Do the Right Thing for Kids has focused its atten­tion on and chal­lenged the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Public Schools for the past eight years. Unfortunately, very lit­tle has changed in regard to the aca­d­e­m­ic progress of KCPS stu­dents. We wel­come new super­in­ten­dent Dr. Mark Bedell to Kansas City, look for­ward to his lead­er­ship, and present these chal­lenges:

  • Always make deci­sions that have the best edu­ca­tion­al inter­ests of the stu­dents in mind rather than being swayed by spe­cial inter­est groups that have great­ly influ­enced dis­trict deci­sions in the past.
  • Be hon­est with the school board and patrons of the dis­trict. Admit we have tremen­dous chal­lenges in front of us. While our grad­u­a­tion rates may have increased, near­ly 70% of our stu­dents are below grade lev­el. A num­ber of grad­u­at­ing seniors must be below grade lev­el as well. What does that say about their pre­pared­ness for the next chap­ter in their lives?
  • Don’t make state­ments you can­not keep or have no con­trol over. We have heard sev­er­al admin­is­tra­tors say, “Full accred­i­ta­tion is just around the cor­ner. We just need to work with a few stu­dents on the bub­ble, and we’ll gain the need­ed points.” Accreditation is the result of a qual­i­ty learn­ing expe­ri­ence, not a tar­get on the wall. It is the bare min­i­mum lev­el of qual­i­ty for a school dis­trict. Please focus on high qual­i­ty teach­ing.
  • Stand up to the teach­ers union and demand qual­i­ty teach­ing in the class­room. Allow more auton­o­my in indi­vid­ual schools and empow­er your prin­ci­pals to make on-site deci­sions that affect the chil­dren in their build­ings. Enable them to focus on their unique mis­sions and sub­ject them to eval­u­a­tion and inter­ven­tion if they do not per­form.
  • With prin­ci­pal input, devel­op strate­gies that pin­point cru­cial areas of need and focus resources on them, such as cer­ti­fied read­ing inter­ven­tion­ists and behav­ior inter­ven­tion­ists in every build­ing need­ing them.
  • Provide the wrap-around ser­vices you dis­cussed in your pub­lic inter­views. As you well know, in order to learn, chil­dren must be well nour­ished, healthy and free from dis­abling trau­ma. Give stu­dents the oppor­tu­ni­ty to over­come the “learned help­less­ness” to which you have referred.
  • Demand high qual­i­ty per­for­mance from your admin­is­tra­tion. Eliminate waste. The Master Plan iden­ti­fied near­ly $750,000 of excess at the admin­is­tra­tive lev­el. Use that mon­ey more effec­tive­ly in the class­rooms.
  • Work with the board and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers to devel­op a pro­pos­al for a com­pre­hen­sive Pre-Kindergarten pro­gram that uti­lizes cer­ti­fied teach­ers and is held to high pro­fes­sion­al stan­dards.
  • Engage the board in mak­ing deci­sions that impact aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment rather than spend­ing time on numer­ous reports pro­ject­ing stu­dent per­for­mance on state tests that have not been accu­rate.
  • Evaluate the con­tent and for­mat of KCPS board meet­ings con­cen­trat­ing on mean­ing­ful infor­ma­tion and not pub­lic rela­tions.

To the board of KCPS, we ask you to work with the super­in­ten­dent to devel­op poli­cies that advance aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment, to set stan­dards for the superintendent’s per­for­mance, and to eval­u­ate him on his per­for­mance.

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