Education | KCUR

Education

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

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Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

In a strongly-worded email to the school board, the Lee's Summit teachers union urged the board not to extend Superintendent Dennis Carpenter's contract.

In the email, the Lee's Summit chapter of the National Education Association (LS NEA) said Carpenter shouldn't have pushed for diversity training during a contentious boundary change process.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Crestview Elementary third grader Hana Ismail is reading two books she picked out from her classroom library that feature Pakistani protagonists.

“Four Feet, Two Sandals,” by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Khadra Mohammed, tells the story of two girls who meet in a refugee camp. “Malala’s Magic Pencil,” by Malala Yousafzai, is about the young Nobel laureate, with illustrations by Kerascoët.

“I get to pick out all my favorite books,” Hana said. “They’re really fun to read for me, and they give me more information about everything.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Most children are taught that Martin Luther King Jr. created change through peaceful protest, but that narrative oversimplifies the civil rights leader’s legacy.

In schools that make racial equity a priority, educators are starting to change how they teach about King.

Barbara Shelly / KCUR 89.3

The streets near downtown Kansas City are still dark and quiet on this Thursday morning,  but already a green taxi is idling outside of the City Union Mission’s family shelter.

Cameon Valentine and her son, Nicoli, hustle out of their room shortly after 6 a.m. They’re running a bit behind. “Come on, son!” Valentine says.

KCUR 89.3 file photo

Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:40 p.m. Thursday to reflect City Council actions.

The old Westport High School is a step closer to a new life as apartments, retail and maybe the future home of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s music and dance conservatory.  

Courtesy Ray Weikal / KCPS

Missouri lawmakers are starting pay attention to turnaround efforts in the Kansas City Public Schools – and one member of the school board says that’s given the district a seat at the table.

John Fierro has been the chairman of the government relations committee since he was elected to the school board three years ago.

“Our reputation in Jefferson City has improved significantly,” Fierro says. “(Before) you would hear the stories about, ‘Oh, they can’t get along, the board is disruptive, they can’t keep a superintendent.’”

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service.

Erin Wolfram, with the University of Kansas Career Center, enters a small room in Summerfield Hall on the KU campus, where she is suddenly surrounded by hundreds of suits, dresses, shirts and ties filling floor-to-ceiling racks. The Professional House of Garments is filled with clothes waiting to help students dress for success as they prepare for job and internship interviews.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Iqra Aden was one of hundreds of students across the Kansas City area who a scholarship of $10,000 a year for up to five years to attend the University of Missouri. 

"I'm feeling ecstatic, and shocked," the Lincoln College Preparatory Academy senior said after getting the news Monday.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Lee’s Summit R-7 school board is considering a plan that moves about 800 of the district’s 18,000 students to different schools next year.

Conversations about school boundary changes are always fraught. When schools are overcrowded and someone has to move, no one wants it to be their kid.

So tensions were already high when race and equity became part of the discussion.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A software glitch in the Kansas City Public Schools online application made it hard for some families to enroll Tuesday.

Because the district fills seats at its signature schools in the order applications are received, some parents were online at 6 a.m. when the application opened to ensure their child would get into a preferred school next year. Juanita, whose last name KCUR is not using because she is undocumented, was one of those parents.

Show Me KC Schools

Starting Monday, families living within Kansas City Public Schools boundaries can apply to 16 charter schools with a common application.

“Parents don’t have to go to four different schools and fill out four separate applications,” Latresse Yarbough, the chief operating officer for Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, said. “We really want to show the unity between charter schools and the ease of the application.”

UMKC Marketing & Communications / Flickr--CC

The University of Missouri-Kansas City, as well as the other three campuses in the UM System, will extend buyout offers to tenured faculty nearing retirement age, it was announced Friday.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re doing everything we can to alleviate any financial pressure,” MU spokesman Christian Basi said, though he was “not ready to speculate” on whether more layoffs would be coming if too few employees took buyouts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Some of the parent teachers associations in the Shawnee Mission School District are fundraising machines, but not Rosehill Elementary.

“We don’t necessarily have the connections at our school to bring in extra fun rides or extra huge auction items,” said Megan Peters, one of the PTA parents at Rosehill.

Crumbling sidewalks, peeling ceilings and outdated classrooms are some of the challenges facing Missouri’s public colleges and universities.

A campus review by the Missouri Department of Higher Education tallied up a $1.4 billion deferred maintenance backlog across the state’s two- and four-year campuses. This is the first review of its type in a decade.

