State Board of Education President Peter Herschend issued the following statement in response to the Kansas City Star's article on the selection of CEE-Trust:
The Missouri State Board of Education made the ultimate decision in selecting CEE-Trust after an open and competitive bid process, and CEE-Trust was the clear choice for conducting analyses and making recommendations for transforming Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS). It’s important to note that CEE-Trust’s recommendations will be one proposal among several other useful approaches – including a framework from the superintendent association – coming forward for the management of failing schools.
After the passage of Senate Bill 125, the Board – along with the rest of the state – urged the Department and the Commissioner to act swiftly to institute change in unaccredited school districts, but some groups are fighting even suggestions of change. Change is always hard and many will oppose change, but what we are doing now is not working. We as a state and the State Board of Education have to find better ways of helping students, schools, teachers and education leadership over the barrier of failing schools.
After more than 30 years of failure in KCPS, we need to seize this moment to have a community conversation about how we educate our kids. We ask that you reserve judgment before any plan has been formulated or even ideas discussed. All of the recommendations for school system transformation will be debated by teachers, parents, students and community leaders. Ultimately, our hope is that the analyses and debate will result in a better future for our children.
We want to be clear about the current performance of schools in Kansas City. Here is a look at where KCPS currently stands:
- In mathematics and English language arts, only about 30 percent of all reportable KCPS students scored proficient in 2012-2013. In English language arts for grades 3-8, all grades are below 30 percent proficient.
- In English language arts, the MAP Performance Index (MPI) averaged across all grade levels actually declined over the past three years. Last year's third grade proficiency rate of 23.12 percent was lower than it was in 2007.
- Proficiency improved in science and social studies, but student scores remained below 30 percent proficient across all students in both subjects.
- KCPS's higher performance is concentrated in selective enrollment signature schools. In high school math, for example, most schools that exceeded state averages in Algebra I, were signature schools. For the three schools that accept all students, Algebra I proficiency rates were 32.8 percent, 16.1 percent and 12.1 percent.
- Similarly, while the graduation rate at East High School improved in 2012-13, graduation rates averaged across all open enrollment high schools was below 60 percent. That means that more than four out of 10 students in Kansas City's non-selective high schools failed to complete high school.
- Average student growth in KCPS is below the state average in both English and math, which are the only two subjects for which the state measures growth. Some may argue that Kansas City’s proficiency rates are low because of a low starting point, so there’s more room for progress to allow the district to catch up. Yet the district earned the state's lowest rating for growth in both ELA and math in 2012-13. This means the KCPS students grew less on average than their peers across Missouri, falling further behind rather than catching up.
We know that everyone has an interest in improving KCPS as well as Normandy and Riverview Gardens in St. Louis. We must lay aside political differences and allegiances and come together to make schools work better for our kids. They deserve nothing less than our best efforts, and they deserve them now.