Scores Show Kansas City, Hickman Mills Schools Doing Better Than Expected | KCUR

Scores Show Kansas City, Hickman Mills Schools Doing Better Than Expected

Aug 29, 2014

Credit 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.

Three weeks ago, Kansas City Public Schools had 86.5 points. Friday morning, its score is 92.5. Superintendent Dr. Steve Green says since then the district reviewed its data and did a little better in science and attendance, thus the higher score.

Green says he’s more confident then ever that full accreditation by the state will come next year.

“The issue of sustainability for the Kansas City Public Schools is being addressed and continue to be addressed," says Green. "I don’t know of a district in the country that has made that kind of turnaround that fast. And we’re going to use that as inspiration and incentive to continue on to the next level.”

While scores in Kansas City are improving, DESE data shows the district severely lags in math and language arts. And scores for some minority and low-income students are well below average.

DESE data shows that 39 percent of districts fared worse from 2013 to this year. While it didn’t get nearly as much attention as the Kansas City public schools, Hickman Mills has also been troubled district, and is provisionally accredited.

A year ago, the district was able to muster only 52 percent of the possible assessment points. As of Friday, it can claim 72 percent.

Superintendent Dennis Carpenter joined the district a year and a half ago. He says he’s trimmed away expensive programs and focused on the faculty.

“It appeared to me that we were trying to program our way out of declining performance. And it’s my opinion that the instructional effectiveness of every teacher is the only way you recover from declining performance,” says Carpenter.

While Hickman Mills made a big year to year jump, DESE says it wants at least three years of improving scores before it makes a decision on accreditation.

More than half of all districts in the state showed year-to-year gains in everything from academics to attendance. But almost 40 percent did worse from last year.

For districts to be accredited they need 70 percent of the possible assessment points. But Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro, says the state wants to step in and help districts before they fall below that threshold. So, she says, the state will be sending in teams to work with districts who scored below 75 percent this year.

“One of the things I think we’ve learned in recent years is that waiting until a district fails is not a good pattern."

One of those districts is Raytown, which saw its score plummet from 85 percent to just 72 percent. DESE data show the district lost ground in every category; academic achievement, college and career readiness, attendance and graduation. The Raytown district made no one available to comment.

Here are the scores the 2013 and 2014 scores for area districts: