Optimizing School Accreditation and Transfers
The expert testimony, research, scholarship, and lived experience collected by the Commission revealed the following:
- In January 2013, the Normandy School District in St. Louis County lost its accreditation, joining the Riverview Gardens School District, which lost its accreditation in 2006 (FOCUS St. Louis, 2014).
- The State Board of Education awards accreditation to districts that meet minimum quality and rigor standards (Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). According to a 1993 state law, students in an unaccredited district are eligible to transfer to an accredited district in the same or adjoining county without expense to their family. However, that expense falls on the unaccredited school district—the statute requires the unaccredited school district to cover tuition and transportation costs (to at least one “receiving school”) for any students who wish to transfer. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 167.131)
- The Missouri Legislature has repeatedly introduced legislation to address the issues raised by the current transfer statute. In the 2015 legislative session, this bill was HB 42, and it, among other things, proposed adding public charter and virtual schools as transfer options (School Accreditation and Transfers). Notably, the bill did not set a cap on the tuition that receiving school districts could charge home districts. The bill was vetoed by Governor Nixon in late June 2015 (Office of Governor Jay Nixon, 2015).
- As of early 2014, Normandy and Riverview Gardens paid up to $20,000 per year per child, or over $9 million total, in tuition for transfer students (Crouch & Bock, 2014). In some cases, Normandy and Riverview Gardens are paying out more in per-pupil tuition than they are receiving in per-pupil tax revenue, resulting in the two districts enrolling 80% of their original student population with only 70% of their original budget (Crouch & Bock, 2014).
- In May of 2014, with Normandy nearly bankrupt, the Missouri Board of Education voted to replace the Normandy School District with the Normandy Schools Collaborative in order to avoid having to dissolve it entirely and assign its students to other schools. The Collaborative carried a non-accredited status (rather than unaccredited), effectively removing it from the school transfer law. The Board of Education later deemed it accredited, a decision that was overturned in a strongly written opinion issued by a St. Louis County Judge in early 2015 (Circuit Court of St. Louis County, 2015; Singer, 2015).
- Last year, nearly 40 percent of the class of 2014 at Normandy High failed to graduate (Crouch, 2015).
These findings prompted the Commission to draft several calls to action for changes to the accreditation system and student transfer laws and conditions with the hope that these calls will help all students access high quality education.
To that end, the Commission issues the following calls to action.
Understand the issues
Understand the limitations with the current state accreditation system, including becoming familiar with the measures for which accreditation is based, to become a more informed advocate for struggling school districts.
Change your environment
Build trauma-informed communities and spaces.
Suggested Reading List
FAQ:What you need to know about Missouri School Transfers. St. Louis Public Radio. Retrieved from:https://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/faq-what-you-need-know-about-missouri-school-transfers
Gilbert, V. (2014). Missouri uses flawed data to penalize poor, minority students. St. Louis Post Dispatch. Retrieved from:https://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/columns/missouri-uses-flawed-data-to-penalize-poor-minority-students/article_fd33baf3-1871-5209-8697-8aa902fb94e7.html
School Accreditation-Student Transfers Discussion Guide. FOCUS St. Louis. Retrieved from:https://www.focus-stl.org/?page=StudentTransfers
- Circuit Court of St. Louis County, State of Missouri (2015). Final ruling in Janine Masset, et al., v. The Normandy Schools Collaborative, et al. Retrieved from:https://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kwmu/files/201502/2014.02.11_Findings_of_Fact%2C_Conclusion_of_Law%2C_Final_Order_and_Judgment_14SL-CC02359.pdf
- Crouch, E. and Bock, J (2014). Money being paid by Normandy, Riverview Gardens to other districts not being spent. St. Louis Post Dispatch. Retrieved from:https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/money-being-paid-by-normandy-riverview-gardens-to-other-districts/article_f2ae8233-bf03-57b3-9270-dcc5366de090.html
- Crouch, E. (2015). A senior year mostly lost for a Normandy honor student. St. Louis Post Dispatch. Retrieved from:https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/a-senior-year-mostly-lost-for-a-normandy-honor-student/article_ce759a06-a979-53b6-99bd-c87a430dc339.html
- Focus St. Louis. (2014). School Accreditation – Student Transfers. Retrieved from:https://www.focus-stl.org/?page=StudentTransfers
- Mo. Rev. Stat. § 167.131. Retrieved from:https://www.moga.mo.gov/mostatutes/stathtml/16700001311.HTML
- Missouri Department of Elementary and Primary Education. Missouri School Improvement Program. Retrieved from:https://dese.mo.gov/quality-schools/mo-school-improvement-program
- Office of Governor Jay Nixon. (2015). Gov. Nixon vetoes bill that fails to solve problems of unaccredited schools, creates new problems for districts across the state .Retrieved from:https://governor.mo.gov/news/archive/gov-nixon-vetoes-bill-fails-solve-problems-unaccredited-schools-creates-new-problems
- Singer, D. (2015). Judge rules Normandy schools unaccredited. St. Louis Public Radio. Retrieved from:https://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/judge-rules-normandy-schools-unaccredited
- School Accreditation and Transfers. HB 42. Retrieved from: https://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills151/sumpdf/HB0042I.pdf