Exclusive: Missouri education leader lays it all out

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Our public schools are in crisis. Those are the words of the woman in charge of education in the state of Missouri.

"The blame belongs to all of us, we've allowed districts like Normandy to fail, we've allowed the system to fail thousands and thousands of children, and it's time to stop, we have to stop failing them. How we get there, how we get to a place where we provide a successful educational opportunity for every single child is something we are still struggling with how we get there," said Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro.

She gave Newschannel 5 unprecedented access for an hour, and no issue was off the table.

"One of the things we do in education is we study, we analyze we do a pilot program, we do a real program, it takes us literally years to make that kind of change; we don't have that kind of time here, the children of Normandy don't have that kind of time," she said.

Nicastro is instituting a new model at the failed Normandy Schools. The state now runs the district with a governing board. She wants more immediate assessments of how children are reading, writing and doing math. She wants more assessments to hold teachers accountable. She wants results fast.

"I think when you talk about urban school failure, and you're talking about our failure, yours, mine, everybody's whose allowed urban systems faced with challenges of poverty, crime and other things, we've allowed those problems and constant failure to continue. For all of us, the stakes are such that we have to break that cycle. That is why we need to get results immediately, we need to show parents and others there is a way to do this that can make a difference."

She said she worries about the struggling unaccredited Riverview Gardens Schools.

"It makes the stakes around what we are doing at Normandy even higher because everyone recognizes, this is the last stand. We have to make it work. If we don't, the future for the children in the other districts may be at risk as well," she said.


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