After having been unaccredited for more than five years, the 23,000-student public school system in St. Louis is officially accredited once again. The Missouri board of education voted unanimously yesterday to grant the district the status "provisionally accredited." (A provisionally accredited district is, in fact, accredited.)
St. Louis's schools now meet seven of the fourteen standards required for full accreditation. The district lost accreditation in 2007, after failing to meet standards and experiencing ongoing turmoil in leadership and on the board. The district remains under the control of a special administrative board rather than a local elected board.
"The granting of accreditation is an affirmation of the improvement made by the students and teachers of St. Louis Public Schools under the leadership of Dr. Kelvin Adams and his administrators," Rick Sullivan, the president of the special administrative board, said in a press release issued by the district. Kelvin Adams came to St. Louis in 2008 after working in the Recovery School District in Louisiana.
The state board cited the following as improvements that paved the way for the district to regain its accredited status:
- Creating a long-range plan that "provides for improved collection and use of data to drive academic gains and 'cultural' change in instructional and operational functions";
- Increasing the district's Annual Performance Report, or APR, points—the standards required by the state for accreditation—from 4 to 7 (out of a possible 14);
- Operating with a balanced budget and a surplus for three years; and
- Hiring Adams, which "ushered in a period of stability and accountability in district leadership."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes the state's education commissioner, Chris Nicastro, saying "The district has not arrived, but clearly, they've started the journey."
The press release and superintendent Adams also emphasized that the accreditation does not mean St. Louis is done making improvements, especially on the academic side. Academic performance and the graduation rate in the district, which has lost thousands of students since it lost accreditation, remain low. The financial situation was helped by a settlement from a long-standing lawsuit involving desegregation last year, as we report in this blog.
You can find some thoughts on what this might mean for the school district in Kansas City, Mo., which lost its accreditation at the beginning of 2012, from The Kansas City Star.
Turner v. School District of Clayton, a court case determining whether the St. Louis district was responsible for the tuition of students who left its schools, is still pending a decision in the state's Supreme Court after a series of appeals. That case will still have implications for other unaccredited districts in the state. (There are currently two and will be three by January.)
States' accreditation laws and practices vary widely. In Missouri, attending an unaccredited school does not impact a student's ability to receive a diploma—though, as USA Today reports, Kansas City officials had a lot of work to do to pass that message along to parents.
Meanwhile, the status of charter schools in Missouri, and particularly in Kansas City and St. Louis, where many have, like the public schools, been low-performing and struggled with financial issues, has also been up in the air this past year, as my colleague Sean Cavanagh reports. St. Louis may have seen a slight bump in enrollment this year due to a number of students returning to the district from a charter agency that closed.
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