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Education

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 31, 2010 -St. Louis Public Schools have paid out as much as a teacher's salary for a full year to teachers who have yet to have their own class this fall, the district acknowledged Tuesday.

Because of unusual movement of teachers, as schools were forced to reconstitute their staffs as part of a turnaround effort, as many as 26 teachers were not assigned to classes that matched their certification, according to Sharonica Hardin, the school system's chief human resource officer.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 26, 2010 -The elected board of the St. Louis Public Schools wants to resume control of the district no later than July 1 of next year, ending what would be four years of state control of the city schools. It also is looking for new sources of funding and a cap on new charter schools until the district's enrollment stabilizes.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 23, 2010 - What's the best relationship between teachers and students? Love? Admiration? Respect?

What would you do if your class were deeply involved in a creative project, like a movie or a newspaper or a play, and the principal came along and said you had to get back to basics because standardized test time was coming up?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 3, 2010 - Responding to the message that a $155 million bond issue for the St. Louis Public Schools would require no tax increase,  city voters gave the proposal an overwhelming victory Tuesday.

With 100 percent of the city’s precincts reporting, Proposition S, won with 76 percent of the vote, and school officials declared victory. It needed a four-sevenths majority for passage, or 57.1 percent.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 2, 2010 - If brightly colored T-shirts, inspirational slogans and sheer enthusiasm can turn a school district around, Riverview Gardens - make that the NEW Riverview Gardens - could be on its way back.

But as speakers conceded Monday morning during the opening convocation for the reconstituted district, the turnaround is going to take a lot more than school spirit.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 30, 2010 - DESE says that MAP scores are up, even though most local districts did not meet AYP targets, but Missouri's commissioner of education says rather than concentrating on what is mandated by NCLB, parents and others should concentrate on APR.

To translate for those of you who do not understand eduspeak:

The latest results on the Missouri Assessment Program show growth across the board, but the numbers were not high enough to meet the annual yearly progress mark set by the federal No Child Left Behind act.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 29, 2010 - When Chris Nicastro was named Missouri's commissioner of elementary and secondary education last year, the news was that she was the first woman and the first urban educator to hold that position.

No one knew that the better shorthand would be this: the commissioner who had to deal with the state's worst budget crisis in recent memory.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 28, 2010 - The Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled that students in unaccredited school districts have the right to transfer to, and must be accepted by, an accredited school at the cost of the unaccredited district. The law upheld by the court also allows the transfer to be to a school "in another district of the same or an adjoining county." This ruling should serve as a wake-up call that serious statewide education reforms must be passed in the 2011 legislative session.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 20, 2010 - The measure on the Aug. 3 ballot for a $155 million bond issue for St. Louis Public Schools is officially called Proposition S, but for parent activist Curtis Royston III, the real name should be Proposition SOS.

"This is about Saving Our Schools," he told a campaign kickoff rally Tuesday at the school system's headquarters, 801 N. 11th St. downtown.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 20, 2010 - St. Louis school officials hope their track record in bringing air conditioning to city school buildings will result in a warm reception for next month's $155 million bond issue.

But lingering resentment over the fact that the schools are being run by a state-appointed board is prompting some to give the proposition the cold shoulder.

Diversity Arts Program opens students' eyes

Jul 19, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 19, 2010 - Feelings of anger, sadness and apathy washed over a diverse group of students and teachers in a Central High School classroom Tuesday morning. The students had been brought together to discuss the disappearance of fellow schoolmate Justin Baker, who recently revealed to his family and friends that he was gay. All that was left of Baker was a backpack with a letter.

"I can't take it anymore," the letter read. "I want to go where I am accepted."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 15, 2010 - The jobs of 3,200 teachers in Missouri who face possible layoffs could be saved if Congress approves $500 million to aid state education programs nationwide.

But a move toward getting that money by taking it out of the administration's Race to the Top educational reform program was criticized Thursday by Chris Nicastro, Missouri's commissioner of elementary and secondary education, as the wrong approach.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 13, 2010 - One day after a judge rejected its attempt to stay open, and with the opening of the school year little more than a month away, board members of Paideia Academy met Tuesday to decide their next move.

Results of the closed meeting were not immediately made public.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 8, 2010 - Fernando Cutz, Chase Sackett and Jamie James aren't from St. Louis.

But like thousands of other students from around the country and the world, the three came here to get their university education. At Washington University, where Cutz and Sackett graduated in May, and at St. Louis University, where James has one more semester, the three students from different states and different backgrounds found the same thing -- a bubble.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 30, 2010 - After working with Missouri's colleges and universities for more than 20 years, Robert Stein has a clear idea of what he wants his legacy to be: a continued focus on a public agenda for higher education.

As usual, Stein wants to be precise, so please take note of where the word "public" appears. The emphasis should not be on public higher education, the system of state-supported schools that serve thousands of Missouri students at campuses all over the state -- too many campuses, some say.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 21, 2010 - When Luis Zayas hears of a professor he thinks would be a good candidate to join him on the Washington University faculty, he begins planning his serenade.

