Kansas City Public Schools | KCUR

Kansas City Public Schools

Elle Moxley / 89.3

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Kansas City’s complex racial history is still defining how kids are educated in 2020. That includes factors far outside of classrooms, where housing instability, violence in communities and childhood trauma all have profound effects on schools and students.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

School’s out for winter break, and Kansas City Public Schools fourth grader Miranda Hernandez can’t wait to have arroz con leche with her family on Christmas.

“It’s rice with milk,” she explained. “We have it every time when it’s cold, like in winter.”

Sharing food with friends and family is an important part of Miranda’s culture, which is why she likes the new mural at Carver Dual Language School so much. 

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City officials agreed to a scaled-back tax incentive package Thursday for financial services firm Waddell & Reed to build a new $140 million headquarters in downtown.

It’s the second time in recent months the Kansas City Council has been able to renegotiate fewer incentives, and a sign it may approach economic development deals with higher scrutiny than councils in the past. The council also took action Thursday to curb the ability of the Kansas City Port Authority to grant incentives. 

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?

Elle Moxley / 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell concedes he’s not sure what it’s going to take to improve attendance.

Missouri uses what’s known as the 90/90 rule. Districts need to get 90% of students to school 90% of the time to get all of the attendance points on their Annual Performance Report (APR). KCPS didn’t get any attendance points for the 2018-19 school year because only 73% of students were at school 90% of the time.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Waddell & Reed will have a week to get city officials and Kansas City Public Schools on board with an incentive deal for its new headquarters.

The Kansas City Council on Thursday reduced the company's incentive package and delayed a vote on tax breaks for the project.

The financial services firm is seeking $40 million in incentives to move from its current headquarters in Overland Park to downtown Kansas City, Missouri. It  already has been awarded $62 million by the state of Missouri.

File photo by Paul Andrews / http://paulandrewsphotography.com/

Kansas City Public Schools will not be fully accredited this year after the district’s latest performance report failed to meet the requirements. 

At the state school board’s monthly meeting Tuesday, officials at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recommended both KCPS and the Hickman Mills school district remain provisionally accredited.

File photo by Paul Andrews / http://paulandrewsphotography.com/

The Kansas City Public Schools district didn’t consistently check on chronically absent students, improperly used out of school suspension practices and didn’t effectively train employees on state attendance rules last year, according to a June 2019 internal attendance audit obtained by KCUR through a records request. 

“The widespread nature of data irregularities and questionable attendance practices demonstrates, at the very least, a lack of inconsistency in oversight by the District administration over attendance reporting,” the report found. 

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.

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.

Segment 1: How a fractured school system contributes to problems with transportation.

Kansas City, Missouri, public school kids travel to school on dated buses that crisscross the city inefficiently. That cuts into school budgets, as well as time spent in class and on extra-curriculars. Big thinkers are taking on the issue and envisioning new models for getting kids to and from school.

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.

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.”

Segment 1: School across Kansas and Missouri struggle each year to fill teaching positions.

Having enough teachers to fill classrooms is a perennial problem for schools in all parts of the Kansas City metro. Raytown Schools has created a novel way to address the shortage in their district, but several factors, including pay, are working against Missouri and Kansas districts' efforts to attract and retain qualified talent.

Segment 1: The Kansas City Public School Board prepares for a new school year

Both new and returning school board members are preparing for the start of the school year next week. They talked about the timeline for accreditation, the inefficiency of charter schools and how the Jackson County reassessment issues are making an impact on the district. 

Christina Elias / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Public Library is doing away with fees for overdue materials starting July 1.

Library representatives announced they will also forgive any previously-incurred late fees. The move is part of an effort to increase library traffic by removing one obstacle that keeps patrons from returning to the library.

Director of the Kansas City Library Crosby Kemper III said they are making the change one reason.

Segment 1: New data analysis of Kansas City's public school environment.

A new analysis shows public and charter schools in Kansas City are more segregated, more expensive to operate, and more complicated than they were 20 years ago. We talked with two officials behind the report about these issues and others, and discussed possible solutions. 

Ray Weikal / Kansas City Public Schools

Both traditional public schools and charters in Kansas City are increasingly segregated, expensive to run and losing high school students, according to a new report from the Kansas City Public Schools.

KCPS is calling it a “system” analysis because it looks at charter schools as well. (Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of KCPS.) Think of it as a snapshot of 20 years of education choice in Kansas City.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Students at Raytown's Westridge Elementary School were educated about autism spectrum disorder thanks to 9-year-old Mariah Turner.

Segment 1: Protest at the University of Missouri - Kansas City highlighted struggle universities and their students face over First Amendment right to free speech. 

The University of Missouri-Kansas City recently made headlines after an encounter between a protestor and guest speaker occurred on campus grounds. Two students present during the incident with opposite views shared a civil conversation about free speech, hate speech and where to draw the line.

Seg. 1: Daycare Deserts | Seg. 2: Allison Gliesman

May 1, 2019

Segment 1: Daycare Deserts

Pre-kindergarten has been on the mind of Kansas City-area parents, but the conversation is also extending to care from birth onward. In this conversation, we hear about the struggles parents face in finding and affording childcare, as well as what's being done about it both locally and nationwide.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

When Kansas City Neighborhood Academy opened in 2016 with the district as its sponsor, it was supposed to start a new era of cooperation between the Kansas City Public Schools and charter schools.

Since 1999, they’d been in a fierce competition for students and resources. Now KCPS was sponsoring a charter. With support from the Chamber of Commerce, Kansas City Neighborhood Academy would be a model for what urban education could be.

But the charter ended up a neighborhood school without a neighborhood.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell has signed another three-year contract.

Approving the contract was the last act of the outgoing, nine-member school board, which met in closed executive session before Wednesday’s board meeting when the new, seven-member board was sworn in.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Judging by the results of Tuesday’s election, in which Kansas City, Missouri, voters rejected a universal pre-K plan by a nearly 2-1 margin, some might think there's little interest in early childhood education.

But Annie Watson doesn't see it that way. She spent hours on the phone talking to voters on behalf of her employer, Turn The Page KC, the child literacy organization that was founded by Mayor Sly James. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Kansas City voters have rejected Mayor Sly James’ plan to pay for universal pre-K for 4-year-olds with a three-eighth-cent sales tax.

Kansas City Primary Election Results 2019

Apr 2, 2019

Tuesday's primary election asked voters to narrow a slate of candidates for Kansas City mayor and city council ahead of the general election on June 18. Residents also voted for school board candidates, and were asked to weigh in on a plan proposed by outgoing Mayor Sly James to fund pre-kindergarten education with a ⅜ cents sales tax that would generate $30 million a year for the next ten years.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Paying for pre-K is a huge burden for families with young children, even for parents with good jobs.

Tiffany Price has one of those. She works with teen moms in the Hickman Mills School District, and she’s a mom herself. She has four boys, and the two youngest aren’t in school yet.

So every week she writes a check for $270 to Ronnie’s Childcare.

Kansas City Neighborhood Academy

Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, the only charter school sponsored by the Kansas City Public Schools, will close at the end of the school year, leaving 140 students and their families to find seats at other schools.

Parent Elizabeth Behrens said there were no warning signs that the school was in trouble until this week, when a letter went home saying that the board would vote Wednesday on the future of the school.

Segment 1: School boards matter. Here's why.

Even if you don't have kids, school board elections can have a profound impact on the community. We look at how schools are governed, what school board members actually do, and where to find information about candidates.

Pages