Friday, Aug. 23, 2013
Missouri report card gives Kansas City better grades
By JOE ROBERTSON
The Kansas City Star
The first round of scores has landed under Missouris new performance report for school districts with good news for Kansas City, not-so-good news for St. Louis.
The reports were mostly encouraging for Kansas City area districts as they chase after performance benchmarks that will rise steadily through the end of the decade.
Kansas City Public Schools, as it had been projecting, reached 60 percent of the possible points it could earn, placing the unaccredited district securely above the 50 percent needed to be considered for provisional accreditation.
It marked a dramatic rise from the 19.6 percent the district had scored last fall in a test of the new accountability system using the past three years of performance data.
Kansas Citys jump, balanced heavily on the points the new system grants for growth in student performance, stood in contrast to St. Louis Public Schools, currently provisionally accredited, and the two other unaccredited districts in the St. Louis area Normandy and Riverview Gardens.
All three of those districts remained mired with low scores St. Louis at 24.6 percent, Riverview Gardens at 28.6 and Normandy at 11.1.
Among 26 Kansas City-area K-12 districts, 15 earned more than 90 percent of their possible points, which would make them candidates to be accredited with distinction.
Nine districts scored between 70 and 90 percent, the level needed to be considered for full accreditation.
Two districts Kansas City at 60 percent and Hickman Mills at 51.8 scored at the provisional level.
The scores are a major factor in earning accreditation, but the state school board determines a districts status. In most cases, the state will want at least two and usually three years of data under the new system before changing a districts status, said Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro.
We applaud Kansas Citys effort, Nicastro said. But the state intends to judge districts in the context of sustainable trends, she said. One annual performance report does not constitute a sustainable trend, whether for improvement or decline.
Kansas City wants an early decision in changing its accreditation status because it fears the impact of a student transfer law that could be implemented in Kansas City as early as next spring.
The law, already being applied in the St. Louis area, allows students in unaccredited districts to transfer to nearby districts at the cost of the unaccredited district.
Kansas Citys leadership team will be meeting with Nicastro and her staff in early September, and Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green expects he will have a strong case.
If you look at us in operations, finances and academically, we are stabilized and improving dramatically in some cases, Green said. This is the beginning of a renaissance for this district.
The road ahead, however, gets harder for all school districts especially those benefiting from points for growth in student performance.
The new accountability system deepens the measures in academic performance, college and career readiness, graduation rate and attendance. The state is applying the scoring system not just to districts but for individual schools.
Whats better and scary is that each building gets a breakdown, said Grandview Superintendent Ralph Teran. It helps get data as close as you can to the source, the kids.
Grandview, a school district where three-fourths of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, opened the new system with a score of 93.6 percent.
The score feels good for the kids, Teran said. But Grandview gobbled up many points for improvement, which it will have to build on.
With everything ratcheting up, we have to work really hard to maintain our status, he said. Its going to be a haul.
One district that has a lot of work ahead is Hickman Mills, under new Superintendent Dennis Carpenter. Hickman Mills was knocked down to provisional accreditation last year.
Teachers joined in a summer of work matching performance targets to the states rising benchmarks and worked with consultants on instructional strategies, Carpenter said.
I find this system of accountability to be both fair and realistic, he said.
While most of the area school districts opened with scores in the fully accredited range, the reports were much more mixed for area charter schools.
Most of the charter schools, like Kansas City, serve high concentrations of poor students and some like University Academy and Allen Village scored above 90 percent. But others scored in the unaccredited level, including Hogan Preparatory Academy, Della Lamb and Banneker Academy. Gordon Parks, which was spared the loss of its charter by a court ruling this summer, scored 50 percent.
Some schools that primarily try to serve high-risk students and former dropouts, DeLaSalle and Hope Academy, scored under 25 percent.
Charter schools, public schools that operate independently, are scored by the state but are held accountable by the universities that sponsor them. Still, the states measures are pushing them higher, said Allen Village Principal Phyllis Washington.
Allen Village began accelerating more of its students into algebra I and English I in the eighth grade in part to reach for the states rising expectations, Washington said.
We push for the best as hard as we can, she said. Were pushing kids toward more technology. Were going to have to raise the bar. All of us are going to have to think out of the box.
In Kansas City, teachers and principals are deep into the next quest, pushing student performance to levels that would put the district at the fully accredited level at this time next year, Green said.
It will be harder, he said, But weve got the wiring in place to sustain this effort. I want a stethoscope on every student, like a doctor getting vital signs, getting the academic heartbeat.