Elle Moxley | KCUR

Elle Moxley

Education Reporter

Elle covers education for KCUR. The best part of her job is talking to students. Before coming to KCUR in 2014, Elle covered Indiana education policy for NPR’s StateImpact project. Her work covering Indiana’s exit from the Common Core was nationally recognized with an Edward R. Murrow award. Her work at KCUR has been recognized by the Missouri Broadcasters Association and the Kansas City Press Club. She is a graduate of the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism. Elle regularly tweets photos of her dog, Kingsley. There is a wounded Dr. Ian Malcolm bobblehead on her desk.

Ways to Connect

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri students spending more money to earn degrees want to know they’re making a sound investment in their future. That’s why college administrators have started steering them toward in-demand professions like education and nursing, where they’re all but guaranteed jobs. 

It’s a pathway to get students to and through college with less debt when they graduate. But some students and professors say Missouri’s colleges and universities still have an obligation to provide a well-rounded liberal arts education, and are tired of having to defend their majors every time state lawmakers propose another round of cuts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Middle schoolers in the Kansas City area are paying close attention to Greta Thunberg and other youth climate activists making waves across the world. They’re also proposing their own solutions for global warming.

“I like to see kids taking action about what might happen in the future,” said Liam McKinley, an eighth grader at Chisholm Trail Middle School in Olathe. “I like to come up with random ideas about how we can fix that, even though it might not be achievable in the next few years.”

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

A Kansas City charter school that closed in 2018 still owes millions of dollars to the state – and the Missouri Attorney General’s office has gotten involved.

Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology leaders resisted closure at every turn. They also never distributed any of the computers or education materials to other schools, according to the closure coordinator, and are possibly sitting on millions of dollars owed to the state after selling their building.

How the Missouri education department measures student comprehension and school performance is complicated. The manual for determining a school’s performance is dozens of pages long. 

Making it even more complex, students have taken four different sets of tests in six years. Just when the test saw stability, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education overhauled the way it presents school performance (in short, it got more colorful and less numerical).

We had the headlines for what to make of this year’s Annual Performance Reports and Missouri Assessment Program tests. But now that there’s been time to digest the data, here are takeaways:

Illustration by David Kovaluk / St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s school report cards are out, and they don’t look anything like they did last year.

The redesigned Annual Performance Report (APR) does away with the percentile score that the state uses to make accreditation decisions and replaces it with color-coded bar graphs meant to give parents a more detailed look at how their school district or charter school is doing. 

But educators aren’t sure how accessible all that information really is.

Schools across the country are so fed up with students vaping on campus that they're suing the e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs.

Multiple districts filed lawsuits on Monday, including school systems in Olathe, Kan.; St. Charles, Mo.; Long Island, N.Y.; and La Conner, Wash. Three of those suits charge that Juul has hooked a generation of young smokers with its sweet flavors, placing a burden on schools.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Updated at 7:00 a.m. Oct. 7 — Celeste Trevino was dancing with a "friend of a friend" early Sunday morning at Tequila KC. It was about a half-hour before closing time when two men came into the close-knit neighborhood bar in Kansas City, Kansas. One of the men walked toward the pair.

“We were talking and dancing,” she said through tears at a Sunday night vigil, “and the next thing I knew, he wasn’t there anymore.”

Her dance partner, whom she called Ever, was killed, along with three other Latino men ranging in age from their mid 20 to late 50s. Five others were wounded. Police said they don’t believe the shooting was racially motivated — but said it wasn’t random, either.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Olathe School District on Friday voted to authorize a lawsuit against the nation’s leading maker of electronic cigarettes, saying the widespread use by students of vaping devices is endangering their health and disrupting their education.

In a news release issued after it approved the suit, the district said that it “understands the threat to student health and is taking action against the epidemic.”

Photo illustration by Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Across the metro, Kansas City schools are serving more students of color, especially Latinos, but that diversity isn’t reflected on school boards.

Without representation, students of color can feel like no one’s looking out for their interests.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

This story was updated at 2:03 p.m. with a comment from the school district.

Another lawsuit has been filed against the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District alleging racial discrimination during the hiring of spokeswoman last year.

In the lawsuit, Danielle Nixon alleges she did not get the job because of her race. According to court documents, former Superintendent Dennis Carpenter “told the selection committee that he would never hire an African American female for that key role.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

With college costs rising every year, Missouri’s A+ Scholarship Program is a bargain – 50 hours of tutoring in exchange for two free years of community college.

College access advocates, however, argue that the money isn’t going to the students who need it most.

“We know there are people who utilize A+ who come from families that make $100,000 or $200,000 a year,” said Karissa Anderson, the advocacy director for the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis.

School of Economics

If you grew up in suburban Kansas City in the 1990s, you probably remember taking a field trip to Exchange City or the Blue Springs School of Economics, simulated towns run entirely by 10-year-olds.

Exchange City closed years ago, but the Blue Springs program still teaches 12,000 elementary students a year about money, scarcity, opportunity cost and supply and demand. And next month, the School of Economics is opening a new downtown location in the UMB bank building.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City’s first charter school for girls only opens next week with a staff that reflects the diversity of its students and the community.

Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy is entering a crowded charter market, but school leaders are counting on a curriculum that highlights the contributions of women and people of color to attract and keep students.

