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Schools in Kansas City, St. Louis areas among low-performing districts

Friday, August 19, 2011 | 12:44 p.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY — Two dozen of Missouri's more than 520 school districts are in a low-performing academic range that places their accreditation under extra scrutiny, according to preliminary state reports released Friday.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's preliminary Annual Performance Reports, which will be finalized in September, show how many academic performance standards that districts have met in categories including strong test scores, graduation rates and attendance. The state's system of evaluating schools predates the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Missouri's state Board of Education ultimately can reduce a district's accreditation to provisional or strip it entirely if a district fails year after year. While three-fifths of the districts met all the performance standards possible, others struggled.

"The challenge to excel is ongoing," said Margie Vandeven, assistant commissioner for the Office of Quality Schools within DESE. "While we are very pleased with the progress the state is making, we know that we can do better and the future of our children and our state depends on that."

No K-12 district fared worse than Calhoun R-VIII, which met just two of 14 standards. The fully accredited district met 12 standards in 2006, but the number has dropped steadily since then. By last year, it had met just four standards.

"I don't want to point fingers or point blame because it doesn't do any good," said Daniel Roberts, who took over as Calhoun's superintendent just last month after the district's previous leader resigned. "What we are going to focus on is what we are going to do this year and what we need to do in the future."

He saw positive signs, noting that the district made improvement in more than half of the subgroups covered by state tests. Although the growth wasn't enough to meet state performance standards, he noted that it helped the district's elementary school meet the targets of the federal education law — or, in education lingo, make "adequate yearly progress."

Only two districts — the provisionally accredited Kansas City district and the unaccredited Riverview Gardens district in the St. Louis area — met just three of 14 performance standards. That's one fewer than last year for Kansas City and two fewer for Riverview Gardens.

Two other districts — unaccredited St. Louis and neighboring, provisionally accredited Normandy — met just four standards, one fewer than last year for both districts.

Among districts that just serve kindergarten to eighth graders, the two that performed the lowest were Success R-VI in the southern part of the state and Callao C-8 in northern Missouri. The fully accredited districts met just three of seven standards. Both had met all seven standards the previous year.

Vandeven declined to discuss how the results would affect specific districts, noting that the data hadn't been finalized.

"School districts across the state have been working hard to provide an excellent education for their students and even the best are constantly working to get better at serving our students," Vandeven said. "Growth to standards is what we want and what we expect.

"School improvement, particularly in larger districts, is a complicated process," she added. "It takes time and strong support from families and the community."


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