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Kansas City Public Schools Takes Big Step Toward Full Accreditation

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The Kansas City Public Schools district is one of just a handful throughout Missouri that is not fully accredited by the state, but that could change based upon annual performance results released today by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The Kansas City district scored an 82.9 percent on the report card, which takes into account academic indicators, such as student test-score results, and other benchmarks, including attendance and graduation rates. District officials pointed to student performance in English and math as key drivers of this year’s score.

The annual performance report also judges districts on how well they are preparing their students for college and careers. Factors in that calculation include how well students perform on college entrance exams and in advanced courses.

Districts must score at least 70 percent to be considered for full accreditation by the Missouri State Board of Education. The Kansas City district scored 63.9 percent last year.

Scoring in the acceptable range does not guarantee full accreditation from the state school board, which also considers factors like finances and progress against a district’s school improvement plan. KCPS Superintendent Mark Bedell is prepared for the state board to require sustained results on next year’s annual performance report before granting full accreditation.

“I know the consistency piece is something they are looking for,” he said.

The vast majority of the more than 500 school districts around the state are fully accredited, including most of them in the metropolitan area. Kansas City is one of just six districts with provisional accreditation, and that list also includes Hickman Mills in southeast Kansas City.

Hickman Mills scored at 77.3 percent on this year’s annual performance report. This year’s score, up from 65.4 percent last year, is the highest mark in five years and is attributable, in part, to improved performance in math.

“We will continue our laser-like focus on reaching full accreditation,” Hickman Superintendent Yolanda Cargile said in a news release.

Provisionally accredited districts are monitored more closely by the state and work with a Regional School Improvement Team.

Kansas City has been provisionally accredited since 2014, and when it finally inched into the fully accredited range on its annual report a few years ago, it was the first time in three decades it had reached that milestone.

Should full accreditation finally come to KCPS this year or next, Bedell acknowledged that would be a “huge gorilla off our shoulder” and would “create a sense of pride in the city that they have not had for a long time.” The district owes it to students to provide them a diploma from a fully accredited district, he said.

Flatland has spent much of the past year exploring many of the education issues that are part of the district accreditation process in Missouri.

Through Take Note, we have examined the school-choice movement that has taken hold in the city as an alternative to the struggling school district. We have also explored different ways of assessing students beyond the high-stakes standardized tests that play such a large role in judging the performance of schools and districts, including hosting a discussion that included Mike Reynolds, the chief research and accountability officer in the Kansas City district.

And our American Graduate: Getting to Work project is all about the college and career readiness piece that factors into districts’ annual performance review.

In assessing those components, Bedell said the district’s improving performance could very well make parents focus again on the positives it offers, such as extracurricular activities that are usually more varied than at charter schools.

He also pointed to increased Advanced Placement offerings and pre-testing for college placement exams as a couple ways the district is preparing students for life after high school.

Take Note is Kansas City PBS’s multi-year education reporting project. In this season, we are examining all aspects of the school of the future. Keep an eye on the website and join the conversation at #TakeNoteKC.


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