Parent Monique Cannon decided to move her daughter, Dieerin Jamison, from another charter school so she could have more teachers of color.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Clay County Sheriff Sgt. Scott Archer walks down the hallway of Antioch Middle School and claps two blocks of wood together.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

The sound of simulated gunfire always gets Chris Edman’s blood pumping. Immediately, she and the other North Kansas City teachers Archer has trained begin to barricade the door with tables, chairs, filing cabinets, even a mini-fridge.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The past president of the Lee’s Summit school board says it will be hard for the district to attract qualified superintendent candidates after parting ways with the last two leaders.

“We are not a desirable destination district for quality candidates if they can expect to get treated the same way the community has treated superintendents in the past few years,” Terri Harmon, who was on the school board when Dennis Carpenter was hired in 2017, wrote in a letter to current board members this week.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Between the time they’re born and age 3, babies’ brains are literally mapping, making the connections they’ll need to learn later on.

In fact, 80 percent of a child’s brain develops in the first three years.

Lee's Summit R-7 Schools

A lawsuit filed in Jackson County circuit court earlier this month says the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District mishandled a sexual assault that was reported at one of the middle schools.

According to court documents, a female student identified as Jane Doe was raped in the boys' bathroom off the gymnasium at Bernard Campbell Middle School after school and sports practices on December 1, 2017.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Dennis Carpenter, the embattled Lee’s Summit superintendent who clashed with the school board over an equity plan, has resigned.

Carpenter, the district’s first black superintendent, received a one-year contract extension in March and will leave with $750,000, a portion of which will be paid by insurance. Details of the agreement have not been released yet.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

All kids get stomachaches from time to time, but 14-year-old Joey Sigrist’s pain was different.

When it would hit, he’d spend hours locked in the bathroom, clutching his stomach in agony.

“When you’re in that much pain, you just kind of take in the surroundings. I could hear a clock in a whole different room clicking away on the very back wall, and I could hear the shuffling of feet upstairs,” Joey said.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City schools issued more suspensions in 2018 than in 2015, according to a new citywide analysis from Turn the Page KC.

That’s despite a national reckoning with how students of color are disciplined versus their white peers.

“Missouri as a state, unfortunately, has a really high and disproportionate number of black boys that are suspended out of school each year,” said Annie Watson, the director of early education and parent success for Turn the Page. “What we see is that trend is certainly accurate at the local level.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

In a terse meeting that lasted just five minutes on Wednesday evening, the Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education approved a contract for staff diversity training.

It’s the same contract the same board rejected a month ago as racial tensions in the affluent suburb reached fever pitch. Three board members – Julie Doane, Kim Fritchie and Mike Allen – switched their no votes to yes after the district brought in a mediator from the Missouri School Boards Association. Only Judy Hedrick voted against the plan.

Symphony in The Flint Hills

Leaders of Symphony in the Flint Hills, an organization whose main event is an annual outdoor concert by the Kansas City Symphony that draws as many as 7,000 people, canceled the event this weekend after storms damaged the site of the performance.

“As all of us know who live in the Midwest, the environment determines the terms of our culture, and boy did that happen today,” said Leslie VonHolten, executive director of the Symphony in the Flint Hills, in a short video posted to Facebook on Saturday.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Student plaintiffs from a National School Walkout lawsuit have received their letters of apology from the Shawnee Mission School District.

The letters were part of the settlement the students reached with the district earlier this year, said Lauren Bonds, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James made education a top priority when he took office eight years ago.

He succeeded in getting the business and philanthropic community to rally around third grade reading, but he couldn’t convince voters to pass a pre-K sales tax.

Now Kansas City is about to pick a new mayor.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For more than 100 years, Eudora had a weekly newspaper.

“We were able to have a sports reporter, somebody that would come out when we had a structure fire and report on it,” said Mayor Tim Reazin, who moved to Eudora in 1997. “We had somebody that sat through the city commission meetings with us.”

But since 2004, more than 1,800 newspapers have folded, a third of them in rural communities. Eudora residents lost their paper in 2008. Reazin says the result is citizens are less informed – and starved for coverage.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Thirty-two seniors from DeLaSalle Education Center received their diplomas Friday, marking the first time the charter high school has graduated every student who started the year as a twelfth grader.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Lee’s Summit school board remains deeply divided over issues of race and equity, a week after voting down a plan to bring in consultants for diversity training.

At a tense work session Wednesday night, newly elected board member Mike Allen accused the district’s first black superintendent, Dennis Carpenter, of only caring about black students.

Carpenter responded, “I will not let you do this. Tell me when I said I was here for the black kids only.”

Ray Weikal / Kansas City Public Schools

Both traditional public schools and charters in Kansas City are increasingly segregated, expensive to run and losing high school students, according to a new report from the Kansas City Public Schools.

KCPS is calling it a “system” analysis because it looks at charter schools as well. (Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of KCPS.) Think of it as a snapshot of 20 years of education choice in Kansas City.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Parents in the Shawnee Mission School District say students are spending too much time on their iPads, and they don’t think administrators are taking their concerns seriously.

“We asked for a comprehensive review,” said Gretchen Shanahan, one of the parents who's serving on the district's digital learning task force. “We asked for data, and the response we got from administrators was that would be a step backward when we need to move forward.”

Burns and McDonnell

A $30 million investment at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, will mean more classroom space and state-of-the-art technology for students.

“What we’re doing now is creating the first-rate education that our students are getting because we’ve always been in hand me downs,” Donnelly College President Monsignor Stuart Swetland said.

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