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Missouri revokes accreditation from St. Louis-area district

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri education officials revoked the accreditation of a St. Louis-area school district Tuesday and dropped a southeast Kansas City district to provisional accreditation.

The Missouri State Board of Education's action means the Normandy School District in St. Louis County faces a two-year clock to improve and regain accreditation or face state intervention. State board members voted to classify Normandy as unaccredited, which will be effective Jan. 1.

In addition, the state board decided Tuesday to classify three districts are provisionally accredited -- the Hickman Mills School District in southeastern Kansas City and the rural Gorin R-III and Spickard R-II districts that both cover kindergarten through eighth grade.

Provisional accreditation calls for districts with a high school to meet at least six performance standards; full accreditation calls for meeting nine standards. Districts without a high school are to meet four standards for provisional accreditation and at least five for full accreditation. The standards cover academic performance and other factors, such as attendance, college placement and graduation rates.

Hickman Mills met seven of 14 performance standards in its most recent review, and the two rural districts met three standards.

The Normandy School District will be Missouri's fourth unaccredited one, joining Kansas City, St. Louis and Riverview Gardens in St. Louis County. Normandy has fallen short in how many standards it meets for the past several years and most recently met five of 14.

"The issue here I think is how do we ensure all the kids in Normandy, irrespective of their address, succeed. And unfortunately, that's not happening right now," Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said.

Immediately following Tuesday's decision, Normandy superintendent Stanton Lawrence told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch it is "politically obscene."

Lawrence said in August that the district was showing improvement in recent test scores and had a comprehensive plan to address problems.

Normandy absorbed 350 students from the Wellston School District after the state decided to close that district in 2010. It has more than 4,000 students from preschool to 12th grade and encompasses 24 municipalities and unincorporated areas of St. Louis County.

Nicastro said state education officials would work with Normandy to help focus on some specific improvement strategies. She said there will need to be significant support from the community, parents and the state.

Under Missouri law, the soonest the state could intervene in the Normandy district would be for the 2015-2016 school year. The state board then could appoint a special administrative board to govern the school system, merge Normandy with a nearby district or split it into new school systems.

Missouri lawmakers this year considered legislation that would have allowed quicker state intervention with broader options, but that did not pass.

State law also allows students in an unaccredited school district to transfer to one nearby if it will accept the transfer student. That has prompted multiple lawsuits, and students so far have not been allowed to use it.

Classification for nine school districts was reviewed Tuesday. Four districts -- Climax Springs, Scott County Central, University City and Winfield R-IV -- remain fully accredited, and Morgan County R-I was bumped to full accreditation.

For Hickman Mills, district spokesman John Baccala the Kansas City system already is making changes and is committed to improving. The district has about 6,300 students.

"We know that we have to get better in student achievement and our test scores have to get up. And we're working hard to do that," Baccala said. "We're disappointed obviously, but we still think we're moving in the right direction."

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