• Monsanto school ‘gateway to the future’

    Rose Howard
    Dr. Rose M. Howard, principal at Gateway Math, Science & Technology Elementary School

    Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014 9:57 pm

    By Rebecca Rivas

    What used to be just desolate land from the old Pruitt-Igoe housing project is now a cluster of magnet schools that focus on math, science and technology.

    Gateway Math, Science & Technology Elementary School is a fully accredited magnet school in the St. Louis Public School District. Located at Jefferson and Carr, the school provides “research-based culturally responsive pedagogy” to more than 550 students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, said principal Dr. Rose M. Howard.

    On September 12, Gateway MST Elementary will receive the 2014 Monsanto School of Excellence Award from the St. Louis American Foundation at its 27th annual Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, to be held at the America’s Center Ballroom. The gala will begin at 7 p.m., following a reception at 6 p.m.

    “Gateway Elementary has its own great history,” Howard said.

    On August 4, 1988, a court order directed the SLPS district to construct three new magnet schools in a math-science-technology cluster. Two of the schools were to be Gateway Elementary and Gateway Michael, the section for the Orthopedically handicapped, and the third was Gateway Middle. The court ordered “a magnet school park on the north side.” 

    “St. Louis is the Gateway City,” the court stated, “and these schools are envisioned as ‘gateways to the future’ for students in the metropolitan area.” 

    After considerable effort and court intervention, the old Pruitt-Igoe site at Jefferson and Carr was obtained in June of 1993.

    “As magnet schools, the complex was to be attractive to both city and county parents and students of all races,” Howard said. “Students attend magnet schools by choice, thus the aspect of the school being desirable and attractive in its curricular focus, physical structures and outdoor environment cannot be over emphasized.”

    Gateway’s student body consists of students from many zip codes in St. Louis city. Ninety-four percent receive free or reduced priced lunch, and 94 percent are African American.

    The teaching staff is “dynamic” with 100 percent certified staff and 100 percent highly qualified, Howard said. The average years of teaching experience is 15 years, and 65 percent of the staff hold a Masters degree or higher. 

    Additionally, many teachers are recognized for their excellence in teaching, including Jim Triplett, a St. Louis American Foundation Excellence in Education Award recipient, and Rhonda Stovall, a St. Louis American Newspapers in Education Golden Apple Award recipient. Howard has received SLPS’s Pettus Award of Excellence for Principals, and several teachers have earned a Pettus award as well.

    Gateway Elementary demonstrated steady improvement on Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) in science.  Fifth-grade students demonstrated a 32 percent increase in the number of students reaching “proficient or advanced” status on the 2014 MAP science test.  The school’s MAP performance index in communication arts, mathematics and science are all above 300.

    Gateway earned 89.6 percent for “academic achievement” on the Annual Performance Report (APR), under MSIP 5 for 2014, as well as 100 percent for attendance. With a total of 91.4 percent, Gateway has earned enough points to qualify for “accreditation with distinction.” 

    “Gateway Math, Science & Technology Elementary School has several research-based innovative programs,” Howard said, “which align with Missouri Learning Standards to improve teaching and learning.” 

    The school has found success with the gender-based classroom structure and from looping with their classroom teacher to the next grade level. One particular gender-based, all-boys class has looped with their teacher from third grade through fifth grade. In addition, the school is a Missouri School-wide Positive Behavior Support School (MO SW-PBS).  The PBS program provides effective strategies to meet the social and cultural needs of the school community.

    “Our school-wide morning forum encompasses presentations of poems, chorale readings, celebrations, academic vocabulary, meditation and breathing exercises,” Howard said. “Our meditation and breathing exercises prepare students for the academic challenges of the day by helping them focus on success and positive thoughts.”

    At Gateway, students are genuinely excited about Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM), she said. Each year, students form a First Lego League Robotics Team and participate in the Official First Lego League Qualifying Tournament held in St. Louis.  Numerous classrooms, teams and individual students participate in the annual Academy of Science St. Louis Regional Science Fair at Queeny Park. 

    “Without fail, our students have achieved First Place Blue Ribbon Status and frequently receive Special Awards at the science fair,” she said.

    Classes also participate in ecology studies with Litzsinger Road Ecology Center, where they engage in place-based learning and hone skills learned in other academic content areas. 

    “The exploration and investigation of the prairies, woodlands, and creek expose our students to real-life, tangible, experiences from which they use to connect to classroom textbook content,” she said.

    Students also use this new knowledge to compare and contrast findings at the ecology center to findings in the school’s own outdoor native plants learning courtyard. 

    The elementary is an approved Discover Nature School with Missouri Department of Conservation. Its Nature Works Everywhere Grant is used to support our garden clubs and science clubs. Its partnership with Washington University’s Institute for School Partnership allows fifth grade students to visit the university’s science labs and teachers to receive professional development at the MySci Resource Center.

    Other partnerships include FACE (Fathers as Advocates for their Children’s Education). The school’s fathers are actively involved in special activities such as reading to students, tutoring and make-n-take workshops.

    “At Gateway, staff focuses on creating a powerful and caring learning community,” Howard said, “while developing students’ sense of community and a sense of belonging.”   

    The 2014 Salute to Excellence in Education Gala will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, September 12 at the America's Center Ballroom, following a reception at 6 p.m. Tickets are on sale now. Individual tickets are $85 each/$850 table, and VIP/Corporate tickets are $1,500 table. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.stlamerican.com and click on Salute to Excellence, or call 314-533-8000.

    Follow this reporter on Twitter at @rebeccarivas