The St. Louis Public Schools have miles to go before meeting
the educational requirements of their desegregation plan, says the
head of a committee that oversees the schools' compliance.
"The school level is where the rubber meets the road," said
James Dixon, director of the Education Monitoring and Advisory
Committee. The committee reports to U.S. District Judge George F.
Gunn Jr. on the schools' progress in meeting the judge's
The city magnet schools have largely met court orders, Dixon
said. But, he said, many of the system's 72 other schools have
"We have not fully implemented quality education goals and
objectives," Dixon said. "I'm talking about substance and quality."
Dixon won't speculate on how many years the district may be
from meeting the requirements of the various court orders. But he
points to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in April 1992 on a school
desegregation case in DeKalb County, Ga.
In that ruling, the Supreme Court said a school district
seeking release from court supervision must demonstrate "a good
faith commitment" to the court's desegregation plan "so that
parents, students and the public have assurance against further
injuries or stigma."
The St. Louis School Board has said repeatedly that it wants to
get out from under the court supervision. Dixon said he saw three
major areas where St. Louis schools had yet to meet court
Schools of emphasis.
The 1983 settlement between the city and county school
districts outlined special provisions for the city's non-integrated
schools. They included such things as lowering pupil-teacher ratios
and establishing schools of emphasis.
In such a school, teachers adopt a theme, such as science or
aeronautics, and all of them incorporate elements of it in their
Some schools have carried out their themes extremely well, but
many others have not, Dixon said.
Dixon said many of the themes in non-integrated schools are
"far inferior" to magnet school themes. In some schools, the themes
"are not school-wide and are offered only one part of the school
Schools of emphasis were never fully implemented in non-magnet
high schools. Instead, the school system developed a program called
Project Courage, which Dixon calls a "poor substitute." Benchmarks
such as student attendance, discipline, participation in the ACT or
SAT college tests indicate that the program is not working for most
students, Dixon said.
Tom Downey, director of planning and evaluation for the school
district, acknowledged that some elementary schools have been "a
little less creative" than others at becoming schools of emphasis. …