The challenges faced by our public education system are community issues, and must be addressed as such. It is impossible to fix something, if you do not recognize what is actually causing the problem.
It would be so simple if we could point to just one reason for low academic performance and then pick one reform that would turn around student achievement. However, the causes and the solutions are far more complicated. Blaming educators, and reactive measures are counterproductive to improving our educational institutions. There are numerous reasons why some schools and students do better than others, and it takes a variety of reforms to address the issues.
A significant number of students in the St. Louis Public School District live in impoverished households. They bring to school challenges that children from wealthier communities have not experienced. Thousands of St. Louis students live in communities that are prone to violence, many do not have basic needs, such as food, and lack the familial support they need.
Community schools offer programs and services that are designed to help students and families with their most pressing needs. For instance, community schools stay open through the evening hours and provide extra tutoring, a safe environment, and recreational activities for students. Community partners would provide comprehensive services, such as health and dental care, counseling programs, and other social services.
Community schools have seen promising progress across the United States.. Student achievement in those schools has improved, and school officials attribute gains to attention being given to the needs of the "whole child." Establishing community schools that serve our most struggling communities could be very impactful on the performance of our St. Louis Public School students. So rather than board up schools, let's put them to use in a productive way. These vacant properties could be used as community schools that would educate and care for the whole child.
All teachers need ongoing professional development, with relevant training in curriculum and interpersonal skills, such as building trust and relationships as well as detect signs of trauma in their students. Students who misbehave should receive special attention in order to address underlying issues instead of the currently practiced ‘zero tolerance’ since suspensions cause further delays in learning, therefore potentially increase the dropout rate. In addition, all children should have full access to preschool, in order to prepare for school.
Many of St. Louis’s public schools have higher than average dropout, and teen pregnancy rates. Practical incentives for graduation must be outlined for students, as well as creative, fun incentives for teens to stay in school. Comprehensive sex education programs should be offered to students; and we should create discussion groups for teens, so they may have an environment in which they feel secure asking questions.
- Transform St. Louis Public Schools in deprived neighborhoods into Community Schools
- Educator evaluation and training
- Special attention and assistance for students who misbehave and/or show signs of trauma or neglect
- Access to quality preschool for all St. Louis City children
- Introduce incentives for graduation
- Implement comprehensive sex education programs
- Provide nutritious food in all schools, as well as education on junk food and lead poisoning to children of all ages
Resolution of the Gateway Greens on Charter Schools
Supporting community schools means having a strong public school system. Greens are concerned that charter schools are taking money away from traditional public schools. Our children's education should be compassionate, address the whole child, be of the highest academic quality, be based on decision-making which is democratic and transparent, include staff who are fully qualified and receive adequate salaries and reflect citizens' freedom of religion. Therefore, the Greens believe that educational policy of Missouri (including St. Louis City and St. Louis County) regarding private schools should reflect the following principles:
1. All charter schools must have standards at least as high as those of public schools, including:
A. ... a transparent decision-making process, which means that boards or governing bodies of charter schools have meetings which are open to the public (including taxpayers, parents and staff) and which have the same time frame as public schools regarding advanced announcement of agendas and publication of minutes;
B. ... the same standards of student selection as public schools, meaning that charter schools cannot “cream” (admit only students with the highest academic records or the fewest behavioral problems) or “dump” (return students with academic or behavioral problems to public schools);
C. ...provision of resources and supports for students which are of a quality at least as high as those of public schools;
D. … use of the same standardized tests for students and same criteria that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) uses to evaluate public schools;
E. ... provision of salaries and benefits to professional and non-professional staff that are the same as those for staff in public schools;
F. ... requiring that professional and non-professional staff have qualifications and degrees that are at least as high as those for staff in public schools; and,
G. ... have the same number of academic hours for students as do public schools;
2. Greens call for a moratorium on contracts with new charter schools until the conditions above are satisfied for existing charter schools as well as demonstration by charter schools that they have the same ability to keep student records as do St. Louis Public Schools.
3. Since desegregation money was intended for public schools, none of those funds should go to charter schools.
4. In order to respect freedom of religion (or no religion), tax dollars should not finance religious schools.
5. Greens strongly support the right of all staff at charter schools to organize themselves into a union.