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Accreditation, Achievement, Outcome - What Dictates A Student's Success?

(Flickr/Claire Cook44)

School system performance is paramount for any family looking to move and start a family, as it was for Rob and Diane Pattershuk, when they moved to Ladue 20 years ago. 

They made a good choice – the district offers a several extracurricular activities, advanced placement classes, and was ranked as the top school in the state on this year’s Newsweek poll of America’s Best High Schools.

Their daughter, Alex, attended elementary and middle school in the Ladue School System – so for them the choice for high school was pretty simple, says Diane. “She was doing so well in grade school, I didn’t see any reason to pull her out. It’s an excellent community here. When they get to the high school, they’re all so competitive, and that environment just made her a stronger, harder worker. It made her a better student."

Alex Pattershuk, who will be attending Texas Christian University in the fall, is aware of the weight that her school’s name carries. She has been involved in sports, has a 3.6 GPA, and started a club called Due-Care that helps need-based families.“I think that your grades are what gets you in to college - not going to Ladue. I think that going to Ladue helps, but your grades are what ultimately gets you in to the school," she says.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Riverview Gardens school district, which is also in St. Louis County, has been unaccredited since 2007 and had a 77% graduation rate in 2012.

RaShaun Travis is a recent graduate from Riverview Gardens High School. He had a 3.3 GPA, played baseball, and was involved in DECA, a high school entrepreneurial program. His thoughts on achievement are plain and simple: “I feel that if you want whatever you’re working for and you work for it, you put in the time for it, you’ll get it no matter where you’re coming from, what school you went to, your background, your history, if you want to work for it you’ll get the opportunity.”

According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, last year, a quarter of Riverview Gardens’ 2011 senior class, of which there were 349 graduates, went on to a four year university. Like Ladue, the school offers a plethora of extracurricular activities, and students are afforded the opportunity to have a counselor dedicated to their post-grad needs.

But for Travis, who will attend University of Missouri-Columbia in the fall to major in biology, statistics meant nothing. He was aware of the school’s accreditational faults, but wasn’t deterred. “It’s just a school. The school I go to is the name of the school, and my academic success is what they judge. It gave me motivation," he says. "If you tell me that I can’t do something because of something that I can’t control, I’m willing work and put in the effort to prove you wrong.”

Sarah Potter is the communications coordinator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She says that attendance and graduation rates are also included in determining a school’s status. But that shouldn’t negatively affect a student’s performance. "When you get an unaccredited classification, that’s a serious red flag that something is not working or many things are not working within that district. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have very smart children within that district who are soaking up everything that they can and doing a very good job. That classification should not prohibit them from being successful later on.”

Accreditation or not, school and administrators agree that when it’s time for a student to submit applications, its status in the state’s eyes is more of a factor for the district, not the college. But a student’s inner determination is something that can’t be classified.

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