• State board votes to reclassify St. Louis public school district as provisionally accredited

    • HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH  Associated Press

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to let the St. Louis public school district shed its "unaccredited" label, a move that makes it no longer subject to a state law allowing students to transfer to better-performing districts.


    Under the vote during the board's meeting in Jefferson City, St. Louis schools will now be considered provisionally accredited. A state-appointed special administrative board is authorized to remain in place through at least June 2014 in the district, which had been unaccredited since 2007.


    "I applaud this commitment to improvement and the strong support shown by St. Louis business leaders and the entire community, and I urge the district's leadership, teachers, students and families to keep up their hard work," Gov. Jay Nixon said in a news release. "It is vital that this progress continues because the children of St. Louis need and deserve an outstanding education and a district that has earned full accreditation."


    Mary Armstrong, president of American Federation of Teachers Local 420, which represents St. Louis public school teachers and support staff, praised the decision in a written statement.


    "It demonstrates that dedication, hard work and perseverance pays off," Armstrong said.


    It's unclear what will happen with several lawsuits that had been filed by St. Louis families over a Missouri law requiring unaccredited districts to pay tuition and transportation to send students living within their boundaries to accredited districts nearby. While litigation continues, students aren't being allowed to use the law to transfer.


    St. Louis requested the accreditation review after it showed improvement in the state's Annual Performance Reports, which are used to make accreditation decisions. The reports show how many academic performance standards have been met by districts in such areas as test scores, graduation rates and attendance.


    The St. Louis district went from meeting three of 14 performance standards in 2009 to meeting six last year and seven this year. One of the performance standards the district met was tied to test scores.


    The district attributed the improvement to a focus on its literacy program. Department officials also reported that the district is in fiscal compliance and has been removed from financially stressed list of public schools.


    Rick Sullivan, of the state-appointed board, credited students, teachers and administrators for the turnaround.


    "They worked hard and this decision recognizes their hard work," he said.