DESE offers intervention, support for struggling school districts

Joe Jarosz

Northeast News

February 18, 2014

Intervention and Support. That’s what Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is recommending for school districts  trending toward unaccreditation. This would apply to the Kansas City Missouri Public Schools which, for the last two years, have been unaccredited.

Members of the state board of education urged DESE to seek ways to immediately support districts that are headed for provisional or unaccredited status. DESE’s recommendations includes additional supports for districts that are provisionally accredited as part of a five tier plan for districts that are currently underperforming. Those five tiers also come with a variety of options for the state when working with districts who have become provisionally or full unaccredited. Unaccredited districts such as KCPS would receive a fiscal monitor as student transfers are enacted. Additionally, governance and contracts could be reviewed by the state that could lead to an alternative form of governance being installed at the district.

“I think we are a model of progress because of our turnaround over the last two years. We understand this is still a work in progress and this is not a complete plan,” R. Stephen Green, superintendent of the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) said at Tuesday’s press conference on the recommendations. “We are poised and ready as we approach the next cycle of assessment as a school district to improve on the progress you saw this time last year.”

Green continued to say that this is a district on the climb, however “not as fast as we’d like to see,” however, still making great strides in the right direction. He also came just short of guaranteeing provisional accreditation, saying he’s “quite sure” the district will meet the status next year. Green said he can see the state board being fair in holding schools accountable for their service.

“We want to be held accountable. We’re not shy and allergic to the notion of accountability,” Green said. “We invited that kind of critical eye and scrutiny that DESE has applied and let it work for us in.”

Although he didn’t want to speak for the state board, his sense for the timeline for when DESE assistance would become available was as soon as possible. He said he stands strong behind the work the school district has done and encourages parents to stand with him and the district.

“I think we’re very optimistic and encouraged by the response and our responsibility is to do our part and that is to make sure we continue our path to progress and increase student achievement, increase the institutional experience for all of our scholars,” Green said. “We still have a long way to go so this is by no means a total success but we see encouragement, the kind of encouragement we could build on and go forward.”

DESE has scheduled two public hearings to allow public comment on the recommendations and provide feedback. The Kansas City Hearing will be on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at Penn Valley Community College. No time for the event was given in the press release. Online feedback can be offered at www.dese.mo.gov/unaccredited-districts.

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