The first State of the Schools Leadership Breakfast, hosted by Kansas City Public Schools Education Foundation, was 8 a.m. May 30 at the Gallery Event Space. KCPS Education Foundation Director Nicole White said the Public Schools Education Foundation plans to host this event every year.
This event served as a celebration of KCPS’s successes throughout the past three years and as a fundraiser to allow stakeholders to invest in KCPS.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell gave the State of the Schools Address.
Bedell said KCPS could be accredited by the end of 2019, but that hitting accreditation is a baseline, because he wants more for the students.
“I don’t want to hit accreditation and say we’re a fully accredited school system but our kids are lagging significantly behind their peers in the state of Missouri,” Bedell said. “It’s unacceptable. I get that our kids are dealt with a hand that’s not aligned to what some of these other kids have, but that doesn’t give us an excuse to have lower expectations for them. It doesn’t give them an excuse to use that as a crutch.”
Bedell thanked the community for the support and said that KCPS’s successes wouldn’t be possible without it.
“Our goal, ultimately, is that we have the sustainability and we continue to make this a great urban school district that people want to model after,” Bedell said. “The only way you can do that is what we’ve been doing through building relationships.”
This year, KCPS earned an 82.9 percent annual progress report (APR) score, matched 721 mentors to at-risk students, certified 100 trauma-informed care trainers, received $30,000 for classroom innovation, awarded $10,000 to outstanding teachers and principals, and received more than 670 volunteers who completed more than 16,000 service hours, according to KCPS.
Graduates concurrently earned more than 3,700 college credits and seniors earned $9.5 million in merit scholarships. The graduation rate increased by 2.3 percent in the past three years.
Bedell said that through different programs, KCPS has improved issues such as mobility, internet access, transportation, dropouts, reading and math comprehension, and college and career readiness.
KCPS has one of the highest mobility rates in Missouri. KCPS students who have experienced no mobility are between 40 to 80 percent more likely to be at or above the national average in reading and math, according to the KCPS website.
To create stability, KCPS partnered with Justice in the Schools, a program in which attorneys advocate for and work with students and their families for free.
In 2013, each student was given a laptop, but KCPS officials didn’t consider that most households in the school district dont have internet access.
In 2017, KCPS partnered with Sprint to give low-income families free wireless hotspots for students to do online homework.
In 2018, KCPS gave high school students the option to receive a badge that allows them to use the Ride KC Bus for free to get to and from jobs, internships, tutoring, or extra-curricular activities.
So far, KCPS has given out 350 passes, according to Bedell.
In March 2018, KCPS partnered with Middle College, a program that helps students ages 17-24 who dropped out of KCPS a different graduation path. The program prepares students for the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET), according to the KCPS website. After a student passes the HiSET, they can enroll in MCC-Penn Valley for a 2-year degree program or attend a technical school tuition-free.
The organization also assists students with job placement after graduation. So far, 48 students completed the program, according to Bedell.
The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation funded reading and math interventionists in KCPS. KCPS will release a report on the results from this funding by the end of the year, according to Bedell.
Bedell said KCPS has improved college and career readiness by partnering with Advancement Via Individual Determination, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to schools. There has been a 100 percent increase in students taking advanced placement courses because ninth graders in AVID are required to take AP geography, said Bedell. Next year, KCPS will offer a new AP class.
Bedell also said he has created an equity policy that uses a 13-variable system to determine which schools need more resources. The resources provided depend on each school’s specific needs. For example, KCPS has implemented more social and emotional support to students at some schools.
“Regardless of background, income level, gender, sexual orientation, race, if you’re in any of these schools, you’re going to get a set of resources that will help level the playing field and give you a fair and equitable chance at getting a great education,” Bedell said.
Bedell said KCPS hopes to increase graduation rates by partnering with the Manual Career Tech Center. This partnership could allow for eight additional career pathways and five paid apprenticeship pathways in KCPS according to Bedell.
“This is something that would be a gamechanger for the next 20 or 30 years and hopefully well beyond that,” Bedell said. “It will serve as a workforce that will come out ready to thrive, do the work and make this city the great city that we all want it to be.”
White said she is excited about the support from the community and the energy felt at the event.
“I really feel like we have all of Kansas City behind the school district and we have civic and business leaders that are ready to support our students through mentoring, internships and financial givings,” White said. “There’s an excitement around the school district that we’re moving in the right direction, the scores look great and we have people that want to be a part of that change.”
White said her goal is to continue to bring innovative programming to KCPS.
“We want to level the playing field and make sure there are no barriers to education or opportunity,” White said. “The foundation’s job is to find the resources necessary to bring those programs to light.”
Bedell said that KCPS has received more support than many other urban school districts.
“With this much support, there is no excuse as to why we cannot be one of the highest performing urban school districts in the country,” Bedell said.