Kansas City Public Schools gained provisional accreditation this week after Missouri's school board unanimously approved the removal of the district's unaccredited label via teleconference.
While overall performance within the district is still low, growth points were seen in math and English language arts, where "a significant number" of students continue to move up to higher performance categories. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Kansas City earned 61.8% of total possible accreditation points this year, up from 60% last year.
Superintendent Steve Green and district staff was praised by the school board for their hard work since 2011 when scores hit bottom and former Superintendent John Covington quickly left the position.
"I appreciate the work they have done (since) the announcement and chaos when Dr. Covington left," state board member Charlie Shields said. "The district is on solid footing and heading in the right direction."
After the calamitous events of 2011, Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro had suggested the Kansas City school board step aside and allow a state-appointed board to take over rather than wait out the two-year period state law gave them to turn things around. Nicastro had hoped to make Kansas City schools an example of how state control was needed on the education front.
The board refused, and legislature giving the state the control Nicastro wanted was put in the works. It was not passed until 2013 due to other educational issues amending the bill in such a way that it did not pass in earlier votes. By that time district performance had begun to improve, and Nicastro offered to suggest accreditation if performance would continue to rise.
The decision will allow Kansas City schools to no longer follow the state law that requires unaccredited schools to allow students to transfer to another district. This means that the 10 families who qualified will have to decide whether to have their children return to Kansas City or pay the tuition themselves.
"I wish the district the best, but now I have to make a decision," she said. "Provisional accreditation based on scores does not show me as a parent that anything has changed. Those are numbers. What promise can they make that they are changing what's going on in our schools?"
Green said he hopes the families will give staff the opportunity to sit down and talk about their choices before making any final decisions.
A news conference this week brought together parent and community leaders to discuss planned educational reforms. Parents were able to see the strong partnership the school district has developed with these groups.
"There's massive trust there," said parent leader Jamekia Kendrix. "You can't put that together overnight."