State to review St. Louis district's accreditation

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by HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH

Associated Press

Posted on September 16, 2012 at 5:06 AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri education officials have agreed to consider whether St. Louis Public Schools should remain unaccredited.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said late Friday the state's board will take up the issue at its Oct. 16 meeting. The request for an accreditation review came from the special board appointed to run the St. Louis district.

"We will be taking time to consider the District's request in the next few weeks before making a recommendation to the Board," Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said in a statement. "The Board has the final authority on accreditation classification determinations."

Gaining provisional accreditation would mean the district, which has been unaccredited since 2007, would no longer be subject to a state law requiring unaccredited districts to pay tuition and transportation to send students living within their boundaries to accredited districts nearby.

The law has prompted multiple lawsuits. Schools claim the law is unworkable and parents say their children deserve a quality education. So far, students in unaccredited districts are not being allowed to use the law to transfer while the litigation continues.

St. Louis Public Schools spokesman Patrick Wallace didn't immediately return a phone message for comment Saturday. But in a letter to Nicastro earlier this month, board members said the district's students "have earned the right to say they attend a provisionally accredited school district for the first time since 2007."

The state's Annual Performance Reports, which are used to make accreditation decisions, show the district is improving. The reports show how many academic performance standards have been met by districts in such areas as test scores, graduation rates and attendance.

Districts that are unaccredited can ultimately face a state takeover, while provisionally accredited districts are subject to extra monitoring.

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.

That puts the district in a provisionally accredited performance range. But Nicastro initially said she wanted to see another year of data before considering an accreditation upgrade.

"What we've said from the beginning is we are looking for sustained improvement over time," Nicastro said last month.

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