Hope that Kansas City Public Schools might get a full accreditation nod from state education leaders this year was dashed with the release of the latest state report on annual performance.
Annual Performance Reports for Missouri’s 518 public school districts were released Wednesday and show the Kansas City Public School District’s score down 6.1 percentage points from where it landed a year ago. KCPS last year hit the full accreditation level for the first time in 30 years.
The district needed to score at that level for at least two consecutive years before the state would consider raising its accreditation status.
District officials blame this year’s performance score drop on poor student attendance and high student mobility. A steady stream of students moving in and out of the district makes it difficult to maintain educational progress.
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To measure how well districts are doing at meeting state standards, the Annual Performance Report combines standardized test scores with five areas —academic achievement, attendance, college and career readiness, graduation rate and subgroup achievement.
A district has to score at least at 50 percent of a maximum 140 points to be provisionally accredited and 70 percent to be fully accredited.
The good news this year is that no traditional districts in the state scored in the unaccredited range. Accreditation rankings — accredited, provisional accredited and unaccredited — correspond with how closely a district is meeting Missouri standards. Students graduating from unaccredited schools are still eligible for college admissions and scholarships.
But students in unaccredited school districts are allowed to transfer to an accredited district. And the unaccredited district pays the tuition.
Three Kansas City area charter schools — Benjamin Banneker Academy, Della Lamb Elementary and DeLaSalle — did score below 45 percent, at the unaccredited level.
On the other hand, Ewing Marion Kauffman School and University Academy charters got scores of 100 percent for the second straight year.
Last year KCPS hit the 70 percent mark, but this year achieved an overall 63.9 percent score, the same it had in 2015. Overall, Kansas City earned 89.5 of the possible 140 state points.
The district fell down in social studies, attendance and Advance Placement courses.
Superintendent Mark Bedell said that while the district celebrated last year’s achievement, he was not surprised to learn the score dropped this year.
Still, he said, there was much in the APR report for the district to be proud of, including an improved graduation rate and increased numbers of students prepared for college and careers.
“We rose in placement after high school to our highest yet,” said Natalie Allen, district spokeswoman. And “For the first time in recent memory,” she said, the district’s four-year graduation rate is more than 71 percent.
Allen said Kansas City is particularly proud that it placed 93 percent of its graduates in college or in career training, up from 89.9 percent in 2015.
The report also shows that based on standardized testing results, more KCPS students are scoring proficient or advanced in English and Science compared to 2016. But not enough of them.
“Student achievement is unacceptably low across the board with fewer than 50 percent proficient or advanced in any academic subject,” a district statement said.
Bedell said factors outside the classroom, such as student mobility and social ills that affect student attendance, continue to plaque the district.
More than 40 percent of students in KCPS will change schools during any give academic year, he said. And only about 80 percent of the district’s students are in school at least 90 percent of the time. The state requires 90 percent of them to be in class 90 percent of the time.
“That makes it very difficult to keep students on track and presents the single greatest challenge for KCPS,” Bedell said.
“Students who stick with us, students who remain in the same Kansas City Public School for at least two years, demonstrate academic achievement that is on par with their peers,” Bedell said.
The district has a lot of work to do, Bedell said. Part of it includes aligning the district curriculum with state standards, growing his recently launched mentor program and gaining community help in keeping students in school.
“I told school board members that we are probably three or four years away from what I would deem a fully accredited school system that would have accreditation with sustainability,” Bedell said.
Kansas City is not the only provisionally accredited district in the metro area to fail to score in the full accreditation range this year.
The provisionally accredited Hickman Mills district this year scored a 65.4 percent, down from last year’s 67.9 percent.
In a press release Hickman Mills school officials said that for them the highlight of this year’s report was college and career readiness, where the district earned 26 of the 30 possible points.
The district’s graduation rate is looking better too, up from 74 percent to 82.1 percent over the last two years.
Hickman Mills lost points in academic achievement, specifically social studies and science, and in student attendance.
“We will continue to work hard to raise academic achievement, promote accountability and provide our scholars with the best education,” Superintendent Yolanda Cargile said in a statement Wednesday.
Meanwhile, some other districts in the area were celebrating their performance. Independence achieved an overall 95 percent, earning 133 out of 140 points, “the highest APR in district history,” said Superintendent Dale Herl.
Here are some overall APR scores for other area districts:
▪ Fort Osage: 89.6 percent
▪ Blue Springs: 99.6 percent
▪ Lee’s Summit: 98.2 percent
▪ Raytown: 81.4 percent
▪ Grandview: 79.3 percent
▪ Center: 82.1 percent
▪ Park Hill: 97.5 percent
▪ North Kansas City: 93.9 percent
▪ Liberty: 97.5 percent