Kansas City public schools superintendent remains upbeat - KCTV5

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Kansas City public schools superintendent remains upbeat

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

The superintendent of the Kansas City school district was upbeat when he delivered his annual State of the Schools address to the community Monday as the district seeks an accreditation upgrade.

The Missouri Board of Education is unlikely to grant the district provisional accreditation, but Superintendent Stephen Green said much progress has been made.

"We're right there knocking at the door," he said during his address, which he delivered at Paseo Academy's newly renovated performing arts auditorium. "We are right there at the cusp of the kind of greatness you would expect from us."

His speech came just days after Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said she wouldn't recommend partial accreditation for the unaccredited district. A change would make the district no longer subject to a state law that allows students to transfer to accredited districts.

Nicastro said the district must show sustained improvement over a period of years and not just one year. She also noted shortcomings were in a number of areas.

"As a team, we were profoundly disappointed, but we were not discouraged," Green said.

The final decision rests with the state board, which will vote on Oct. 11.

The district argues it deserves an accreditation upgrade because it nearly scored in the provisionally accredited range last year and hit the mark this year. The state uses test scores, attendance rates and other data to evaluate districts.

Green spoke about how much students have improved rather than the district's accreditation status. District officials credit Saturday and summer classes as well as classes over spring break for helping fuel the improvements.

Green also spoke passionately about sending a negative message to the school by saying what they have done to improve test scores has not been enough. Seventy percent of students still scored less than proficient on state tests.

He pointed out that students went from 27 percent of meeting accreditation standards, the lowest in the state, to 60 percent. He also said that 16 out of 32 schools achieved accreditation on their own.

"We have got to be careful what we say to children. We have got to be careful, even though it is below provisional accreditation. What we say is we've climbed. We have to be careful what we say to the minds of children and those who work with our children," Green said.

Green said the district will bring back middle schools for seventh-graders and eighth-graders next year.

The district will reopen Central Middle and Northeast Middle, and expects 400 seventh-graders.

Because of problems in those two schools and low test scores, the district had previously closed the two schools and moved seventh-graders to elementary schools and eighth-graders to high school.

But district officials believe a change is needed, and voiced the reasoning that many parents had used in opposing the closing of the middle schools initially.

"It meets their needs. Adolescents go through a unique experience," said Cynthia Johnson, middle school coordinator for the district. "This new environment allows them the time they need to learn and grow."

Teachers say they are adapting and offering quality instruction.

"If the students don't get it today, we change our lesson for tomorrow to make sure they are mastering the content," East High School Principal Tom Herrera said.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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