Open Boundaries Would Allow More Students to Receive “Tough Love” at North Side
Students in St. Louis have more options today than ever before. From magnet schools to charter schools, students can choose between college prep schools, ROTC programs, or even schools for the arts. Of course, there is still concern about quality in some of these schools. Nevertheless, the market seems to be moving in the right direction. Yet, just over the district boundaries, in poverty-stricken school districts like Normandy and Riverview Gardens, students have few if any choices. There are no magnet schools and there are no charter schools.
Charter schools could open in these districts, but the low district enrollments ( 3,481 in Normandy and 5,143 in Riverview Gardens) make it unlikely. That could change if charter schools were allowed to enroll students across district boundaries. It would also enable these disadvantaged students to access the existing charter schools in St. Louis—schools like North Side Community School.
Show-Me’s Brittany Wagner has written about the school before, noting that it is only a five-minute drive from the struggling Normandy Schools Collaborative. Recently, the St. Louis American had some nice things to say about the school:
About 10 percent of the families are homeless, and many of the heads of households are struggling young parents or grandparents, said Muriel Smith, the school’s director of development. Despite all these factors that could be seen as setbacks, she said students are performing higher than many other schools in the city – especially those with similar demographics.
Sixty-five percent of children at North Side scored proficient or better in both English and math on state standardized tests in 2015, according to results released in August.
“A lot schools think that kids in these neighborhoods can’t really learn because they have so much going on at home,” Smith said. “But our scores and kids prove that that’s possible. We set expectations for our students and our parents to make sure that they are going to be successful.”
Those scores obviously don’t come easy. The second through fifth graders arrive at school at 8:15 a.m. and leave at 4:45 p.m. – an eight-hour day, and the school schedule is year round. Pre-K through first-grade students have a seven-hour day.
The newspaper chalked a lot of the school’s success up to the “tough love” system implemented by the charter school’s principal. Allowing students to cross district boundaries to attend charter schools would enable more students to share in the success of North Side, and it would provide options for students who currently have none. With the Normandy Schools Collaborative continuing to struggle, now certainly seems like a good time for some tough love.