education | KCUR

education

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

With less than four months remaining in the school year, a teary-eyed Amanda Coffman explained why she would no longer be in the hallways to greet students at the morning bell.

The Indian Woods Middle School teacher stood before the Shawnee Mission School Board and announced her resignation – effective immediately.

Coffman expected to receive feedback from her community and her parents in Michigan, but said she didn’t expect the video of the event to go farther than her parents' house.

J.E. Miller / Courtesy of Missouri Valley Room, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri.

Listen to this episode of A People's History Of Kansas City, a new podcast from KCUR 89.3. For more stories like this one, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Play.

The more than 13 million American households that get their drinking water from private wells aren’t required by state or federal environmental agencies to test their water, sometimes leaving dangerous contamination unchecked for years. Now high school students and other community members are learning to test their own water. 

Segment 1: Why the Shawnee Mission School Board authorized controversial teacher contract.

Failed contract negotiations between teachers and administrators in the Shawnee Mission School District resulted in the district's Board of Education unilaterally approving a three-year contract. Members of the school board explained some of the complexities of the situation and discussed what options remain for teachers.

WICHITA, Kansas — Faculty at state colleges in Kansas find themselves armed with fresh ammunition in their ongoing plea for more pay.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Hundreds of students at Shawnee Mission East High School walked out of school Friday to show support for teachers after the school board imposed a three-year, unilateral contract on Thursday.

Teachers began the school year without a contract, and negotiations have been at an impasse for months. A five-hour bargaining session on Tuesday ended with a lawyer representing the school district walking away from the table.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas schools had 800 vacant positions last year, and the lack of certified teachers has some districts trying to get people who want to change careers into the classroom.

Breanna Lovett got her bachelor’s degree in forensic biology, but she didn’t love working overnight in a lab. So when she learned the Kansas City, Kansas, Public, Schools had a fellowship program that would let her teach while she earned a master’s degree, she decided to apply.

After six weeks of training, she was in her own classroom at Washington High School.

Segment 1: Where do efforts towards improving pre-K access and quality in Kansas City stand?

In early 2019, a big controversy was Mayor Sly James' push for universal pre-K through a sales tax. Kansas City voters didn't go for the plan on the ballot, but a year later, many people still want something to fill in the gap.

Lee's Summit R-7 Schools

Updated, 3:51 p.m. Tuesday – The Lee’s Summit school board has hired a new superintendent, David Buck.

Buck has served as superintendent for the Wright City schools, a tiny district about 40 miles west of St. Louis, since 2015. He’ll start in Lee’s Summit on July 1.

Dennis Carpenter, the district’s first black superintendent, resigned in July amid ongoing tension over diversity training for teachers and staff.

Segment 1: Kansas City's transportation stories to watch in 2020

A preview of the transportation issues KCUR will be following this year included the Kansas City, Missouri streetcar, free bus rides for those in the city, equity and mobility in the single-terminal KCI project and that futuristic 30-minute ride from Kansas City to St. Louis via the Hyperloop.

Kansas educators want lawmakers to act on health care, bullying and college credits when the Legislature convenes later this month.

For over a decade, the school funding battle has dominated any conversation about education in Topeka. But with a school funding plan in place, educators are no longer on the legal offensive. Instead, school lawyers have become watchdogs, making sure the Legislature keeps the education dollars flowing.

Buzzy phrases like “regenerative agriculture” and “precision farming” are gaining traction among younger farmers looking to produce more sustainably. But implementing newer practices can require education and training.

Some schools in Nebraska are embracing the interest in specialized agriculture degrees, and want to make them more accessible to students across the region.

Segment 1: Why it's so important that kids make it to class.

Between the years 2013 and 2016, Kansas City Public Schools staffers falsified attendance records, presumably to help the district regain full accreditation. Why is it so hard for kids to get to school in the first place, though? Also, what is really at stake for schools when they don't show up and what can we reasonably expect educators to do about it?

Segment 1: Decades after desegregation, there remain students in the Kansas City area who are still not receiving a quality education. 

