Education | KCUR

Education

KCUR 89.3 covers education issues across the Kansas City region and in Kansas and Missouri. 

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Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

There were 307 students enrolled at Pitcher Elementary on the last day of school, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

Pitcher is about as far east as a school can be and still be in the Kansas City Public Schools – out by the stadiums, mere blocks from the Independence and Raytown districts. Kids come and go constantly as their families’ circumstances change.

Kansas has some of the highest education achievement standards in the country, but students are struggling to reach that high bar.

The new report from the National Center For Education Statistics standardized state proficiency assessments for math and reading in 2015. For eighth grade, Kansas had the highest benchmark for proficiency in both reading and math out of the states evaluated.

The University of Kansas is offering a three-year path to a bachelor’s degree.

The “Degree In Three” program is a partnership between KU, six school districts and three community colleges. Students will begin earning college credit in high school. They will then be able to complete an associate’s degree in one year at one of the partnering community colleges and finish their final two years at KU.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Updated at 4:20 p.m. Thursday with response from the district.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas is suing the Shawnee Mission School District for allegedly violating students' free speech rights.

Students complained in April after administrators in several schools allegedly censored students during the nationwide walkouts protesting gun violence. Among other incidents, students said a Hocker Grove principal  pushed a student for mentioning school shootings in a speech and an administrator at Shawnee Mission North confiscated a student journalist's camera.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Students with disabilities often miss out on opportunities their peers take for granted, like learning a foreign language.

That's why Shawnee Mission West French teacher Katie Bogart works hard to accommodate all different kinds of learners in her classroom.

“They struggle more with some of the grammar that we do, a lot of the written work,” Bogart says. “That can be a little bit more challenging.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City’s first single-gender public school has a sponsor.

The Missouri Charter Public School Commission voted to accept Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy’s application Wednesday morning after an evening of public testimony overwhelmingly in support of the school.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who is on the charter school’s board of directors, told the commission most of his staffers are women.

Kansas universities had about 800 more students enrolled this spring than they did last year, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

That’s about a half percent more — essentially flat. But flat is better than the national figure, which saw enrollment across the United States drop about 1.3 percent, or about 231,000 fewer students.

Courtesy Ray Weikal / Kansas City Public Schools

Three schools will get $1.4 million from education nonprofit SchoolSmartKC to improve student performance, Kansas City Public Schools announced Friday.

Principal Dana Carter says she started to cry when she found out on the second-to-last day of school she’d have an additional $600,000 to implement Gladstone Elementary’s strategic plan.

“Literally, tears ran down my face,” Carter says. “It was a very exciting moment. Then when I shared it with our staff, it was screams of joy, everyone applauding.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Friday is the last day of school at DeLaSalle Education Center, a charter high school in Kansas City that primarily enrolls students who haven’t succeeded elsewhere.

It’s also a time of reflection for those who taught them.

At 22, first-year Teach For America corps member Pranav Nanda isn’t that much older than his students. At the start of the school year, Nanda worried students might not respect someone they saw as a peer. But over time, he came to see his age as an advantage.

Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

If districts suing the state get their way, the Kansas Legislature could be back in Topeka within weeks to add another half a billion dollars to school budgets in time for the coming academic year.

The districts hope the Kansas Supreme Court will also tell the state to phase in hundreds of millions beyond that in the years to come.

The University of Kansas fired its athletic director on Monday.

Sheahon Zenger has led KU’s athletic department since 2011. In a letter to the KU community, Chancellor Douglas Girod said KU athletics has failed to make progress in “key areas."

file photo

Public universities in Kansas are proposing tuition hikes significantly lower than some of the larger increases seen in recent years. The schools presented the plans to the Kansas Board of Regents this week.

The increases in tuition and fees for in-state, undergraduate students range from 1.2 percent at Kansas State University to 3 percent at the University of Kansas.

The University of Kansas is being criticized for retaining former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little at a salary of more than half a million dollars

But the arrangement is far from unusual in Kansas.

Public universities in Kansas saw some of their funding restored as part of the new state budget.

The budget restores $15 million to the Kansas Board of Regents. In fiscal year 2017, state universities spent about $570 million in state funding.  

The president of Garden City Community College faces growing pressure to resign over a range of sexual harassment issues at the school and a threat to its accreditation.

This week, the college’s faculty senate demanded Herbert Swender step down — citing what it says was a too-slow reaction to accusations that a coach sexually harassed former cheerleaders and directed racist remarks at them. Local residents echoed those sentiments to the school’s board of trustees.

