Kansas City Public Schools have come a long way in a short amount of time. In the last three years the district has had a balanced budget and a sustained vision, steady improvement in test scores, a completely clean audit for the first time in decades, growing enrollment, stable leadership and safer schools. The accomplishments reflect tough decisions by the board, Superintendent Steve Green's leadership and the hard work of our educators and scholars.
By AIRICK LEONARD WEST
Special to The Star
Even so, the district has a long way to go before we can be satisfied as a community, and Superintendent Green is working to address key deficiencies. Hiring practices need improvement; teachers are paid below the regional average; focus on data and instruction needs sharpening; and emphasis on early literacy is not nearly strong enough, to name a few factors most directly holding back our scholars achievement.
As a new school year begins, here are five easily measurable expectations Kansas Citians should have for our schools:
1. Scholars must have state test scores that allow the district to earn provisional accreditation status this month. Our scholars have the intellect, character, drive and ambition necessary to achieve at high levels. It is unacceptable that for decades the district was too unstable to nurture that innate ability. For the past two years under Dr. Greens steady leadership, the district has known stability.
2. The district must continue to expand the number of scholars graduating with college credit, international baccalaureate credit or advanced placement college credit. Following on the heels of the 16 scholars who graduated this year with their high-school diplomas and associates degrees, that number is set to double and must continue doing so over the next several years. The day must come where nearly all of our scholars graduate with some amount of college credit and where an escalating number of them graduate from our high schools having completed two years of college.
3. The district must demonstrate a commitment to continuing its vision of stable improvement academically and operationally. For too long, instability has undermined steady improvement. Our educators and children deserve a board that continues to stay out of the news and that instead stays focused on improving scholar achievement. Our community deserves to see Superintendent Green serve for at least five years to sustain the improvements.
4. More educational choices for our children must be available. The revival surrounding Hale Cook is early evidence that parents want more choices. The addition of the early learning center at Woodland this fall and the promise of middle schools next year are a good start. But midtown parents deserve the same opportunity Waldo parents worked so hard for. And more high school options are necessary so parents dont look elsewhere as their children age. Providing take-home laptops to all high schoolers to allow for additional distance learning opportunities will also address this need.
5. The district must earn full accreditation within three years. The two years of steady growth are not enough because provisional accreditation is not enough. Its a good start but our families deserve more. In the entire time that Missouri has been accrediting school districts in the manner it does now, our schools have never earned full accreditation. Because of the united efforts of Kansas Citians devoted to our scholars educational achievement, that can and must soon change.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact our Volunteers for Achievement office at 816-418-7685 or go to kcpublicschools.org/expectations.
Airick Leonard West of Kansas City is the chairman of the Kansas City Public Schools board of directors.