Education in the St. Louis Region
St. Louis City and County School Districts
Today, we’re releasing our first annual St. Louis Regional Profile. Inside, you’ll find a description of the students, funding, and performance of both traditional public (TPS) and public charter school districts in St. Louis City and County for the 2017-2018 school year. The City is served by one district, St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS), while the surrounding County has 23 TPS districts. Students who live within the city boundary are eligible either to attend an SLPS school or to apply to and enroll in one of the city’s 17 public charter districts. Charter districts range in size from 60 students at The Arch Community School to 2,318 in the Confluence Academies. TPS districts range in size from 783 students in Brentwood to 20,964 students in Rockwood.
St. Louis County also has the Special School District (SSD), which exclusively serves students with disabilities. SSD not only serves roughly 2,000 full time students, but also provides special education services to students enrolled in the other school districts of St. Louis County. We provide a more in-depth description of SSD later in this publication. Each of the TPS districts is compared to the St. Louis region as a whole and to the rest of the state of Missouri, whereas charter schools are compared only to SLPS and the state.
Who are St. Louis’ students? Compared to the state, the St. Louis region serves a more racially diverse student body, and has a higher population of Free/Reduced-Price Lunch (FRL) eligible students. Within the region, this percentage of FRL-eligible students ranges from 10% in Ladue Schools to 100% of students in multiple districts. Multiple districts in the region participate in the Community Eligibility Provision. Thus, these districts are shown to have 100% of students as FRL-eligible.
How much do districts spend? Districts in the region spend almost $1,000 more per student than the state average. This ranges from $9,506 dollars per student in Bayless to $18,822 in Clayton. For charter schools, this per pupil amount ranges from $10,047 at Gateway Science Academies to $16,557 at The Arch Community School. Schools and districts receive money from three sources: local taxes, state funds, and federal dollars. On average, Missouri’s funds are split 47% local, 43% state, and 10% federal.
However, districts in the St. Louis region generate a much higher fraction of their revenue locally, with 71% of dollars coming from the local tax base. These local amounts range from 97% in Brentwood to 27% in Riverview Gardens, making them the most state-dependent of the region’s districts.
How much do St. Louis teachers make? The most important part of a district’s budget includes the amount paid to teachers. Here, we see rather large differences in the starting, average, and maximum salaries teachers can earn. Clayton not only has the highest maximum salary teachers in the region can earn ($108,321), but also has the highest average ($77,629) and starting salaries ($44,428). The lowest starting salary among TPS districts is in Riverview Gardens ($38,433), the lowest average salary is in SLPS ($48,422), and the district with the lowest maximum salary is in Ferguson-Florissant ($79,742). For charter schools, starting salaries range from $31,890 at Hawthorn Leadership to $47,500 at The Biome, which also has the highest average teacher salary among public charters. The lowest average salary is at The Arch.
How are St. Louis’ students doing? To measure school performance, we present multiple dimensions including percent of students scoring proficient and advanced (ready) on the state’s MAP assessment, average ACT Composite score, and graduation rate. The average graduation rate in the state is 89% and 90% for the region.
Clayton has a 100% high school graduation rate, which leads the region. The lowest high school graduation rate is 72% in Normandy, which also has the lowest reported average ACT Composite score at 13.6 out of 36 possible points. Ladue has the highest average ACT score at 26.4.
Data on ACT scores and graduation rates are only reportable for four of the charter districts in the region: Confluence Academies, Gateway Science Academies, Grand Center Arts Academy, and Lift for Life Academy, as these charter schools are the only schools serving grade levels that are considered in ACT scores and graduation rates. For eligible charter schools, the ACT scores range from 14.8 at Confluence Academies to 21.1 at Gateway Science Academies. Graduation rates range from 89% to 96% in the charter districts in St. Louis.
Missouri has undergone multiple standards and testing changes over the last decade but has finally settled on a re-designed version of the MAP assessment that is based on state-designed learning standards. The first iteration of the new test was administered in the spring of 2018. As a region, the percentage of students in St. Louis scoring proficient and advanced on the English (47%) and Math (41%) assessments is slightly below the statewide averages (49% and 43%, respectively). However, these simple percentages make it difficult to determine the year-to-year test score growth in each of these districts and across the state. Unfortunately, year-to-year growth scores were not reported for the 2017-18 school year, but we look forward to these data becoming available again in the 2018-2019 school year with the consistency in testing across the state.
Preliminary descriptive analyses of these publicly-available data show predictable patterns in district performance. Unsurprisingly, we see a strong negative relationship between district performance and the number of FRL-eligible students enrolling. This negative relationship between student performance and student need is similar when examining average ACT scores and high school graduation rates.
Another district characteristic having a negative impact on school performance is student mobility rate, defined as the percentage of students who change schools during the year. Districts with higher mobility rates have lower percentages of students who score at the ready level on both the English and Math MAP assessment, lower average ACT scores, and lower high school graduation rates. The connection is strongest between high mobility rates and low graduation rates, showing the importance of stability and consistency in where students learn helping students to learn.
It is important to note that this publication has only scratched the surface of what makes the education landscape in St. Louis complex and interesting. Here, we have provided a view of only district characteristics using publicly available data, which tells a part of the story. As unique as each of the districts are in the St. Louis region, it is also likely true that we would uncover even more interesting patterns and information for schools both within and across the districts. Along with being accessible on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s data portal, we have made these data available on our website’s data portal. It is our hope that these profiles and downloadable datasets provide some useful information about education in St. Louis and inform the conversation to ensure that each district is able to help all students in the St. Louis region realize their full potential.