Wipe those images of a strumming guitar and a fair maiden on a balcony out of your mind. This serenade is one of the many efforts the university is making to try to improve a less-than-satisfactory record of diversity on campus.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Assistant Principal Romona Miller and walking counselor Donald Smith are the two African-American authority figures at Kirkwood High School with the most contact with black students. Miller, the only black administrator at the high school, heads the Black Achievement and Culture Club, while Smith mentors a group of African-American boys called My Brothers' Keeper.

Both Miller and Smith have proud accomplishments. This spring, Miller led about 40 students on the annual college trip, this one focusing on traditionally black colleges in the South. Meanwhile, Smith's decision to mentor one student led to requests for help from others. Now more than 70 students, including many of the school's top athletes, are in the peer mentoring group that he has organized.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 15, 2010 - Assistant Principal Romona Miller and walking counselor Donald Smith are the two African-American authority figures at Kirkwood High School with the most contact with black students. Miller, the only black administrator at the high school, heads the Black Achievement and Culture Club, while Smith mentors a group of African-American boys called My Brothers' Keeper.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 14, 2010 - As the Riverview Gardens School District heads toward uncharted waters, teachers and other employees are becoming increasingly concerned that they may not have a seat on the boat.

On July 1, the north St. Louis County district will cease to exist, replaced by a new district taken over by the state and run by a three-member appointed special administrative board (SAB). All contracts established by the lapsed district will end -- no teachers, no administrators, no support personnel, no vendors.

Commentary: A lesson Teach for America didn't intend

Jun 9, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 9, 2010 - I was recently handed an extremely prestigious piece of paper. Now I will move back home, unemployed, and without any immediate promise of higher education.

“It’s a very hard time,” people tell me.  “I don’t envy your position,” they say hesitantly.  “Things were very different when I graduated.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 6, 2010 - If you talk to professionals on the front lines in the fight against hate, three things become clear: Success is vitally important, endlessly rewarding -- and largely impossible to measure.

"It's not like when you have a physical ailment and you can say, 'Do these exercises and over six weeks you'll see a 65 percent increase in your flexibility,'" said Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of Missouri and Southern Illinois. "You can't do that with anti-bias work as cleanly."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 4, 2010 - Lots of folks dream of winning the lottery as their ticket to a better life. But most of them aren't thinking of the kind of victory that "The Lottery" portrays.

Madeleine Sackler's documentary follows four students who are among the thousands hoping to win one of the 475 spots at the Harlem Success Academy, a New York city charter school offering families an alternative to the less-than-stellar public schools in the area.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 27, 2010 - Declaring the Normandy schools to be "almost in critical condition," Superintendent Stanton Lawrence has released a blueprint designed to help the district avoid the fate that led to the end of neighboring Wellston schools and the takeover by the state of Riverview Gardens.

Among the steps announced at a news conference at the district's Lucas Crossing Elementary Complex Thursday morning are:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 21, 2010 - For legions of graduates this time of year, the timeless message is that commencement is not an end, it's a beginning.

For the 30 members of the 2010 graduating class of Melvin Ray Eskridge High School in Wellston, it was both.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 20, 2010 - As expected, the state Board of Education voted Thursday to appoint a three-member special administrative board to take over operations of the Riverview Gardens School District in north St. Louis County as of July 1.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 19, 2010 -  When neighborhood or parochial schools were the only option for parents, figuring out where their children would attend class was simple.

Then, in St. Louis, magnet schools were added to the mix, and students with particular talents and interests could apply to get specialized training in classrooms still run by the city school system.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 13, 2010 - For most new college graduates, a typical lament is that you can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without a job.

Thanks to the mentoring program sponsored by the Regional Business Council, student Sarah Shehata got both.

Commentary: Ethnic studies still needed

May 13, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 13, 2010 - Arizona continues to be in the news for legislation that is possibly racially charged. The most recent source of controversy is House Bill 2281 (pdf), which would ban ethnic studies classes. More generally, it would write colorblindness into the law.

The bill states that schools cannot include courses that (1) are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group and (2) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 12, 2010 - Members of the elected board for the St. Louis Public Schools and the panel that could recommend that they regain authority agreed on one point during a joint meeting Wednesday: There is no one perfect way for public schools to be governed.

Beyond that, the two sides exchanged ideas but came to no conclusions about who should run the city schools -- an elected board, an appointed board, the mayor's office, some hybrid version of the three or some other structure altogether.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 11, 2010 - May is celebrated throughout the U.S. as National Bicycle Month, with various bicycling-related events organized by such groups as the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation.

My adult cycling career began in England 40 years ago when I became a strong environmental advocate after reading Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring." When I started cycling to work daily, the first hurdle was overcoming being rather unfit. The next issue was personal safety: getting out of a car and onto a bicycle was a distinctly scary experience.

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