Kansas City School District could regain accreditation today - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

MO board restores Kansas City School District's provisional accreditation

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The Missouri Board of Education unanimously voted on Wednesday to restore provisional accreditation to the Kansas City School District.

The last time the district was provisionally accredited was 2006.

State board members said the district has made much progress under the leadership of Superintendent Stephen Green but much work remains to be done.

Board member Charlie Shields, a graduate of the district and a former Missouri lawmaker, said for the first time in a long time he believes the district is heading in the right direction.

"They are working as a team. They know what the challenges are and know where they are headed," he said. "There is lots of work to be done but we are going in the right direction."

Education commissioner Chris Nicastro said that state test scores and other academic performance data was sufficient to justify restoring the accreditation status. This comes three years after state officials said the district's student achievement was so poor that they would strip the district of provisional accreditation.

Shields and others noted that three years ago the district was in chaos when Superintendent John Covington abruptly departed to take a job in Michigan after undertaking a massive school closing plan. The board quickly hired Green in an effort to stave off the loss of accreditation, but it wasn't enough.

Some had called for an immediate state takeover, but district officials and supporters successfully fought for more time.

The board's decision on Wednesday came in a special meeting via teleconference call. Green and members of the Kansas City media also listened into the vote. No board members opposed upgrading the district's accreditation status.

"It's a good day in the Kansas City Public Schools," Green said, adding that he was proud of everyone who played a part in the conclusion of "this journey."

Attendance data increases and college preparation were also factors in the district regaining accreditation. However, the district did see some drops in test scores between 2013 and 2014, but state officials said they were not significant.

State officials said there remain worrisome signs. About 70 percent of the district's students aren't proficient in the four core academic areas and there is no consistent across-the-board improvement in test scores.

State Education Board Chairman Peter Herschend, who was part of the board that stripped the district of accreditation 15 years ago, said state standards will get harder and it will be difficult for the district to retain provisional accreditation.

"The challenge is a daunting one," he said. "I am pleased with the positive changes that are there, but this district has got a long and difficult road yet to travel."

Herschend said the district must "continue the very large effort" they are making to boost student achievement.

"I do believe Dr. Green and his staff are both willing and able to meet that challenge. It must be met or we end up right back where we started from and that is a place that nobody wants to be," he said.

Green, his staff and school board members held a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

"We are by no means satisfied and we are by no means settled," he said. "We will take some time to enjoy and appreciate it, but we know that we have an even higher level that we need to get to."

The decision prevents student transfers this fall. District officials believed that having to pay for student transfers to higher performing districts would undermine the district's financial stability.

The district offered to drop its litigation over student transfers if the state board granted the district provisional accreditation. As a result of Wednesday's vote, the district will drop its lawsuit. For the 18 students who wanted to transfer, Green said they would be welcome and he would work to ensure they receive a quality education.

"We want our sights set on full accreditation but making sure our students move out of below basics and into proficient and advanced areas," he said. "That's our conversation for the next level."

Click here to read more from DESE on how long Kansas City Public Schools had been unaccredited.

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