While “grad­ual improve­ment” is shown in stu­dent aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment in Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS), many mea­sures are not improv­ing or are los­ing ground. Too many stu­dents are not being edu­cat­ed, and the impact on lives is irre­versible. Major change through out­side inter­ven­tion is bad­ly need­ed. The facts:

  • The KCPS dis­trict has not been ful­ly accred­it­ed since the State of Missouri began the process in the ear­ly 1990’s. It has cycled sev­er­al times between pro­vi­sion­al­ly accred­it­ed and unac­cred­it­ed.
  • In the State’s recent pre­lim­i­nary rat­ing of the KCPS under the new MSIP-5 stan­dards, the Kansas City dis­trict received 19.6 per­cent­age points where 50 is the min­i­mum for pro­vi­sion­al accred­i­ta­tion and 70 for full accred­i­ta­tion. The district’s score is by far the low­est of any pub­lic school sys­tem in this region. (Center School District received 80.7 per­cent­age points, and Independence School District received 68.9. Both are com­pa­ra­ble to the KCPS dis­trict demo­graph­i­cal­ly.)
  • It is not wide­ly acknowl­edged that of the five MSIP mea­sures the Kansas City dis­trict earned toward accred­i­ta­tion in 2012, only one of these is for stu­dent aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment. The oth­ers are for pro­grams that adults ini­ti­ate that affect small­er num­bers of stu­dents (advanced cours­es, tech­ni­cal edu­ca­tion cours­es, col­lege and career place­ment, career tech) vs. changes in dis­trict-wide stu­dent per­for­mance scores.
  • In Math and Communication Arts, approx­i­mate­ly 70% of stu­dents in grades 3–8 scored at basic or below basic for the last four years. There has been no sig­nif­i­cant change over 4 years. (Basic is below the pro­fi­cient achieve­ment lev­el.)
  • For Fall 2012, 54% of high school stu­dents per­formed at grade lev­el in read­ing; 39% read two or more years below grade lev­el. In math, 35% per­formed at grade lev­el; 55% per­formed two or more years below grade lev­el.
  • The aver­age dis­trict ACT score is 16.4 vs. 21.6 for the state of Missouri. The ACT min­i­mum for entrance into University of Missouri schools is 24.
  • A 2011 inde­pen­dent study Building Teacher Quality in the Kansas City, Missouri School District found seri­ous prob­lems in the oper­a­tion of the dis­trict that impact teach­ing. Among its find­ings: (1) Teachers can receive a sat­is­fac­to­ry eval­u­a­tion rat­ing with­out evi­dence that they are increas­ing stu­dent learn­ing. (2) Promotion, tenure and salary deci­sions are based on fac­tors oth­er than teacher effec­tive­ness. (3) Principals’ author­i­ty to staff their schools is under­mined by cen­tral­ized, senior­i­ty-based assign­ment prac­tices. Governance does affect the class­room. (National Council on Teacher Quality – www.nctq.org)
  • The AdvanceKC strate­gic plan con­duct­ed for the city of Kansas City by the Market Street con­sult­ing firm says, “Perceptions about the qual­i­ty of Kansas City pubic edu­ca­tion – par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Kansas City Public School dis­trict – are the great­est bar­ri­ers to the City’s future vital­i­ty.” These per­cep­tions are not going to change because of small gains in some scores. Dramatic change must occur. Other urban school dis­tricts – Kansas City, Kansas, St. Louis, Independence, and Center School Districts – are mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant progress. We can, too, but it will take new, bold, expert turn­around lead­er­ship!
  • The goal must be qual­i­ty, not mar­gin­al pro­vi­sion­al accred­i­ta­tion.

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