The story I told recently about the hundreds of children churning through Kansas City’s district and public charter schools hit Joyce Gosnell where she hurts.
She was thinking of Edwin again.
Or — the better way to put it — thinking of him still.
The Kansas woman had known Edwin Randolph, now 21, since the third grade as his YouthFriend in the former volunteer mentoring program.
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She finally turned loose of him a few years ago, letting slip what had been an ever-tenuous hand on his broken trail through one school after another that couldn’t manage him, his behavior or the weight of poverty, crime and death on his life.
You want to talk about churn? Gosnell recounted Randolph’s school odyssey:
Longfellow, Graceland, Urban Community Leadership Academy, Fairview, Paseo, Second Mile Ministry, Central Middle, Genesis, Brookside Frontier and Don Bosco — without a diploma in the end.
Hers was one of several reactions registered in response to the troubling statistics of public school churn and attrition in Kansas City.
“All public schools — charter and district — must work together,” wrote Doug Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association, “… to assist every student who moves from school to school…to provide continuity to their education.”
Strong high school programs, harder to build and sustain, are in particularly short supply for teens with the highest needs.
Remedies require not only cooperation, he said, but full state funding.
Finding the balance between district schools and the rise of independent public charter schools is also proving complicated, intellectually and politically.
Last week, on a 5-3 vote, the Kansas City school board approved the district’s plan to sponsor a charter school that will be created in the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Urban Neighborhood Initiative.
Tuesday at the Kauffman Foundation, Mayor Sly James and Turn the Page KC are holding an education summit with a mission to break down the causes of so much student mobility.
There’s a lot at stake.
Not long ago I got a phone call from Randolph, answering my quest to find out how he was doing.
It’s hard to know. The call was brief. He was staying with an aunt out of state, he said. He’d gone there for a job.
Gosnell wants to believe it’s true. But she carries persistent fear for the former student who caused himself so much trouble in so many schools that never effectively taught him how to read.