Celisa Calacal / KCUR 89.3

Dozens of Oak Park High School students walked out of class Tuesday in protest of the Trump administration’s plans to roll back Title IX protections for transgender people.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3 file photo

UPDATED at 3:20 p.m. Nov. 20 with details from a lawsuit filed against UMKC and Ashim Mitra — University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal suspended a prominent pharmacy professor Tuesday after a Kansas City Star report detailed students' allegations that Dr. Ashim Mitra exploited them for free labor.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. with comments from Vandeven — Margie Vandeven will return as Missouri’s top education official a year after her unpopular firing by then-Gov. Eric Greitens.

The State Board of Education announced its selection of Vandeven as state education commissioner Tuesday. She ran the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE, for three years before she was ousted.

File photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Legislature agreed to pay education nonprofit Teach For America more than $500,000 this year for a pilot program to recruit 12 teachers to the state.

But the national organization only recruited three teachers for the state in 2018.  All of them were placed in Kansas City, Kansas, where the local school district pays their salaries and benefits on top of another $3,000 per teacher per year to Teach For America.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Once a week, Waynesville High School in south-central Missouri resounds with the celebratory air of a football game. The marching band has just completed a lap of the hallways, blaring the school’s theme song, “Eye of the Tiger.”

This school rocks with spirit, even though most of its 1,500 students didn’t grow up in Waynesville, and most of them won’t be staying long.

Seven Kansas school districts freed from some state rules now say getting that special status isn’t worth the effort.

Those districts are part of the Kansas Department of Education's "Coalition of Innovative School Districts" program that started in 2013. Districts that join have the freedom to ignore state oversight on some of the ways they run their schools in exchange for pursuing novel approaches for improving student achievement.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The president of the Missouri State Board of Education said he’d be willing to consider full accreditation for the Kansas City Public Schools as soon as spring 2019.

The district, which has been provisionally accredited since 2014, scored enough points under the state’s accountability rules to qualify it for full accreditation two years ago. It was the first time that had happened in 30 years, but the education commissioner at the time wanted more – show us sustained progress, she said.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Chronically absent students are more likely to come to school if treated with compassion than threatened with truancy.

That’s what a national expert on attendance policy said Monday at an absenteeism summit for educators convened by the United Way of Greater Kansas City.

Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy

The first Kansas City charter school for girls only has worked out a deal with Hogan Preparatory Academy to open next year in its elementary building at 17th and Van Brunt.  

Meanwhile Hogan Preparatory Academy Elementary will move to 2803 E. 51st Street, which is closer to the middle and high school.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For months, Missouri education officials warned schools that new math and English language arts tests would be harder and scores would drop.

Now preliminary data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education suggests those drops are going to be significant.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For students who speak a language other than English at home, it can take years to learn English well enough to pass tests at school.

For refugee students – many of whom never went to school – it can take even longer.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Take a look at the Kansas budget and one item looms large, eating up more state spending than anything else.

Schools swallow about $4.5 billion. That spending rose after an infusion of cash by lawmakers earlier this year in response to a court ruling in a long-running fight over whether state government does enough to support public education.

Kansas schools are still struggling to hire teachers.

There are more than 600 vacant teaching positions in Kansas, nearly 100 more than in the fall of 2017. Special education and elementary positions have the largest number of vacancies.

The Kansas State Board of Education received the update on Tuesday from the Teacher Vacancy and Supply Committee. The main reason for the open positions is a lack of applicants or qualified applicants.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

As Missouri school districts await state test scores they should have received months ago, some administrators said they're getting frustrated with the delay.

“I don’t have the data right now for math and reading to even make a determination as to whether the things we invested in last year are making a difference,” Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell said.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Lee’s Summit Superintendent Dennis Carpenter is urging residents of the district to “believe the data” that shows significant achievement gaps between students of color and their white peers.

Originally the district wanted to bring in a diversity consultant to speak to the school board at their Oct. 3 meeting, but the proposed training roiled Lee’s Summit parents participating in an online discussion group. Last week they asked the school board to back up the superintendent’s assertion that white students were outperforming students of color with data.

About two decades ago the Wichita School Board, disturbed by an increasing number of guns, knives and other weapons being brought to schools, decided to take a hard-line approach:

Zero tolerance.

The board, prompted by the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994, passed a policy mandating that any student caught with a gun — or a realistic-looking replica — on school property or at a school-sponsored event would be expelled for a full year.

No weapons — no questions, no excuses.

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