- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Missouri Board of Education restored full accreditation to St. Louis city schools on Tuesday, citing a significant turnaround in the decade since poor academic and financial performance forced the state to seize control.

Assistant education commissioner Chris Neale told board members at a meeting in Jefferson City that the district “has been on a significant upward trend,” improving in virtually every category - test scores, graduation rates, attendance and financial performance.

Board member John Martin likened the improvement to “turning around the Titanic.” But superintendent Kelvin Adams said he’s not satisfied.

“We realize we still have a lot of work to be done,” Adams told the board, citing a commitment to the district’s 24,572 students. “It’s about giving them opportunities.”

Full accreditation has little concrete impact on the district, which was Missouri’s largest before being passed by Springfield’s about six years ago, but removes a stigma that has haunted it since 2007 when things were so dire that the state appointed a special three-person board known as the Special Administrative Board to oversee it.

And despite the renewal of accreditation, that board, which oversees district operations instead of the elected school board, is scheduled to remain in place until June 2019.

Improvement has been steady since Adams took over in 2008. The accreditation level was upgraded to provisional in 2012.

Just 56 percent of students were graduating in 2007 and the district was $24 million in debt. Today, St. Louis schools have a 72 percent graduation rate despite a high percentage of students living in poverty, and the district has a budget surplus of $19 million.

Another state board member, Michael Jones of St. Louis, said Adams and members of the SAB deserve credit for the turnaround, as do teachers, staff and students, the latter of which he called the “unsung heroes.”

“They made a commitment as individuals to get better and they’ve done that,” Jones said.

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