"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

KC Schools Lose Accreditation

To the surprise of perhaps no one, the Kansas School District lost its MSBE accreditation, effective January 1, 2012. The district failed to meet the minimum six of the State Board of Education's fourteen performance standards in order to retain their provisional accreditation which they have held since 2002.

Most Missourians are all too familiar with KC's school woes.  Who can forget the massive court case, the rise of Judge Russell Clark as the defacto sole director of the district, the funds lost to other districts so that KC could receive "what it needed" to fix their schools, the bureaucracy, mismanagement and fraud that cost almost $2 billion in the 90's with nothing to show for it?

Just a year ago we wrote about the policy KCMSD adopted of grouping pre-K-6 students by ability (at least in math and reading) rather than age in an attempt to focus teaching on the student's particular needs (MEW July 30, 2010)   At the time Richard DeLorenzo, co-founder of the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, which coaches schools on implementing the reform, said that such drastic changes could take time to explain to parents, teachers and students. He gave this prediction in July of last year, "If the community isn't sold on the effort, it will bomb."

What can be learned from KC's latest news? They failed to meet the standards in the areas of math and communication arts which clearly are impacted by the type of policy change noted above. Was the community not sold enough on the changes? Did they need more time to show improvement?

Money wasn't the answer for KC. Ability grouping seems not to be working (scores actually went down from 2010 in both areas for K-8.) It can't be the staff, because Andrea Flinders, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers and School-Related Personnel, assures us in the stlToday article, "We've got great teachers and staff in our schools. I think we have to continue to do what they're doing and that's taking care of kids." So what does KCMSD need to succeed? Finding  the answer to this question should be critical to people in KC, DESE and MSBE.
There is a bright spot in this story. KC did meet the standards for advanced courses, career education courses and career education placement. Why is this significant?  It means that, for a certain percentage of their students, they are doing a good job.  For the brighter students, the ones we are counting on to be gainfully employed or, even better, the job creators of the future, things are good in KC. The fact that they did not meet a state standard for college placement, but did meet the standard for career education and placement, shows that KC schools are doing their part to help students, for whom the traditional academic path is not right, find other means of developing themselves so they become self sufficient adults. Those two facts should be very encouraging for KC and society in general.

What will happen to KC schools if the answers to the questions about why they failed are found to be politically undesirable?  How do you fix something when you are not willing to identify the real problem? Stan Archie, a state education board member from Kansas City, gives us clue what you do.  He said he, "hopes for improvement in the district and that the loss of accreditation could help boost the resources and attention paid to its schools." Apparently his memory about KCMSD is not as good as everyone else's. So expect to see continued changes to curriculum, testing and reporting that only appear to be addressing the problem, public bureaucrats perpetually speaking about the need for more money and a revolving door on the people at the top of the local administration as a steady stream of scapegoats go in and out.  That way, no one can say they aren't at least trying to help the little children, and we can always HOPE that things will get better.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I hope the state doesn't try what it did in the 80's with this district...or any other district:


    It only cost $2 Billion in the KC school district and they end up unaccredited. It would seem money is not the answer?


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