Monday, January 14, 2008

Rural district falls short of standards, may be shut down

The Wyaconda Elementary School faces possible closing. This rural northeast Missouri school may not be meeting the state's academic standards, possibly being unaccredited. Officials will make this decision on Wednesday. This is not the first school in Missouri to lose their accreditation. This should be a red flag to all Missourians. Its completely obvious there is a problem in our schools. It may seem unfortunate this school has to close, especially when reading the article, but the fact is, if it is not performing well, it is failing. Who wants their children to attend a failing school? The school will be given the opportunity to fix its problems and re-open the doors if it is closed.

Personally, I was upset about St. Louis schools being unaccredited, but it seemed so far away. Living in rural Missouri, I guess I saw it of a big city problem, and now this. It has really hit home for me and something needs to be done!

According to and The Associated Press WYACONDA, Mo:

The district has 32 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It pays tuition for another 13 students to attend neighboring districts.

The district was put on unaccredited status in May 2006 for what the state called "consistently low academic performance." State law allows the district two years to improve its performance or face additional sanctions which could include closure.

If the district fails to regain accreditation by June 30, the State Board of Education will have authority to assign students to other districts. The district has 17 employees, including seven certified teachers and one administrator.

Superintendent Karla Matlock said the district worked with the state to develop a progress plan. The district needed to meet at least four performance points, including improvement of scores in the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test. Improvement was also needed in areas like attendance and grade-point average.

It met some goals, including MAP scores for grades 6-8 in communication arts, attendance and subgroup achievement. It didn't meet standards for grades 3-5 math, grades 3-5 communication arts, grades 6-8 math and grade-point averages for student transitioning to high school.

Matlock said overall MAP test scores rose some last year, but not enough. MAP testing takes place in April, but even if significant improvement is shown by then, it likely won't be enough to keep Wyaconda open, she said.

"By April of this year it will already be decided. We can't wait until June to find out if we're going to close," Matlock said. "This staff is excellent. These kids are getting the education they need. We're just too far down in the hole."

Wyaconda is among three Missouri districts that are unaccredited. The state took control of St. Louis city schools last year. The other is Riverview Gardens in St. Louis County.

"As far as I know, this is the first (school district) recommended to be shut down," said Ron McSorley, area supervisor for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

"This is something that you always hate to see happen. Our responsibilities are what's in the best interest of the students."

The possibility of closure worries some students, primarily because it would mean moving to a bigger school. The most likely options would be nearby districts in Scotland or Clark counties, which is where Wyaconda's high school-age students have gone since Wyaconda closed grades 9-12 in 2002.

Scotland County has 620 students in K-12 and Clark County has 954.

"I'm really upset about it. My whole family went here," said Brock Kirchner, a seventh-grader. "This school is a really great school. We're all just like brothers and sisters. It's like a big 'ole family."

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