Volunteers pound the pavement for KC school enrollment

All the bright, innovative education ideas in the world won’t help students who aren’t in school.

That’s why Kansas City Public Schools board President Airick Leonard West was expending a little old-fashioned shoe leather Saturday to get out the word about the start of classes on Aug. 12.

West and other volunteers went door to door handing out enrollment and registration information to the parents of school-aged children.

“We want our scholars in the classroom on day one,” West said. “We don’t want them starting two or three weeks behind because their parents didn’t get them enrolled.”

The early start to the school year may catch some people by surprise, he said. “A lot of parents remember when they were kids and school didn’t start until after Labor Day.”

Saturday’s effort in the area of 12th Street and the Paseo was at the request of management for public housing residences, West said.

Five miles away, the focus was on innovative trends in education.

Dozens of educators and educational entrepreneurs from across the country gathered at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to discuss solutions to the biggest problems educators face today — beyond getting kids in classrooms.

About 70 alumni from the Teach for America program shared information about entrepreneurial projects they have been working on.

Aaron North, director of education for the foundation, called it a unique opportunity to bring together educators working to reduce the “opportunity gap” for students in many low-income urban and rural school districts.

Andrea Pursley, executive vice president of alumni affairs for Teach for America, said that it was the first event of its kind in the country. She said it allowed people from different regions to share their efforts with others who are focused on ending educational inequality.

A few of those ideas:

An online job-matching site, myEDmatch in Kansas City, that connects and “culture fits” teachers and schools.

A Philadelphia-based nonprofit, Springboard, that aims to reverse the reading setbacks that students experience over the summer. Families receive bonuses such as books and supplies when their children make reading gains.

From New Orleans, mSchool, which helps community centers open one-classroom “micro-schools” in places where parents want education options.

New York’s Pallus aims to increase the number of black students at top colleges.

The entrepreneurs “are sharing ideas to solve some of the nation’s biggest challenges,” North said.