• St. Louis Public Schools petitions Missouri for status upgrade


    St. Louis Post-Dispatch


    ST. LOUIS — The Special Administrative Board in charge of St. Louis Public Schools has asked state education officials to consider upgrading the district's status to provisional accreditation, saying it would provide a more accurate picture of the school system.

    The request comes after the district increased its score on the state's annual performance report last month. The district met seven of 14 performance standards, enough to put it in the provisional accreditation range. But State Board of Education members would need to vote in favor of such change, and Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro has no immediate plans to ask them to do so.

    Rick Sullivan, who was appointed president of the board in 2007 after the district became unaccredited, said students and teachers deserve reaccreditation.

    "Our kids have earned the right to say they attend a provisionally accredited school district for the first time since 2007," board members wrote in a letter last week to Nicastro. "The students and families deserve to know that their hard work is producing results."

    The state board is scheduled to meet next Monday and Tuesday in Jefferson City to review the accreditation status of six districts, not including St. Louis. Normandy, which met 5 of 14 standards, is on the list for review. On the district performance report, meeting less than seven standards is considered unaccredited, while nine and above is fully accredited.

    Nicastro has said she is looking for sustained improvement in St. Louis Public Schools. She responded with a short letter saying that there isn't time on September's agenda but that she would keep it in mind for discussion during the next few months.

    It's unclear what a change in accreditation might mean for the Special Administrative Board. In November 2010, the Missouri school board voted that the special board should continue leading the district until at least 2014.

    Meanwhile, an elected St. Louis school board remains in place, though with virtually no authority.

    Katie Wessling, president of the elected board, said she agreed the district should be considered provisionally accredited. The elected board continues to meet and developed a transition report about two years ago.

    "If they've earned the points, I think they should be acknowledged for that," said Wessling, who says one approach for a transition could be to add an elected board member to the Special Administrative Board. "It's not just flip the switch and everything goes back to the way it was."

    Since 2008, the district has improved test scores, attendance and graduation rates. Superintendent Kelvin Adams said the district also now had a balanced budget and stability in governance.

    Even so, just 30 percent of students tested last spring passed communication arts and 27 percent passed math, far below the state average of 55 percent.

    "For us, reaccreditation was always a step along the way. We know there is a lot of work to do," Sullivan said. "We won't be satisfied as a board until we know every student is reading and working at grade level."