Emily Stahly

After nearly a decade of failing to achieve state accreditation, Riverview Gardens School District achieved provisionally accredited status, which will take effect in January 2017, leaving the Normandy Schools Collaborative as the only unaccredited district in the state.

 This may be good news for the school district, but it could be bad news for students who have transferred out of the district over the past several years. According to Missouri law, unaccredited districts must pay for students’ tuition and transportation costs if they choose to transfer to a neighboring school district or charter school. Currently, 436 students from the Riverview Gardens district attend school outside of it. Now that the district is accredited, those students have lost the right to transfer at taxpayers’ expense to another public school district.

 Participating school districts are working on an agreement to allow students to continue in their current schools after parents voiced concerns about disrupting their children’s education. According to assistant education commissioner Chris Neale, transferring students will be allowed to finish out at least this school year in their current school. Some students may be allowed to stay in their current schools until a “natural stopping point”—at the end of elementary or middle school for example—but no new students will be allowed to participate and Riverview Gardens will not provide transportation after June 2017.

 Based on the scores below, it is easy to see why parents do not want to put their children back in the Riverview Gardens school system:

While test performance is not the only factor in the APR score—graduation rate, attendance rate, and college and career readiness are other factors—it is troublesome that a district with such low scores could become fully accredited as early as next year if they keep their APR score above 70%. To the school district’s credit, Riverview Gardens is working diligently to improve performance after years of academic and fiscal mismanagement. While these gains represent progress, the district still has fewer than 15% of students scoring proficient in Math and Science for the 2016 school year. Is it in the best interest of any child to be forced to attend a school with this kind of track record?

With such a low performance threshold, Missouri’s accreditation system and transfer law create a trap for students in districts just barely performing above the threshold—the schools perform too well for the students to be allowed to leave, but not well enough to prepare the students for work or college.

Missouri families deserve to make their own educational choices and shouldn’t be bound by fluctuating quality measures of the districts where they live. For the students in Riverview Gardens, continuing the current transfer program would help them in the short term. In addition, revising Missouri charter school laws and establishing tax credit scholarship programs or education savings accounts that are available to all students would help every child get the education that best fits their needs.

About the Author

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Emily Stahly

Emily Stahly is an analyst at the Show-Me Institute. She earned her B.A. in politics from Hillsdale College in Michigan and is researching education with the Show-Me Institute.