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Urban schools struggle with state standards

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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013 4:27 pm

Several St. Louis school districts struggled with the state’s new accreditation standards, according to the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) 5 results released today at noon.

Out of 140 possible points, St. Louis Public Schools garnered 24.6 percent of the points, Normandy Schools 11.1 percent and Riverview Gardens Schools 28.6 percent. All three districts have majority African-American student populations.

School districts must earn at least 50 percent of the points to be provisionally accredited, under the new MSIP5 accreditation levels. For full accreditation, districts must earn at least 70 percent.

However, the state will not be yanking away SLPS’ provisional accreditation status this year. The state will look at three years of data under MSIP5 before making a decision on any district’s accreditation status. And this is the first year Missouri’s school districts have been assessed under MSIP5.

The benchmarks include attendance, graduation rate, the state’s standardized test scores, college readiness and subgroup achievement (that means minority students, among others.)

SLPS Superintendent Kelvin Adams said he was disappointed and concerned at the results.

“The scores from a district perspective look bleak,” he said. “However, there’s overall growth, and some schools are very close to being accredited. There’s some good out of the story.”

Looking at individuals schools, seven SLPS schools earned enough points to be accredited with distinction, which means earning at least 90 percent of the total possible points. Those schools include:Metro, McKinley, Bryan Hill, Buder, Kennard, Mallinckrodt and Wilkinson Early Childhood Center.

However, about five schools scored less than 10 percent, including Vashon High School which scored zero points. Adams cautioned that this does not mean every student scored a zero on the standardized test.

The difference between MSIP 4 and 5 is that all test scores, grades three to 12, are put in “one bucket,” he said. The new assessment also groups together Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry, which is where Vashon got into trouble. Vashon had made substantial progress under the previous state requirements, which only looked at Algebra 1, he said.

“Mind you, this is a school that Arne Duncan (U.S. secretary of education) visited two years ago for the growth they’ve had in MSIP 4,” he said. “The standards are different from then. How they didn’t do well from MSIP 4 to MSIP 5 is a little complicated.”

By October, SLPS will have several programs in place to address the schools’ weaknesses and hopefully bump up the scores next year. This includes Adams personally taking on the responsibility of the 18 most struggling schools himself.

Previously, these schools’ principals reported to an associate superintendent regarding progress and requests for support. Now those principals will report directly to Adams. 

“You have to look at the whole piece, not just a score on paper,” Adams said. “It’s easier to jump to a score and see 24 and say, ‘Wow, the district is failing.’ In this assessment, we have struggled with MSIP 5. The district will not struggle next year with MSIP 5.”

Currently Ferguson-Florissant and University City school districts are fully accredited; however their recent scores fell just below the accreditation level. Ferguson-Florissant scored 69.3 percent and University City 66.8 percent. Jennings School District is currently provisionally accredited, and its score remains at that level with 65.7 percent. Hazelwood School District has been fighting for an accreditation with distinction status, but came in short at 85.4 percent.

These districts all have majority African-American student populations.

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