Access to Performing Public Schools Doubles in City of St. Louis

Release of IFF’s “St. Louis Schools Needs Assessment” Shows Growth in District and Charter Performance and Enrollment

July 17, 2014 | 3 min reading time

This article is 9 years old. It was published on July 17, 2014.

The City of St. Louis has seen growth in academic performance and enrollment in public schools, reversing a nearly half-century trend.

Today, IFF released an interactive map that updates its 2008 study, Public School in St. Louis: Place, Performance, and Promise.  The studies ask where children live, where they attend school and if they have access to a quality school. It then determines where new schools and improved schools are most needed.

The study produced results that show quality public education in the City of St. Louis is headed in the right direction.  (See Increases in Performance). Both district schools and charter schools have contributed to the increase of performing seats in kindergarten through 12th grade since the release of the 2008 study.  A "performing seat" is a seat in a school that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has designated as accredited or accredited with distinction.

Together, St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) and charter schools have doubled the number of performing public school seats in the City of St. Louis.  Today, 36 percent of the children in the City are attending a school that meets state standard. In 2008, only 18 percent of City students were in schools that met half state standard or better. 

Furthermore, public school enrollment has also increased by 5 percent –a first in several decades. 

"It's progress," said Mayor Francis Slay. "Performing district and charter schools are attracting more families to enroll their children in public schools in the City, but we still have a lot of work to do."

The IFF study also found that a service gap exists between the demand for quality seats and the number of seats available in specific areas. Knowing where to prioritize the placement of new charter schools and where to focus the district's transformation efforts is key to accelerating the growth of performing schools. According to the updated study, there are 18,987 children in the City of St. Louis who do not currently have access to a seat in a performing school.

"Our new schools study shows that thousands of St. Louis children have better education choices close to home than they did five years ago," said IFF CEO Joe Neri.  "Despite these gains, about 19,000 students still lack access to a performing school in their neighborhood, particularly in the six areas of the City we've identified as priorities. Creating better performing schools in these neighborhoods is the first step to tackling broader issues in the City."

"Understanding how our resources are deployed, where the service gaps are and coordinating response is critical to helping children and families access quality education options," said Peter Franzen, Acting State Director for Children's Education Alliance of Missouri.  "Over the last six years, the City of St. Louis has expanded options for families by adding quality magnet, selective and charter schools."

IFF recommends to open quality schools in priority areas, hold them accountable, and close poor-performing schools.

"Closing poor-performing schools, including poor performing charter schools, does not decrease the access to good schools," said Dr. Doug Thaman, Executive Director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association.  "In fact, closing poor-performing schools opens the door for the addition of new, innovative and successful options."

"St. Louis Public Schools is in full support of providing the best educational options for young people in St. Louis.  Since I joined the District in 2008, under the guidance of the Special Administrative Board, SLPS has closed underperforming schools and has added rigorous academic standards to our magnet and choice schools," said Dr. Kelvin R. Adams, SLPS Superintendent.

SLPS is shifting its focus to its most at-risk schools.  The district calls them the "Superintendent Zone schools," of which two-thirds are in the priority clusters mentioned in the IFF report. These schools will see increased support this year with the addition of a full-time social worker, counselor and nurse, along with reading and math tutors and full-time family and community specialists to address the outside influences that impact learning at the school level.  

Two charter schools –KIPP: Victory, and The International School –are scheduled to open this August, with five additional charter schools opening in 2015.

IFF is a Chicago based community development financial institution that strengthens communities through financing, real estate consulting and research.

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