I am writing to ask you to stand firm and not give St. Louis Public Schools provisional accreditation. As you know, last month when the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education posted the State’s Annual Performance Report, it showed that Saint Louis Public Schools had earned one more point. Additionally, even though the actual achievement of students in the SLPS hasn’t increased, district officials have been quick to pressure you to take action and upgrade the district’s status. But, as a parent with three children living in St. Louis City, I am urging that you shouldn’t buckle to pressure, and I feel you are wise to continue to exercise caution and stand firm by demanding significant, sustained improvement before any such moves are made.
State Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro indicated last month that St. Louis Public Schools must show persistent improvement over time before changes are made to it’s accreditation status, and rightfully so. Despite last month’s headlines that SLPS had made some minor improvements, there were other areas that actually fared worse than previous years: In math for example, scores dropped from 30% of students on grade level in 2011 to 27% this past year. Students who scored at grade level in reading dropped from 32% in 2011 to 30% in 2012. Other indicators continue to remain poor: the district’s graduation rate has remained steady at just over 50% and the average ACT score has held at about 16.
Because Missouri doesn’t rate individual schools, parents must rely on the district’s accreditation status to make a determination about the quality of an individual school. If the state board were to give SLPS its accreditation back, parents and the public will be misled about the quality of the district, thereby making the complicated process of identifying the educational option for their child even more difficult.
A gain of one point on Missouri’s accreditation scale over the course of one school year is not the type of real, sustained progress that warrants an upgrade to the district’s accreditation status. Until more gains are made that can stand the test of time, students in the district should continue to be allowed their right, granted in the Outstanding Schools Act, to transfer to an accredited district.