The state is putting pressure on Riverview Gardens to do something about its abysmal performance, or else. If the district doesn’t shape up, it faces a state takeover — the fate that met the St. Louis Public Schools.
The threat embodies everything you could ask for in state accountability: The district has specific benchmarks that it must meet. It has to meet them in a specific amount of time, and soon. The state isn’t holding the district to some dream promise that every child will know calculus in 10 years. Riverview Gardens isn’t being asked to achieve the impossible, just to earn a few more points on its evaluation, which many other districts accomplish without trouble. The consequences of failure are substantive, and no one doubts that the state can follow through.
Despite all this, the incentive probably won’t spur much improvement in Riverview Gardens. After all, none of those factors were able to save SLPS from a takeover.
Now imagine if parents in Riverview Gardens could send their children to another school — a charter school, a private school, or a better district. Riverview Gardens would have to win people back. They would have to make changes. They would have to become more like a charter school, a private school, or a better district. They would learn from the competition, just like students learn from playing chess against a better chess player or from competing with a better basketball team.
Benchmarks are well and good. But asking a district to improve without facing competition is like asking a kid to become a better athlete by playing basketball alone.