Nicastro: Kansas City public schools must do more - KCTV5

Nicastro: Kansas City public schools must do more to regain accreditation

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Missouri education commissioner Chris Nicastro (File photo) Missouri education commissioner Chris Nicastro (File photo)

Missouri's education commissioner says more progress is needed before she can recommend that the Kansas City School District regain accreditation.

The state education board is almost certain to accept the recommendation from Chris Nicastro at next month's meeting, but is unlikely to move for a state takeover.

"The data suggest that the district has hard work ahead to improve student performance," according to a statement from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

State commissioners voted two years ago to strip the district of its accreditation, which was effective January 2013. The Missouri General Assembly has given the state education agency the power to immediately take over failing districts rather than having to wait the traditional two years to work with a district.

Citing improved test scores and other barometers, Superintendent Stephen Green had asked the board earlier this month to restore the district's provisional accreditation status.

But even before Green's presentation, Nicastro had said that those test score improvements were based on new state tests and thus could not be a true trend of improving student achievement at positive levels.

Green said Nicastro's decision wasn't unexpected based on her previous statements.

"We are neither shocked nor dismayed by it," he said while reading prepared remarks at district headquarters Thursday night.

He said the board will have the ultimate say and he hopes the state board will vote to restore provisional accreditation. He said much work has been done by his administration over the past two years, and he believes the data shows the district has earned provisional accreditation.

"We stand by our position and firmly believe that we have made dramatic and unprecedented progress despite the increase in state standards over the past two years," he said. "In fact, no school district in Missouri has improved at the rate that the Kansas City Public Schools has improved during this period and we continue to focus on improving our student achievement."

He said not having accreditation undermines the district. He said the district needs stability to maintain growth.

Green became superintendent two years ago when then Superintendent John Covington unexpectedly quit to take a job in Detroit. The board frantically hired Green in hopes of halting the loss of accreditation in a period of turmoil, but that did not occur.

In a statement issued Thursday, Nicastro said there have been improvements, but she remains concerned that too many students are struggling in the district, which has twice been unaccredited in less than 15 years.

"The district's first performance report under the Missouri School Improvement Program 5 (MSIP 5) showed progress in science and math, but less than 30 percent of students are proficient in those subjects. In English language arts and math, almost 70 percent of Kansas City students are not reading or performing math at grade level," Nicastro said. "We were pleased to see the progress students made in Kansas City schools this year in science and math, but we must do what we believe is in the best interests of the children."

Nicastro said her agency will continue to work closely with the district, but did not detail how.

The department will continue to work closely with the Kansas City School District to help sustain its improvement efforts.

In her letter to Green telling him about her decision, Nicastro did praise the progress made the district's "improved financial stability and climate."

She said she knows much hard work and commitment has come from district leaders, administrators, teachers, parents and students.

She offered additional words of encouragement.

"Please continue your good work. We look forward to continuing to work with you. The children of Kansas City are depending on all of us to ensure they receive a quality education," she wrote.

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