Education professor John Rury detailed the inequalities as they exist in urban and suburban school districts. As the Kansas City area expanded in the 1950s, wealth moved to the suburbs. The levels of poverty in many urban, black neighborhoods have remained in the 30-40 percentile. "This brings a whole host of issues that makes it very difficult for schools to function," Rury said. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — What if researchers could go to a single hub for vast deposits of information on a range of issues from water quality to court rulings to the medicinal powers of marijuana?

Armed with all that existing research, they might begin to draw conclusions that apply across the country. They might also avoid repeating the work of other researchers.

While local 4-H groups are known for summer programming, educator Julie Kreikemeier

Bigstock Images

With the impacts of climate change becoming more visible, scientists and teachers across the nation are working out how to teach about the topic in the nation’s classrooms.

Teachers in Missouri are using real-world issues and collaboration to help their students understand the science of climate change and the effect it could have on local communities.

“I think because our current environmental movement is very much led by teenagers, students are very excited about it,” said Jen Lacy, an environmental science teacher at Crossroads Preparatory Academy.

Segment 1: Teachers highlight current events and human impact to help students learn about climate change.

Teachers are seeing less resistance to teaching climate change in Missouri schools. The state has adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, and one Raytown High School teacher said, "I've also changed my approach some, in the sense that I really don't indulge argument on the topic at this point."

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

When Dan Hoyt started graduate school at the University of Kansas in 2016, he knew he had anxiety and depression. He worried about being able to find a job after graduation. And, sometimes, he couldn’t get through his assigned reading.

“When you have anxieties, that gets impossible,” he said. “I'll think about the same things over and over and over again.”

But when he reached out to KU’s counseling services, he was told he had to wait five months before he could get an appointment with a therapist at the Lawrence campus. And getting there from KU’s Overland Park campus, where he took classes, complicated things.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Seven Kansas City Public School district employees falsified student attendance records for three years from 2013 to 2016, according to a summary of an external investigation made public by the district.

The issue was most prominent in the 2015-2016 school year, boosting attendance data which resulted in additional state funding.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Black residents of Kansas City are still "separate and unequal," according to the latest report from the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

The 2019 State of Black Kansas City, from the Urban League in collaboration with local law, policy, health and education experts, measures the racial gap in areas such as economics, criminal justice and education. Based on statistical analyses of factors such as the median net worth for black versus white households and the rate of homeownership, the report found the equality index for black Kansas Citians is only 73% of their white counterparts.

For decades, a university education meant students had to load up on math, history and English courses. Now, Kansas universities are slashing those general education requirements so more students can graduate on time and have more room for classes in their major.

Segment 1: Kansas City, Missouri Municipal Court is working to improve the judicial experience.

Kansas City's Municipal Court is participating in a pilot project to improve trust between courts and the communities they serve. Through dialogue sessions, it hopes to tackle problems like its high failure-to-appear rate. Because citizens often face confusion and intimidation within the judicial system, personnel "want to demystify the courts," Benita Jones, the court's public information officer  said. 

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.”

Avery Gott

The Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees race, which is non-partisan and typically quiet, has been highly contentious this year. Six candidates, including two incumbents, are running for three open spots on the board of the $150 million community college.

Student enrollment is trending down due to low unemployment in the county, leading the school to rely on income from property taxes for 65% of its budget.

Segment 1: Missouri's new schools performance report is confusing parents and administrators alike.

Two years of identical tests should have provided educators an apples-to-apples comparison, but Missouri's new scoring system is more of an "apples to rainbows" look at progress. The state's move away from easy-to-read percentile scoring was intended to provide more in-depth information, but the result has been hard-to-interpret colorful graphs. Education reporter Elle Moxley translated this latest format and what it means for Kansas City area schools.

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.

The Missouri State Board of Education took steps Tuesday toward putting more counselors and support staff in the state’s public schools.

Counselors in Missouri currently serve an average of 347 students, according to the American School Counselor Association. That’s under the state requirement of a ratio of one counselor per 400 students but significantly higher than its recommendation of a counselor serving 250 students each.

Segment 1: Gender-nonconforming people share their experience living as nonbinary.

The pronouns "they" and "them" have been added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to describe nonbinary individuals, but the transition to gender-neutral terms can be difficult for some to figure out. "It is hard," admits Shallyn Ward, who is nonbinary, "but it's not impossible." Today, a conversation about understanding the changing language etiquette, and what it's like living as nonbinary.

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:

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