It is evident that creating and maintaining quality schooling is an ongoing challenge. Most recently in St. Louis another charter school was closed down because of poor performance. The unwillingness of the State Board of Education to allow the school to continue was a proper decision and certainly fair to the children in that school.
But does this mean that only charter schools are evaluated for the quality of their education? In essence all schools should be examined for quality and student success, and if they do not live up to State standards they should also be closed, reconstituted with new teachers and leadership or consolidated with another school in that district.
For too long educators have permitted public schooling to take place without proper monitoring to the detriment of the students. How fair is it to allow students to attend mediocre or poor public schools when school districts could, with a lot of effort, pain and hard work have their students in more effective settings?
Why have we allowed this happen? Most important why have we not done enough to stop this atrocity? Oh, some of you will say, we have. We have appointed special monitors for the St. Louis school system; we have changed administrators. But these miniscule changes have not brought about the systemic changes so badly needed to help children become more academically successful. Even in St. Louis where a special oversight team has been put in charge of the school system, we are waiting to see results.
Schooling is the one equalizing factor in this country that should give everyone the same opportunity to compete in the work place. It should allow persons regardless of status, class, or race the chance to be well prepared to provide unlimited opportunities. But I must ask, has it?
We still find many inequitable schooling situations, certainly in the St. Louis metropolitan area. We are still plagued with schools that are not providing the kind of education we should expect. Again, we have made some changes. This past year Wellston was dissolved as a school system and ordered to combine with the Normandy School District. We should know in the next few years if there is any improvement in student outcomes. More disappointing is the State of Missouriís lag. Once again this state did not qualify for the Race to the Top Federal Funds while 18 other states did. Our Commissioner of Education said she was disappointed but not surprised. I am incensed that we have not yet qualified for such funds. What does it say about our State?
And an even larger issue is what to do with the schools that do not show growth. A radical recommendation would be to just close them down and start afresh. While this may cause cries of concern, the larger and most important issue is why keep any school open that is not doing justice to its children. In these schools those children are captive audiences with few options. Certainly they deserve the best we have to offer. All the more reason to be certain that each and very child is in a good environment for learning.
I would truly like to recommend that school boards, superintendents and communities look closely at every school in their respective districts. If, after working with these schools and trying to make the necessary changes within a reasonable amount of time, the results are not bringing all students to grade level and above, then such schools should be closed and new ones opened. That is the least we can offer students.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Susan Uchitelle is a consultant for the Voluntary Interdistrict Coordinating Council.