Report finds progress at St. Louis schools

Saturday, June 28, 2014 | 6:09 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — A new study of the St. Louis public school system finds slight recent enrollment growth in what appears to reverse a 40-year exodus of public school children from the city.

The report shows that 5 percent more students were enrolled in St. Louis charter and district schools in the 2012-13 school year than in 2008. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Superintendent Kelvin Adams announced the findings on Thursday in a rare joint appearance at City Hall.

The two officials hope the results will boost confidence in city schools among young parents who might otherwise opt for private education or move to the suburbs to be closer to better-performing schools.

"Our kids are our greatest assets," Slay said. "Quality education and quality choices for parents will make our neighborhoods stronger and strengthen our city."

But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that nearly 19,000 children in the city still lack access to schools that meet state standards. Most of those children are concentrated in six ZIP codes in the city's extreme north and south ends. That cohort accounts for about 60 percent of those enrolled in city public schools. Sixteen of the 19 lowest-performing district schools are in those neighborhoods.

Public school enrollment in the city has declined since the 1967-68 school year, when the number of children in St. Louis Public Schools topped out at 115,543. The flight of whites to the suburbs, followed by African-Americans, has resulted in near-annual rituals of school closings and job cuts.

The study by a Chicago-based nonprofit organization examined the academic performance of about 27,000 public school students and 8,100 charter students. The study found that attendance at high-performing city magnet schools has increased by 500 percent over five years, with more than 5,000 students now attending the 11 selective magnets.

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