Meanwhile, the community college faces possible suspension of its accreditation.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A state-mandated redistricting of the Kansas City Public Schools Board of Directors could result in a complete turnover of seats next spring, injecting uncertainty during a period of relative stability for the district.

Most Missouri school boards have seven members, and a 2013 law requires the nine-member KCPS board to eliminate one sub-district and one at-large seat by April 2019. Because all seven seats will be open at the same time, it’s possible voters will install an all-new board.

Missouri Valley Special Collections / Kansas City Public Library

Most cities have a school system. Kansas City has a system of schools.

It’s an important distinction in a metro bisected by a state line, in a city with dozens of charters, in a school district state lawmakers intentionally kept small.  This is a place where the quality of education often depends on parents’ ability to navigate a frustratingly complex system.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated)  

The ink is barely dry on a deal to increase school spending by more than half a billion dollars, but Kansas is already headed for a fresh round of legal arguments.

School districts suing the state say the plan falls short in part because it will happen gradually over five years. They want the Kansas Supreme Court to make the state pay out $506 million more this fiscal year — on top of the $190 million boost the Legislature had already promised.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Updated at 4:40 p.m. 

After threatening to sue the Shawnee Mission School District for allegedly keeping students from participating in April's nationwide walkouts to protest gun violence, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas will not take legal action against district — at least for now.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

It’s a common refrain in career and technical education: school must prepare students for jobs that haven’t been invented yet.

To do that, vocational training centers are undergoing high-tech transformations, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Lee’s Summit. The gleaming, $64 million Missouri Innovation Campus that opened last fall has been hailed as a game changer for accelerating the time it takes for a four-year degree after high school.

photo illustration / Kansas News Service

Gov. Jeff Colyer has what he wanted — a bill to make sure schools get a funding increase of more than half a billion dollars is headed to his desk.

But senators who took the final vote Monday weren’t too happy about what they passed. Across party lines, some were already predicting an emergency legislative session in their near future.

Colyer praised lawmakers for finishing a second school finance bill this session to correct an $80 million error in the first.

“I look forward to signing this,” he said in a statement.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Since it was revealed that former University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was still on the payroll as a consultant, there have been questions about exactly what she is doing for her $510,000 salary.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas senators will return Monday to find a school finance fix waiting on their desks, hammered out in the House over the weekend.

The bill undoes an $80 million error inserted last-minute into this year’s school funding bill.

“The overwhelming majority of our body wanted to make sure those funds were allowed to be given to the districts,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman said after the measure passed 92 to 27.  “It’s in the Senate’s hands now.”

Jimmy Emerson / Flickr-CC

The University of Central Missouri has abandoned a plan to move arts and humanities into its College of Education, instead considering a different kind of reorganization.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City’s most vulnerable students often fall behind when their families move often. And when the kids don’t meet the state’s expectations on standardized tests, their school district gets dinged. That makes it hard for districts with a lot of student turnover to improve their standing.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City-area students joined their peers from across the country on Friday, rallying to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre and pay tribute to other victims of mass shootings.

Students left their schools and made their way to a rally in Midtown's Hyde Park, where students from 10 high schools organized the rally to coincide with the walkouts. It attracted about 150 people. Although that fell short of their goal of 500, the teen organizers said they were glad they got to connect with students from other schools.

UMKC

On Wednesday morning, University of Missouri-Kansas City officials announced that "some of our ranks will be leaving UMKC." 

An email interim chancellor and provost Barbara Bichelmeyer sent to faculty and staff stated that the university had worked for months "to reduce our deficit and to make strategic investments." And, she said, with a new fiscal year approaching, it was "time to act on these decisions."

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers voted last weekend to increase public school funding over the next half decade — the latest chapter in a long and winding court battle.

            Five things about Kansas’ school finance fight

The story is far from over. Here’s what’s ahead in the coming weeks and months, and where it could all spin out of control.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to fix a costly mistake in the school finance bill passed after midnight on the last day of the regular session.

“It needs to be taken care of,” Colyer said Wednesday. “We’ll work with the Legislature on doing that.”

The error — a byproduct of confusion and deal-making in the session’s final hours early Sunday morning —makes re-engineering the state’s school finance formula more difficult than usual.

National Assessment of Educational Progress

Missouri students scored about as well as Illinois students but trailed their peers in Kansas on a national math and reading assessment, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced Tuesday.

Scores on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress – known colloquially as NAEP and sometimes referred to as the nation’s report card – remained steady, with Missouri fourth and eighth graders doing about as well as they did in 2015.

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