- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Five Missouri school districts are now fully accredited, while the St. Louis-area Riverview Gardens district, which made gains on performance reports, will stay unaccredited for now.

The Missouri State Board of Education voted Tuesday to grant full accreditation to the Caruthersville, Gilliam, Jennings, Malta Bend and Spickard districts. All had been provisionally accredited, meaning they faced extra monitoring.

The Jennings district hasn’t been fully accredited for most of the last 20 years, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, but the high-poverty district in St. Louis County has shown steady improvement since Tiffany Anderson took over as superintendent in 2012.

She created programs and projects to help impoverished students such as a food pantry and a foster home; replaced teachers and principals; and set high standards for students.

“Generational poverty leads to so much in not getting great health care or education,” Anderson said Tuesday in Jefferson City. “We’re on a mission to change that.”

Riverview Gardens, a district that’s near Jennings, and the provisionally accredited St. Louis Public Schools also sought accreditation boosts after making gains on school performance reports that incorporates data, such as test scores and attendance rates.

But the state decided to make no changes on the two districts, although Riverview Gardens’ classification may be revisited by July, the Missouri State Department of Education said in a news release. As an unaccredited district, students in Riverview Gardens are allowed to transfer to better-performing schools.

The board considered the accreditation classification of school districts statewide based on their scores on the most recent annual performance report. It also takes into account a district’s performance in the two previous years.

Riverview Gardens earned 79.3 percent of the possible points in a report released in October, which was based on data from 2014-2015 school year. That’s up from 45.4 percent in the report about the 2013-2014 school year.

Under the state’s accreditation system, districts must earn at least 70 percent of overall points to be considered for full accreditation and 50 percent for provisional accreditation. Schools that are considered failing, or unaccredited, can face a state takeover and must pay for their students to transfer to accredited school systems.

This year was the first time since 2000 that St. Louis Public Schools scored high enough on the rating system to land in the accredited range. And it’s the second-straight year the district has posted some of the highest gains in the state, going from earning 24.6 percent of available points in 2013 to 76.1 percent this year.

“I think you’re not there yet, but you’re almost there,” said Michael Jones, a state board member from St. Louis. “We understand your efforts and how far (you’ve) come.”

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