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Issue: 1239 Date: 5/22/2014
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Group Calls For 'Community Learning Centers'

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AFT St. Louis President Mary Armstrong speaks at a rally in front of City Hall on Saturday.
        On the 60th anniversary of the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision Saturday, a small group rallied in front of City Hall to call on elected officials to improve St. Louis' schools.

        The students, parents, members of Metropolitan Congregations United and representatives from the American Federation of Teachers St. Louis want schools turned into "community learning centers."

        St. Louis Public Schools teachers' union president Mary Armstrong says she would like these "centers" to focus more on learning and less on student testing.

        "If we want to find out what kind of progress is being made, let's assess the students at the beginning of the school year, assess them at the end and see how much growth there has been. Even if you want to have a mid-year test, that's okay too so it gives the teacher a chance to see whether progress is being made or we can concentrate on those students who aren't doing as well. But right now I believe that we're over-testing students," Armstrong said.

        The group is also calling for more state funding for elementary and secondary education. They are opposed to closing or privatizing city schools.

        "We have come a long way since separate but equal was overturned but we still have a long way to go," said Jim Sahaida, president of Metropolitan Congregations United. "Too many children are in inadequate learning environments that keep them from reaching their potential."

        The group handed out "Education Voter Pledge Cards" to those in attendance. They say it's part of a drive to registers voters ahead of this November's midterm elections. The pledge cards ask voters to cast ballots for candidates who support:

        Full funding and support for neighborhood-based community schools: don't close or privatize them. More teaching, less testing Positive discipline policies and an end to zero tolerance Quality affordable education form early childhood through college, including for undocumented students

        A living wage that lifts people out of poverty. The Special Administrative Board (SAB) overseeing St. Louis Public Schools recently approved a school improvement plan intended to serve as a blueprint for earning back full accreditation for the district.

        The plan developed by Superintendent Kelvin Adams divides schools into four tiers based on academic performance and lays out the five overarching goals listed below.

        Align classroom instruction with new "Common Core" standards and build a stronger support system for struggling middle- and high-school students. Monitor student data systematically and then make sure that information makes its way into classroom instruction.

        Identify effective styles of instruction and provide regular and constructive feedback to educators. Ensure that schools are welcoming places and better engage families.

        Make sure that all students are prepared for kindergarten.


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