But requests for upgrades by the St. Louis Public Schools and Riverview Gardens were put on hold.

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.

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?”

Gov. Jay Nixon, center, listens to an update on efforts to help Riverview Gardens and Normandy at EducationPlus. He is flanked by Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon, right, and Nixon education adviser Mike Nietzel, left.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Jay Nixon says the regional effort by St. Louis area school districts to help Normandy and Riverview Gardens could not only lead to their regaining accreditation but could also strengthen public education in general.

school buses

Updated at 9:35 a.m. Monday with clarification on tuition rates, link to final bill text.

Two bills passed by Missouri lawmakers this week would have a significant impact on how and what students in the state are taught – if the legislation escapes a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon.

And that doesn’t include the financial impact the governor says will occur because of the tax-cut bill that the House and Senate passed into law over his veto earlier this month.

Supporters of Normandy School District Rally

Mar 15, 2014
St. Louis Public Radio

“Normandy Strong” was the cry Saturday at a rally for supporters of the Normandy School District, whose future is uncertain after losing accreditation and bearing the tuition costs of students transferred to other districts.

Officials estimate the district will be bankrupt in April if millions of dollars in supplemental funding isn’t approved by the legislature. Supporters are hopeful that the district, currently unaccredited, can survive this school year and beyond.  

In Missouri, as in most states, public schools are administered by local school boards.  The boundaries of school districts are drawn in accordance with state law. Schools are funded primarily through local property taxes. Districts with higher per capita incomes tend to have better schools.  The districts most in danger of losing their accreditation tend to be those with lower per capita incomes.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When an outside consulting firm takes a hard look at ways to improve the Kansas City schools, its report may not have the answers to achieving the same goal in St. Louis, but it could certainly be asking the right questions.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Now that hundreds of students have started their long bus rides from Normandy and Riverview Gardens to accredited districts, can they expect to have greater academic success in their new schools?

Nothing is certain, of course, but educational research – and the long experience the St. Louis area has with the voluntary desegregation transfer plan – suggest that where students attend class can have a definite positive effect on how much they learn.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri State Board of Education voted Tuesday to increase oversight of the state's unaccredited school districts.

The vote came a week before a new state law takes effect that will allow Missouri to move more quickly towards taking over unaccredited school districts.  Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro says state officials will soon begin to heighten their presence in those districts.

St. Louis Beacon graphic | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has been working for years to get authority to step in more quickly to help unaccredited school districts.

Now that a newly signed law gives it that power, the state board of education wants to make sure that it uses it in the right way.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: JEFFERSON CITY -- With more than 2,500 students in unaccredited school districts in St. Louis County transferring elsewhere this fall, and the possibility of more transferring out of Kansas City schools, Missouri education officials have hired an outside consultant to help failing districts improve and prevent others from losing accreditation.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Members of the Missouri state board of education voted unanimously Tuesday to grant provisional accreditation to the St. Louis Public Schools, accepting a recommendation from Commissioner Chris Nicastro.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: To avoid the challenges associated with the current school transfer law, and to give parents a better idea of how their children’s school is doing, the elected board of the St. Louis Public Schools wants the state to begin accrediting individual schools rather than entire school districts.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The new superintendent of Normandy schools had a lot of positive things he wanted to talk about Wednesday night, but much of the district’s board meeting was spent trying to counteract something negative – Normandy’s reputation for being unsafe.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Of the 521 school districts in Missouri with recorded accreditation status reported by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 97.4 percent are fully accredited. That’s all but 14. Of those, 11 have received provisional accreditation, and three are currently unaccredited. Those three – in the news for the last couple of weeks on account of the June Missouri Supreme Court ruling regarding student transfers from unaccredited districts – are Normandy and Riverview Gardens in the east, and Kansas City in the west.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: For nearly an hour, Kate Casas and others from the Children's Education Alliance of Missouri had answered nuts-and-bolts questions from residents of the Riverview Gardens school district about how students can transfer to accredited schools:

What happens to students who are homeless, or in transition? Is this by lottery, or will our requests for certain district be filled first-come, first-served? How will students who can’t keep up academically get the help they need?

Provided by Susan Uchitelle

The St. Louis Post Dispatch recently published an article by Mr. Krehmeyer reporting on the link between poverty and lack of school success. It indicated that with various actions we can do a lot to improve school results in poverty areas. I think that thought has merit. I commend what the author, Chris Krehmeyer, has to say. However in my mind the real issue is “do we really want to erase poverty and do we have the will to truly turn around failing school systems and help children out of poverty?” I ask because I have heard the words so many times.

School Accreditation and Poverty

Nov 13, 2012
(via Flickr/comedy_nose)

In the last several weeks the St. Louis Public Schools and the Normandy School District traded places on the list of unaccredited and provisionally accredited schools. . Congratulations to the city schools for regaining provisional status and good luck to Normandy on its journey back to accreditation. Here in the St. Louis region we typically only talk about our public school challenges or occasionally the Kansas City challenges but the list of unaccredited and provisional schools in Missouri, in addition to St.

(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

Illinois Gov. optimistic special session will be fruitful

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn called lawmakers back to Springfield, Ill. for the one-day session today to vote on changes to the state's retirement system, which is at least $83 billion in debt.

The two parties have been unable to come to an agreement on a solution. Quinn is pushing a plan opposed by Republicans that would shift the cost of some benefits to local school districts.

Quinn, however, says lawmakers will do the right thing in the end.