Sam Zeff | KCUR

Sam Zeff

Metro Reporter

Sam grew up in Overland Park and was educated at the University of Kansas. After working in Philadelphia where he covered organized crime, politics and political corruption he moved on to TV news management jobs in Minneapolis and St. Louis. Sam came home in 2013 and covered health care and education at KCPT. He came to work at KCUR in 2014. Sam has a national news and documentary Emmy for an investigation into the federal Bureau of Prisons and how it puts unescorted inmates on Grayhound and Trailways buses to move them to different prisons. Sam has one son and is pretty good in the kitchen.

Ways to Connect

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Kansas City Mayor Sly James announced a new program Monday aimed at getting kids to go to school.

A recently released report from the nonprofit Attendance Works says 20 percent of American students are chronically absent from school. The organization calls it a national challenge.

The Missouri superintendents from Kansas City, Center and Hickman Mills all say chronic absenteeism is about the same in their districts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

This year on Central Standard, we'll be following three teenagers through their senior year of high school, from the beginning of the year through graduation in May, 2015.

Harold Burgos: High school and college at the same time

Age: 17

School: Ruskin High School, Hickman Mills School District, Kansas City, Mo.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

If you wandered into the St. Joseph, Missouri School District convocation a couple of weeks ago you would probably think everything in the district is just fine.

The 2,000 faculty and staff jammed into the Civic Center downtown were loud and seemed primed for the start of the 2014-2015 school year. But everyone in the arena that morning knew the district was in serious trouble.

Since April the FBI, a federal grand jury in Kansas City and the Missouri State Auditor have all been investigating the district of 11,000 students.

Lauren Manning / Flickr--CC

With all Kansas City-area students back to school, a new report shows just how important attendance is in the first month of school.

A report by the nonprofit Attendance Works calls chronic absenteeism a "national challenge" and says about one in five U.S. students miss 10 percent of school a year.

Cynborg / Wikimedia-CC

Friday is the day almost every school district in Missouri waits for all year. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on Friday morning released its yearly evaluation of schools and districts in Missouri.

More like tax day than Christmas, the results produce winners and losers.

Kansas City Public Schools found out three weeks ago that it moved up to provisional accreditation. DESE bases its entire assessment on a complicated 140-point scale, based on everything from academic achievement to graduation rates and classroom growth year to year.

Courtesy Crime Stoppers

Parents and students in Northland school districts  have a new, more efficient way to relay tips to Crime Stoppers.

Crime Stoppers has promoted its 474-TIPS hotline number for 32 years. More recently, the organization started taking tips by texts. The Northland Safe School Task Force got so many texts that officials reached out to Kansas City Crime Stoppers to help manage the information from students and parents.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, a lot has changed in the way police respond to a school shooter.

Squads no longer wait for SWAT teams to arrive. Now, they rush in to try and stop the shooter as quickly as possible.

CC: Lochoaymca

Educators, politicians, doctors and clergy all gathered in Kansas City Monday to discuss early childhood development.

Almost everyone agrees Pre-K education is crucial. The mantra for early educators is, "Talk, read, play."

Before they start kindergarten, teachers say, children need a lot of interaction with adults. Research shows that, on average, lower income children start school knowing 900 fewer words than more affluent children.

Christopher Sessums / Flickr--CC

Later this week the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will release Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test scores for every school in the state.

The state already released preliminary results for Kansas City Public Schools on Aug. 6 when DESE announced the district had been provisionally accredited. At that time DESE said Kansas City received 86 out of a possible 140 points. Enough for the board to accredit the district for the first time in two years.

A dozen school districts in Missouri, including tiny Climax Springs in the Ozarks, are training teachers and arming them for the start of school.
Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

As the school year begins we're hearing a lot about accreditation, Common Core and teacher tenure. All important, but the issue that may worry educators the most is security. School officials spend a lot of time thinking about it and a huge amount of money trying to improve it.

Right now, about a third of all states allow teachers or staff with a conceal and carry permit to pack a gun in school as long as they have permission from the school board. Nowhere in America right now is the issue of armed teachers more complicated than in Missouri.

Children all over the metro are going back to school this week – Monday was the first day of school in the Kansas City Public School District. 

It’s been a long time since the sound of students echoed through the halls of Hale Cook Elementary School near 73rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Shut down in 2009 as the district went through a massive consolidation, parents in the Brookside neighborhood and the district have been working for the past two years to recruit enough families to re-open the building.

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