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St. Paul teachers want fewer kids per class. The school district says caps have caused enrollment to fall.

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St. Paul teachers want fewer kids per class. The school district says caps have caused enrollment to fall.

While making plans to close eight schools next fall, St. Paul Public Schools leaders have blamed charter school competition and low birth rates for a seven-year trend of declining enrollment.

In a report to the school board Tuesday, they identified another obstacle: Class-size limits negotiated by the teachers union that have been in effect since 2013-14.

Research director Stacey Gray Akyea said that with a consultant’s help, the district in 2014 predicted slow but steady growth in the years to come. Instead, enrollment has fallen by 2,091 in grades K-5 alone.

She said she can’t be sure that class-size limits are responsible for the decline, calling it a “possible relationship.” But four separate models by the research office found both real and expected associations between the caps and declining enrollment.

“We have to understand our enrollment situation,” Gray Akyea said. “We were projected to be in a very different place.”

One model beginning in 2013 predicted class-size limits would cost a growing elementary school 47 students by today and a declining school 66 students.

A language immersion school, she said, would have been expected to lose even more students — 91 — because immersion schools rarely accept students in upper grades who didn’t start out there.

Labeled an “exploratory analysis,” the district’s report comes as district leaders try to persuade the school board to endorse a consolidation plan they’re calling Envision SPPS.

At the same time, the St. Paul Federation of Educators has made additional class-size reductions a priority in labor negotiations for their next contracts.

“Class size matters. The fewer students you have in a classroom, you’re able to make better relationships with your students, you can spend more time working individually with students or in small groups. You can get a lot more accomplished,” chemistry teacher and bargaining team member Pete Grebner said in an interview.

The current contract includes limits on the number of students per classroom at all grades, pre-K through 12. The caps, which have changed since 2013, now range from 20 to 40 students and are one or two students smaller at the 30 poorest schools in the district.

The union now is proposing a reduction in those caps by two more students at all grades. The school district has not made its own proposal on the issue.

District negotiators “blamed teachers for low enrollment without taking any responsibility for their lack of efforts to increase enrollment or increase funding issues, which have plagued our schools for years,” bargaining team member Rene Myers said in an Oct. 7 video update.

BOARD REACTION

Board member John Brodrick on Tuesday suggested the district falling short of enrollment expectations may have had more to do with concerns about school safety and behavior standards and a failure to provide a well-rounded education.

Gray Akyea said she doesn’t disagree other factors contributed, but the systemic nature of the enrollment declines suggest class-size limits are to blame.

“It’s not isolated to certain schools,” she said.

Board member Jim Vue found the analyses convincing.

“With class-size limitations, I ask myself, can St. Paul Public Schools grow its enrollment? My answer is no, based on this,” he said.

The teacher contract does allow for ad hoc committees involving representatives of the union and district, which can waive the caps for select classrooms. Chief of Schools Andrew Collins said that most of the time, the committees do not agree to make room for another student.

LITTLE EFFECT ON ACHIEVEMENT

The district’s study was limited to the possible effects of class-size limits on enrollment. But researchers elsewhere have found only weak evidence that the caps are good for students.

Although popular with parents, class-size reduction seems to provide little benefit at great expense, according to a research review by the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think tank.

Their 2011 report concluded that large reductions in class sizes — by 7 to 10 students — “can have meaningful long-term effects on student achievement,” especially for low-income students and in the earlier grades.

But the costs of hiring additional teachers are great. Reducing classes by just one student at schools throughout the country would cost around $12 billion, roughly equivalent to what the U.S. government usually spends on Title I programs for low-income students, Brookings found.

The report suggested school districts and states are better off spending that money on more impactful interventions, such as “computer-aided instruction, cross-age tutoring, early childhood programs and increases in instructional time.”

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Large fire reported at recycling business in East St. Louis

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Large fire reported at recycling business in East St. Louis

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – The Christmas Traditions Festival is a celebration that business owners on Main Street in St. Charles rely on to stay afloat, especially coming out of the pandemic. But, they worry barriers will block the shoppers they need this season. 

“The question is do we have a shopping and dining district or do we have a street party district?” said Robert Schuette, owner of First Capitol Trading Collectibles and Gifts. 

Business owners on Main Street were notified on Nov. 2 that the St. Charles Fire chief approved a city ordinance to block off the strip from parking on weekends during the Christmas Traditions Festival for public safety reasons … but they say, blocking vehicles also block sales. 

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Mikaela Shiffrin ties Ingemar Stenmark record with win in women’s slalom

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Mikaela Shiffrin ties Ingemar Stenmark record with win in women’s slalom

KILLINGTON, Vt. — Mikaela Shiffrin marked the return of the women’s World Cup to North America by setting yet another record — and the two-time Olympic champion did it Sunday on home snow.

Shiffrin beat Petra Vlhova — her main rival — for her 46th career win in slalom. That matched a 32-year-old record for most World Cup wins in a single discipline, set by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark in giant slalom.

While the 26-year-old Shiffrin hails from Vail, Colorado, she can almost consider Killington a hometown race as she honed her skills nearby at the Burke Mountain Academy as a teenager.

Shiffrin trailed Vlhova by .20 seconds after the first run and, although she made an error at the top of her second run, a fantastic finish ensured she was still fastest on that second run.

Shiffrin lifted her arms over her head to soak in the cheers of the passionate home crowd before cupping her hand to her ear as she beamed broadly.

Then she turned to watch her rival.

Vlhova also made a mistake, and that cost her even more dearly than Shiffrin’s. The overall champion was almost a second slower than Shiffrin on the second run to ultimately finish .75 behind in second place.

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AP college football poll: Michigan rises to No. 2; Oklahoma State up to 5th

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AP college football poll: Michigan rises to No. 2; Oklahoma State up to 5th

Michigan jumped to No. 2 in The Associated Press college football poll on Sunday and Oklahoma State joined the top five for the first time since 2015.

Georgia was a unanimous No. 1 in the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank for the eighth consecutive week. For the fourth straight week, there is a different No. 2 team behind the Bulldogs.

Michigan has its highest ranking since it peaked at No 2. in 2016. The Wolverines moved up four spots after emphatically beating Ohio State on Saturday to break an eight-game losing streak in the rivalry.

Cincinnati moved up to No. 3, flip-flopping with Alabama at No. 4. The Crimson Tide slipped after beating Auburn in overtime.

Oklahoma State moved up two spots after beating Oklahoma for the first time since 2014. The Sooners fell three places to No. 13.

Notre Dame dropped a spot to No. 6 and Ohio State tumbled five spots to No. 7 a week after it peaked at second last week.

The week before the Buckeyes were No. 2, Alabama held that spot. The Tide had replaced Cincinnati the week before.

Mississippi, Baylor and Oregon rounded out the top 10.

POLL POINTS

The longest streak of weeks as unanimous No. 1 was Alabama’s run of nine in 2018.

There are two more polls left this season, after next week’s championship games and then after the College Football Playoff national title is decided on Jan. 10.

If Georgia can beat Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game next weekend and make a run through the playoff, it could break Alabama’s record.

But something to keep in mind for the Bulldogs: Alabama’s run of unanimous No. 1 rankings ended in a national championship game loss to Clemson and the Crimson Tide finished No. 2.

IN

— No. 22 Clemson (9-3) is back in the Top 25 after falling out after the last weekend of September. The Tigers have climbed back, winning seven of their final eight games.

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