KCPS officials remain optimistic about student achievement

By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
August 22, 2012 


Kansas City Public Schools didn’t regain state accreditation this year, but district officials say they’re still optimistic.

“We’re pleased we made the progress within a year’s time,” KCPS Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green said. “This sets us on course to move in the direction we want to. We’re pleased.”

KCPS met two additional state standards this year, bringing the total to five standards out of 14 on the state’s 2012 Annual Performance Report (APR).

One of the gained standards included a bonus point in the Bonus MAP (Missouri Assessment Program) Achievement portion for improving in four areas: math (grades third through fifth); math (grades sixth through eighth); communication arts (grades sixth through eighth); and Algebra I. The school district also met requirements for advanced courses, career education courses, college placement and career education placement.

Green said it’s been approximately five years since KCPS met five state standards.

“No matter how small, you always start with that first step,” he said.

By next year, the district hopes to qualify for provisional accreditation, Green added.

The district is maintaining a sense of optimism and realism, and knows regaining full accreditation will be a long, “vertical climb,” Green said.

“We’re not at the level we want to be, but we’re moving in the right direction, not a downward spiral,” Green said.

To further academic progress, Green said the district is using a “systematic focus” to monitor and measure each student’s progress. District officials are meeting with principals monthly to keep abreast of progress assessments of not only each school, but each classroom and each student. This will result in immediate feedback and intervention to help students in areas in which they are struggling, Green said.

In addition, the district will examine current programs and reallocate funding to improve academic achievement. Some programs that were launched five or 10 years ago are no longer relevant, Green said. If a program isn’t moving the district toward reaccreditation, it will be eliminated and funding for the program will be reallocated. One example of a program that will be eliminated is BrainHoney, a web-based curriculum platform that includes an interactive grade book, individualized learning and instruction techniques. A number of glitches made the program a hindrance for teachers, Green said.

School board members are also playing a role in increasing academic achievement, KCPS Board of Education President Airick West said.

Two areas the board is focusing on include teacher effectiveness and student motivation to achieve. The formula must start with highly effective teachers who build relationships with their students, West said. Building strong relationships with students will in turn foster student achievement, he said.

Board of Education members will monitor the superintendent and ensure there’s adequate funding for activities that encourage student achievement, like extracurricular activities, after school clubs, among others.

In addition, the board will work closely with the KCPS administration to ensure the district is employing highly effective teachers. A teacher needs more than the right qualifications, West said. One of the new district policies requires a prospective teacher to give a classroom demonstration before being hired.

“You have to show you can be in front of a group of real, live children and be effective in delivering instruction,” West said.

West summed up student achievement by saying, “As we create the policy frameworks that are focused on teacher effectiveness and school motivation, we believe that will continue to push the administration in the way they have to go to ultimately grow achievement.”

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