The Kansas City Public Schools Administration and School Board are gear­ing up for a “laser-like focus” on mea­sures to improve test scores and thus regain pro­vi­sion­al accred­i­ta­tion. This 30-day press involves using pur­chased test pack­ages that aim to mir­ror the MAP (Missouri Assessment Program) tests that play a big role in accred­i­ta­tion. The pur­chased tests pin­point areas where stu­dents are lag­ging and also iden­ti­fy stu­dents who, with spe­cial atten­tion, may be helped to move up into the next achieve­ment lev­el. They also help stu­dents be bet­ter test-tak­ers inde­pen­dent of the mate­r­i­al being test­ed.

Most observers would see this approach as “teach­ing to the test” rather than deep under­stand­ing as advo­cat­ed in the district’s mis­sion state­ment. However, the super­in­ten­dent and his staff have few options if the goal is main­ly short-term test score improve­ment. Overcoming the long-term learn­ing deficits that many stu­dents car­ry with them into the class­room will take a true trans­for­ma­tion in the effec­tive­ness of the sys­tem, includ­ing its teach­ing staff and pro­gram admin­is­tra­tors.

As we doc­u­ment­ed in a pre­vi­ous report, the study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found teacher effec­tive­ness to be a major con­cern. The dis­trict has not eval­u­at­ed per­for­mance much less dealt with poor per­for­mance.

The Kanas City Public Schools District has not been ful­ly accred­it­ed since the state’s eval­u­a­tion process began in the ear­ly 1990’s. The staff express­es con­fi­dence that with the test­ing strat­e­gy they are pur­su­ing they have a good chance of achiev­ing enough points to regain pro­vi­sion­al accred­i­ta­tion. This would, of course, help pre­serve the board seats and admin­is­tra­tive posi­tions now in place. In our view it is a far cry from pro­vid­ing our young cit­i­zens the edu­ca­tion they need to pros­per in the rapid­ly evolv­ing world.

We con­tin­ue to believe that a major trans­for­ma­tion­al turn­around is need­ed and is most like­ly to be achieved by out­side inter­ven­tion. Legislation to autho­rize imme­di­ate state takeover is stalled in Jefferson City, blocked by inter­ests that want more rad­i­cal change such as elim­i­na­tion of tenure, vouch­ers, more char­ters, etc. and by lob­by­ists for the dis­trict that are paid with tax­pay­er mon­ey.

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