MISSOURI'S BIG INNER-CITY SCHOOLS IN SHAMBLES: State Board of Education strips KC schools of accreditation today

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BY TIM SAMPSON
Missouri News Horizon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The state board of education has voted unanimously to revoke the provisional accreditation of the Kansas City School District in the wake of a poor academic evaluation.  The Kansas City School District has more than 17,000 students in 22 elementary schools, 6 high schools, and one tech career center.

The board’s vote on Tuesday is the first step in a process that could result in the state appointing a new administrative board to govern the local schools.

It comes just days after the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a report detailing the poor performance of Kansas City school students, teachers and administrators. According to DESE, the district only met three of 14 performance standards during its most recent review.

After delaying the decision for the past several years, Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said the state had no option but to revoke the district’s accreditation. By taking such a drastic measure, Nicastro hopes to galvanize school leaders and staff into making necessary changes.

“What we hoped two years ago didn’t happen,” she said. “We’ve not seen an improvement in performance and we really believe this is the only recourse that we have.”

The district’s academic troubles extend back nearly two decades. Its accreditation was previously revoked in 2000 in response to poor academic performance and low graduation rates, among other problems. Kansas City schools were able to increase their academic indicators enough by 2002 to avoid a state takeover, but since then their performance has dropped-off again.

The accreditation vote is a blow to the district, which is still searching for a superintendent to replace John Covington, who resigned unexpectedly from Kansas City schools last month to take a job in Michigan.

Kansas City now joins the same category as St. Louis public schools, which lost their accreditation several years ago and has since been taken over by an advisory commission appointed by local and state officials.

Generally, Missouri school districts must meet six of the state’s 14 academic standards to attain provisional accreditation status and nine of the standards to receive full accreditation. Standards include such performance indicators as test scores, graduation rates and college placement.

The decision by the board of education was ultimately unanimous, despite the misgivings of board Vice President Stan Archie, who represents the Kansas City area. He expressed concerned that the unaccredited label would hurt the future academic prospects of current students. But he said the low test scores and performance indicators gave him little to argue against.

“The numbers just aren’t there,” Archie said. “It tears you apart to do something that you think is going to remanufacture the district and restructure it in a way that will at least, even in the preliminary stages, create some challenges. But the numbers aren’t there.”

The Kansas City School District was the only district to loose accreditation out of 18 that were all evaluated by the board of education on Tuesday.