Top Missouri Education Official Urges Closure of Imagine Schools

Courtney Williams's picture
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The state's highest-ranking education official is recommending that Missouri Baptist University close the six Imagine charter schools it sponsors and work with the public school system and other charter schools to ensure a smooth transition of students.

In a letter sent Friday, Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro advised Jim French, chairman of the university's education division, to announce "immediately" the closure of the underperforming schools after this school year.

Nicastro's recommendation comes days after French said the university needed more support and direction from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as it scrutinizes the charter schools operated by Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc.

The six schools, which enroll about 3,800 students, fared worse on standardized tests this year than nearly all traditional and charter schools in St. Louis. French said the university is not getting the direction it needs from the education department or from state statutes to ensure the schools are living up to their charters.

Nicastro wrote that it is the sponsor's role, not the state's, to regulate charter schools.

"Your request for Department review of school reform plans did not occur until after media coverage began to focus on the issues surrounding the Imagine schools," she wrote. "Although MBU has been a charter sponsor since 2006, you have only recently expressed concerns over the Department's role relating to charters.

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