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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