The long wait for accreditation may soon be over for Kansas City Public Schools.
KCPS scored solidly in the range for full accreditation for the second time in three years. The district received 99.5 points out of 120 possible – 82.9 percent – on its 2018 Annual Performance Report. APR is basically a report card for public schools in Missouri.
“When we hit 70 percent two years ago, I remember former staff members telling me we’d squeezed all we could out of college and career readiness, attendance rates, those type of areas,” Superintendent Mark Bedell said. “We had to improve academic achievement.”
And that’s exactly what KCPS did. The new math and English language arts tests Missouri students took last spring are widely seen as more rigorous than the assessments they replaced. Scores were expected to drop, and fewer than half of public school students passed.
But KCPS lost less ground against the state average than other districts did.
Bedell said efforts to align the district’s curriculum to the Missouri Learning Standards, the grade-level expectations for students, have paid off. Before, KCPS focused on routines and procedures, and there was a mismatch between what teachers were teaching and what the state wanted students to learn.
“So no matter how hard a teacher worked, they weren't going to get the kind of results that we're starting to get,” Bedell said.
State Board of Education President Charlie Shields has said he’ll consider full accreditation for KCPS this spring. The district’s prospects look good, and if anyone deserves to be ecstatic, it’s Bedell. He’s credited with bringing stability to a district that seemed destined for state takeover when it lost accreditation in 2011. Enrollment is up for the first time in decades. KCPS is actively courting middle-class families who wouldn’t have considered the district an option a few years ago. If Bedell stays through the 2019-20 school year, he’ll be the longest-serving superintendent this century.
Bedell is happy. But he also knows the work isn’t done yet.
“That’s not my end game as superintendent. The truth is, we’re not going to stop until we’re performing at or above state average. I want our people to keep their guards up and continue to work hard. Because accreditation is one thing. We want to compete at the national level,” he said.
The state board isn’t expected to take up accreditation for KCPS and other districts until its March 26 meeting.
Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.