Last year, the Kansas City School District glimpsed the possibility of full accreditation, a designation that has eluded it for years.
But that standard just slipped further away, and for several more years at the very least.
On Wednesday, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its annual academic progress report, and the Kansas City district issued its response:
“Student achievement is unacceptably low across the board, with fewer than 50 percent (of students) proficient or advanced in any academic subject.”
At least administrators aren’t trying to sidestep the disappointing scores. Acceptance of accountability is a good first step.
Kansas City must be equally forthcoming in its reply, demonstrating unequivocally that the community will be supportive, but that it will also hold Superintendent Mark T. Bedell accountable as he implements his four pillars for student growth and success.
We must not give up on our children.
The district needed to maintain the crucial marker of a 70 percent score on the annual report for another year. Instead, it tumbled to 63.9 percent.
The score measures attendance and graduation rates, how many students go on to college or other training, and scores on standardized tests.
In some areas, such as the graduation rate, the district did see improvement. Yet Kansas City will remain provisionally accredited, along with Hickman Mills, which also saw its percentage fall from 67.9 to 65.4 percent.
No one is winning here — not the local economy that is dependent upon a well-educated pool of local talent, not the city’s reputation as it attempts to lure new businesses and residents.
And least of all, not the children.
It is not that the kids born within the geographic boundaries of these school districts — and it is a wide swath of the metropolitan area — are inherently any less intelligent that students elsewhere. Indeed, the recent decision to reopen Lincoln Middle School came about because there is a waiting list of qualified children who want to attend Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, one of the top-performing schools in the state.
Missouri released annual data on all districts and charter schools, and a visual overlay of both economic and academic data could easily illustrate how higher-income portions of the metro help stabilize neighborhoods and families, resulting in higher-achieving school districts.
Lee’s Summit scored 98.2. Liberty had 97.5. Park Hill measured 97.5 and Blue Springs earned a 99.6, the same high mark it attained last year.
Charter schools are not the salvation either. Yes, some are stellar, consistently performing well on these scales. In particular Academie Lafayette, University Academy and Ewing Marion Kauffman School are standouts. But most charter schools scored on par with or lower than Kansas City.
A committee of the school board is exploring guidance for possible future potential partnerships with successful charters, a first step toward strengthening school offerings for families.
More than 40 percent of the district’s students will change schools during the year, and 100 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Those are steep social hurdles that impact the classroom.
Some children win the social class lottery, born to parents who are better able to provide economically or more apt to seek and receive help from others when they need it most.
Turning this around calls for heightened efforts by educators, paired with civic moves to fund, volunteer for or otherwise support programs that stabilize neighborhoods and families.
We must remain focused — not idealistically, but realistically — on who matters most: the children.