As report­ed pre­vi­ous­ly, the Kansas City Public Schools have engaged in a “full court press” to achieve high­er stu­dent scores on the MAP (Missouri Achievement Program) tests that bear on accred­i­ta­tion. Time will tell; results are due in late sum­mer. If pro­vi­sion­al accred­i­ta­tion is achieved by rais­ing some mar­gin­al stu­dents’ scores through teach­ing to the test, that will not say much about the over­all edu­ca­tion­al qual­i­ty of the district’s teach­ing and cur­ric­u­la.

April school board meet­ings focused on major pro­pos­als by the admin­is­tra­tion to spend many mil­lions of dol­lars on new and improved facil­i­ties and equip­ment. We cer­tain­ly sup­port pro­vid­ing the district’s stu­dents the most func­tion­al facil­i­ties and equip­ment that we can afford. However, we won­der if the tim­ing is right for such expen­di­tures by an unac­cred­it­ed school sys­tem that would still be shrink­ing if it were not for stu­dents migrat­ing from failed char­ter schools. Also, new and expand­ing char­ter schools are com­ing on line, pend­ing court cas­es could allow more open trans­fer to accred­it­ed dis­tricts, and leg­is­la­tion being dis­cussed in Jefferson City would enable imme­di­ate state takeover.

Another mat­ter receiv­ing atten­tion in April was ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion. A grow­ing body of research and expe­ri­ence is demon­strat­ing that preschool years are extreme­ly impor­tant in get­ting chil­dren ready for K-12. Too many of the district’s chil­dren arrive in kinder­garten already behind in intel­lec­tu­al devel­op­ment, con­tin­ue to fall far­ther behind, and may nev­er catch up. We applaud the district’s deci­sion to put more atten­tion on ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion. Challenges include the lack of state sup­port and the web of exist­ing preschool pro­grams, some of which are good and some of which are not much more than babysit­ting ser­vices.

A pro­pos­al to recre­ate mid­dle schools in or con­nect­ed to Northeast, East and Central high schools was anoth­er agen­da item. The pen­du­lum swings back and forth on whether mid­dle schools are bet­ter than 7–12 high schools. Current research favors mid­dle schools for urban stu­dents. A major­i­ty of the board expressed ten­ta­tive sup­port for going for­ward with plan­ning.

Several Do the Right Thing for Kids mem­bers attend­ed an urban edu­ca­tion forum con­duct­ed by Dr. Lisa Delpit, win­ner of the 1990 “Genius Award” by the MacArthur Foundation. According to Dr. Delpit, caus­es for lack of aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment in urban schools are:

  • Children are not being taught—teachers are not teach­ing and there is lit­tle inter­ac­tion except for dis­ci­pline;
  • Bias and assump­tions of infe­ri­or­i­ty (stereo­types) on the part of edu­ca­tors;
  • Lack of appro­pri­ate atten­tion to cul­tur­al influ­ences in the class­room.

Dellpit’s research shows a 50% deficit in achieve­ment for stu­dents with inef­fec­tive teach­ers over three years.

Academic growth can come about if there is aca­d­e­m­ic press—high expec­ta­tions and account­abil­i­ty, and strong social sup­port—pos­i­tive rela­tions among chil­dren and adults that builds self con­fi­dence.

View the agenda/minutes of this meet­ing
(will open in a new win­dow).

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