The Kansas City School District will avoid a state takeover, but a significant increase in test scores won't be enough to regain provisional accreditation this year, Missouri education officials said.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education agency released Friday morning state test scores for the entire state.
The Kansas City School District lost its accreditation nearly two years ago, and district officials had hoped to regain provisional accreditation this year. The Missouri General Assembly passed a law that takes effect next week that would allow for an immediate takeover, but that's not going to happen as some community leaders had wanted.
The Hickman-Mills School District won't get full accreditation but will remain provisionally accredited. The state has been working with district officials to combat declining test scores. The district's board hired a new superintendent who has been shaking up the district.
Click here to read a statement from the Hickman-Mills School District addressing the results.
The state also released Friday graduation rates and attendance, which are used to determine a district's accreditation status.
State officials say Kansas City public school students saw a significant increase in test scores.
The state just overhauled its accreditation process, and DESE officials say districts have to show steady progress and a trend to regain provisional accreditation. Education commissioner Chris Nicastro said KCPS can't use test scores from the old system as a comparison to this year's data as part of the new system.
"One annual performance rating does not show a trend and will not turn around accreditation," Nicastro said.
The state board wants greater oversight of unaccredited districts and is looking to develop a long-term plan to help children in struggling districts like KCPS. The state wants to develop policies, practices, systems and governance structures to turn around student performance.
Still, KCPS Superintendent Stephen Green is beaming about the district's test scores.
"You will see that this district has made significant gains in the area of test performance," he said. "What we accomplished is not an accident. It was by design, strategic, systematic intentional and we will be that way going forward."
Green told a packed room at Paseo Academy that it is the beginning of the renaissance of KCPS and they should be inspired by the improvements made by the district.
"Today I'm proud to say our attendance rate and graduation rates are on the rise. Teachers' salaries have improved. Not only do we have a strong, compelling case for receiving provisional accreditation status, but we are perched and poised for full accreditation in the course of this school year," he said.
He maintains that the district has done enough to justify provisional accreditation.
"We will be in the position to make a strong case and a compelling appeal for a change of classification from unaccredited to at least provisionally accredited," he said.
He believes the district can become fully accredited next year.
"We are going to work better, work smarter. We will be more focused. Yes, we want to take time to recognize what we accomplished today. But more importantly you should know as we know we are not satisfied," Green said.
More KCPS students scored better in every subject, especially in science and social studies. The biggest gain was from 20.9 percent of students being proficient or better in science to 28.2 percent. In social studies, the gain was from 22.6 percent.
The gains were more modest in English and math. In English, the percentage of students proficient or advanced went from 29.7 percent in 2012 to 30.6 percent in 2013. In math, the percentage rose from 28.7 percent to 30.2 percent.
But those numbers are far shy of surrounding districts that are fully accredited.
For example, the Independence School District's lowest percentage was 41.9 percent in math and 56.2 percent were proficient or advanced in science.
DESE leaders said they want to monitor the district for two or three more years before changing the district's status and at least one parent agrees with them. Jamekia Kendrix said the district may have improved things like attendance, but the test scores show only 30 percent of students are proficient in math and reading.
"I think it's great to improve attendance, graduation rates and college placement. But what I really want to see is actually 50 percent or more of kids proficient on what they are supposed to know," Kendrix said.
But Green argues the district can't wait on having its status changed, since it could lose a number of students this spring who will be allowed by the courts to transfer to an accredited school district.
"Therefore we'd have to pay tuition, pay for transportation for students to exit the school district and to go to neighboring school districts. I just think it would be very unfair," he said.
Green said the district will focus on an early childhood development effort, an enhanced curriculum, improved teaching methods and technology and improved high school support programs.
This is the second time within the past 15 years that the Kansas City School District has lost its state accreditation.
Click here to read more on the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP 5) results.
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