At a time when St. Louis Public School district faces a myriad of challenges, including child hunger, academic failure, lack of school supplies, high teacher turnover and student dropouts, a new performance review has given the district signs of optimism.
Earlier this month the St. Louis Public School district announced the results of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s 2018 Annual Performance Report (APR) for state public schools through the Missouri School Improvement Program Cycle 5.
That report, which analyzes current data, shows that the SLPS measured a score of 78.5%, a number that placed the SLPS within the margins of full accreditation for a fourth consecutive year.
Each year all Missouri public school districts are measured for their APR score using the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) model, which uses test results, along with End Of Course examinations, attendance figures, graduation rates and their individual college and career readiness preparation to gauge success.
When asked what the APR rating really means for the SLPS, Saint Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin R. Adams commented, “Obviously it puts us in an accredited range again. We are pleased about that, but from my perspective it means we have a lot of work to get done and, we’ve made adjustments around what we need to do based on the assessments. There are a lot of changes from last year to this year so we are pleased and proud of the results. We want them to better and we realize that we still have to work hard.”
He elaborated further. “We are also focused on making sure we have the right leadership in our buildings. Another critical piece is that we must continue to foster the unique partnerships that have given us the kind of support that we’ve had in the past. Whether that is with the businesses, academic or philanthropic communities, those are the areas we will continue to push forward on.”
Dr. Adams believes this APR is significant because it signals that things are improving. “It is important because it is how the state judges districts. One of reasons why the state made the decision to give unaccreditation to the district was because they had financial and governance issues as well as academic issues that needed to be addressed. So the state uses this barometer to determine what kind, if any, of intervention or support they need to supply for school districts. Ultimately it’s a score the state looks at to determine the academic health of a district.
He also described how the APR results have served as a guide for improving St. Louis Public Schools. ”When we got the data back we did some midcourse corrections around what the data said. It helped us look at what was going on in our buildings and ask why did this score come out the way it did and what do we need to do to address it? It also made us go back and do a deep, deep, deep dive and compare that data set from that of another type of school or a school in another part of the region.”
An optimistic Adams also spoke of the SLPS’s next steps. “We are working on a number of different things. We have a strategic plan that tells us what we need to do and we are working to ensure that we have equity in all of our schools, meaning that we are making sure we are providing everyone with the necessary resources. We are working on making improvements on our students reading levels. We put one million dollars into reading this year. We are focused on making sure we get fully accredited teachers in all of our classrooms.”
When addressing the progress that the SLPS has made, Adams remained confident.
“The district’s financial health is in order. That is one thing I think that is critical and important. Another is the stability of leadership at the administrative level and having the leadership team working together with the board in a positive direction. The district has been able to double the number of kids in early adult education. Those are all positive steps that are indicators that the district is healthier than it has been in the past.