Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The business of education...

Our public schools continue to flounder because they lack two things: competition and accountability. St. Louis has taken a unique approach to accountability (via Education Weak):
Faced with a financial crisis of enormous proportions and failing to deliver an adequate education to thousands of children, the St. Louis Public School System in 2003 made history, becoming the first known district to hire corporate restructuring consultants to implement a plan for reform that would save the system. As courageous as it was controversial, their decision has resulted in progress that once seemed unimaginable and serves as a beacon to school districts around the country still struggling to provide quality education to their children...

Last year, the St. Louis Public Schools were on the brink of bankruptcy, facing an astonishing $75 million year-end deficit and a near-term $99 million cash shortfall… In all, the district has succeeded in reducing expenses by an astounding $79 million. It has a balanced budget for FY 04-05 - the first in recent memory.
Financial savings, sure, but what about the effects on student achievement?
The district is now nine points closer to achieving full accreditation - something it has lacked for years. When this process began, a disturbing 41% of elementary school students and 36% of high school students were "at-risk" for reading proficiency - the lowest possible group in the Scholastic Reading Inventory. In just eight months, the numbers were reduced to 35% and 24%, respectively. At the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year, not one middle school student read at the SRI's advanced level. Now, 7% do.

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