Education | KCUR

Education

KCUR 89.3 covers education issues across the Kansas City region and in Kansas and Missouri. 

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Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

NEODESHA, Kansas — Three hundred middle and high schoolers filed into their school auditorium last week in the small, southeast Kansas town of Neodesha, uncertain why they’d been called there.

They left cheering and hugging. Some of the older students were teary-eyed.

College tuition and fees need no longer hold back graduates of this manufacturing community, about halfway between Wichita, Kansas, and Joplin, Missouri. A wealthy donor hoping to turn around the fortunes of his dwindling hometown — population 2,300 — will foot those costs for the next 25 years, and possibly decades beyond that.

Every college in Kansas is more expensive today than it was a decade ago.

Tuition and fees haven’t gone up every year — this year, the Kansas Board of Regents convinced most of the state’s universities to hold tuition flat — but that doesn’t change how expensive college has become.

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.

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio

After counting out the last in a series of chest compressions, Harry Painter Jr. sets up a nebulizer and begins piping oxygen into his patient’s lungs.

“Mr. Jones, you scared us there. How are you feeling?” he asks. The lifelike mannequin blinks back. 

Everything around Painter looks exactly as it would in a hospital, but this is a simulation room at St. Louis Community College’s new health care facility on the Forest Park campus.

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.

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.

MANHATTAN, Kansas — Millennials get blamed for killing off sports, drinks and entire industries. Those millennials — and their Gen Z successors — have also given rise to a new word: adulting.

Aging folks from the baby boom or Generation X enjoy ridiculing today's college students when those younger people can't change a tire or wash their clothes without turning to Mom or Dad.

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.”

David Kovaluk / St. Louis Public Radio

On any given weekday, University of Missouri student Jack Hale is working six to eight hours and dashing to class in between. 

“I wake up a little after five and I do not stop until 11 p.m. most days,” Hale says. Between a full load of classes and two jobs taking up nearly 40 hours a week, he barely gets enough sleep.

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.

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.

Information’s great. But what about insight?

A fresh University of Kansas study contends state educators put too much emphasis on data and too little on the savvy and experience of teachers.

KCK Organic Teaching Gardens

A program that brings gardening into classrooms in Kansas City, Kansas, suffered another setback after the program’s van was stolen and crashed earlier this month.

KCK Organic Teaching Gardens has been around for twenty years, planting gardens at elementary and middle schools in Kansas City, Kansas to teach students about science, nutrition and history. Earlier this year it lost 90% of its funding, and now, the van, which held the group’s tools, is out of commission, too.

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.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

The Kansas Board of Regents voted Wednesday to change the benchmarks for in-state students to attend the state’s six public universities, and class-rank requirements are out.

The move is meant to increase the number of Kansas high schoolers who are eligible to attend Kansas State University, Emporia State University, Pittsburg State University, Fort Hays State University, Wichita State University and the University of Kansas. 

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.”

Kevin Collison

Académie Lafayette is opening an International Baccalaureate high school in Midtown, accomplishing a goal the French-immersion charter school program established when it started 20 years ago.

“This is the fulfillment of a dream, our vision,” said M. Elimane Mbengue, head of the school, which currently has 1,146 students enrolled in grades K-8 at three campuses. “Every year, our parents had been challenged finding a quality high school.”

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.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / Side Effects Public Media

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.


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.

To get the best college experience, live on campus.

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.

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