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DESE extends charter school sponsorships at 2 schools after evaluations

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Board of Education has agreed to allow a pair of universities to continue to sponsor charter schools with plans for improvement in the future.

The Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls is a charter school operating with funding and supervision from Washington University in St. Louis. It is the only public all-girls school in the state, with a curriculum focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) career preparation. 

In extensive discussion on Washington University’s charter sponsorship of Hawthorn, the board discussed issues including low enrollment numbers and increased expenditures, as well as the school’s inclusion on the state’s Regional School Improvement Team program to improve overall school performance. 

The program created a team made up of the head of the school, a DESE area supervisor, a sponsor representative, and a Missouri Leadership Development System (MLDS) coach in order to improve the school’s performance. Data presented in the meeting showed high performance with testing and benchmarks required by DESE but also showed a drastic drop in enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year. 

The Board of Education ultimately agreed to allow Washington University to continue as a charter sponsor to the school, with support and goals for improvement, during its day-long meeting Tuesday. 

The University of Missouri (MU) was also under review as a charter school sponsor and was found to be outside of compliance with standards during DESE’s monthly agenda meeting on Tuesday. 

The university was found to lack written procedures in documenting evaluations of its schools as well as inconsistent intervention and renewal documentation. MU supports seven charter schools across the state. 

The board allowed MU to continue in its status as a charter school sponsor for the time being, with a re-evaluation set for March 2021. 

DESE also heard an update on education funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as well as the Coronavirus Relief Fund. The department has been working with other state agencies to find ways for schools to access that assistance, DESE representatives said in the presentation.

The presentation covered how grants will be primarily used to address three areas of concern: reduction of the digital divide, improving readiness for distance learning, and students’ social-emotional needs. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also:

  • Recognized retiring members of the board and presented an award to this year’s Milken Educator, Melissa Fike
  • Rescinded rules on standards of approvals for professional education programs, including education competency requirements and accreditation
  • Allowed the use of motorcoaches rather than school busses in certain instances 
  • Removed regulations on scholarship granting organizations 
  • Revised rules to add virtual school attendance to overall attendance numbers
  • Heard an update on early learning initiatives, including education services during COVID-19 and DESE’s Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five program 
  • Reviewed a report on the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Advisory Council, the Task Force for Learning Acceleration, and the department’s COVID-19 response
  • Heard an update on the budget and speculation on expected cuts due to economic shortfalls
  • Considered the discipline of three educators

The next DESE agenda meeting is set to take place in August. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.