CONTACT: Michele Clark
Vol. 45, No. 70
Aug. 26, 2011
KC School District Up for Classification Decision This Fall
The Kansas City School District is among several districts due to receive a formal classification this year by the state. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will present a recommendation to the State Board of Education after 2010-11 performance results are finalized in mid-September.
Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro expressed concern but tamped down speculation the state would seek a takeover with the announced departure of Superintendent John Covington. However, she signaled the likelihood of the district maintaining its “provisionally accredited” status may now be at greater risk.
“We informed the district last year the decision could follow this year’s final Annual Performance Report,” Nicastro said. “We were feeling very positive about the direction the district was taking with its improvement plan, but we must consider the recent developments.”
In 2008, the urban district serving nearly 17,000 students received an in-depth, on-site review as part of the fourth cycle of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP). Three key findings were identified for improvement: student performance, stability in the office of superintendent, and restricting the role of the board to policymaking, not the day-to-day operations of the district.
The Department put on hold the fourth cycle classification recommendation to allow the district time to implement its plan for improvement and address the findings in the report.
“The goal of MSIP is to foster improvement, and the Department has been working closely with the district to put the improvement plan in place,” Nicastro said. “We have been very pleased with the progress made to stabilize infrastructure and financial issues. These were critical to address the issue of student performance. Until this week we were also pleased with progress on the other two findings. Sadly, it appears that this progress has been abruptly halted.”
School districts that receive a classification of “unaccredited” have two years probation to regain provisional or fully accredited status or else lapse to state control. Under current law, if the State Board of Education took action at its September 20 meeting to designate the Kansas City district as unaccredited, the earliest lapse would be June 30, 2014.
Nicastro expressed frustration with the state law’s arbitrary two-year probation period, noting that Kansas City is an example of both extremes when a district may need more time to make progress, or the state may need to step in more quickly to intervene.