New data takes deep-dive into state of KCPS and charter schools to improve educational ecosystem for all students

Elizabeth Orosco
Northeast News

Kansas City Public School District presented an analysis of the entire educational system in Kansas City, revealing a large web of schools with glaring complications.

The “system” includes data from both KCPS schools and surrounding charter schools. The vision behind the data aims to fully serve the students by taking a deep-dive into what exactly can be improved.

“What is in this report will drive future conversations,” said Ray Weikal, KCPS Public Relations Manager.

The Goal

With this comprehensive, citywide data, the district hopes to “inform and guide collaboration and coordinated decision-making that will result in better outcomes for all students,” according to the Thursday presentation.

“Bottom line: we want students to win,” said Dr. Mark Bedell, Superintendent of the Kansas City School District in opening remarks. “We want to create an educational ecosystem that works for all students.”

Retaining the Students

Currently, schools are finding it harder to retain students. The KCPS/Charter system serves 47% fewer students at 12th grade than in Kindergarten.

Between 2000 and 2010, enrollment declined by 10,000 students.

The 26,520 students enrolled are also presented with a large number of school choices, most of which lack a comprehensive feeder pattern, making it hard for parents to navigate their child’s education.

The KCPS/Charter system offers 15 high schools, 23 middle schools, 45 elementary schools, 5 charter sponsors, and 22 charter school operators.

Springfield, Mo., which comparatively has 25,780 students enrolled, offers only 5 high school options, 11 middle schools, and 37 elementary schools.

One of the more shocking statistics to emerge from this data was that only 55% of students in the KCPS/Charter system attend a fully-accredited school.

Financial Implications

Financially, this is costly when you consider the funds required for utilities at all buildings, paying staff and teacher salaries, property insurance, transportation at each school, cleaning, maintenance, and basic operations.

During the 2016-2017 school year, the KC System spent $28.8 million on transportation alone, covering 67 square miles, compared to the $11.1 million spent by Springfield, Mo., whose system is spread over 300 square miles.

Ultimately, buses are passing each other in the streets to pick up students for different schools.

Who are the students?

Nearly half (47%) of the students in the KCPS/Charter System live in the North and East Zones, which house few charter options.

System-wide, a large portion of the students (57%) are Black, even though Black student enrollment has declined 11% in the last year.

The largest overall enrollment growth is seen among Hispanic students, which has doubled since 2010.

Demographics also vary by grade level. Charters serve a significantly higher number of Hispanic students in high school (37%) compared to elementary (22%) and a higher number of white students at elementary (15%) compared to high school (3%).

KCPS serves a higher number of Black students at high school (60%) compared to elementary (53%) and a lower number of Hispanic students at high school (31% compared to elementary (24%).


The system is also becoming more economically and racially segregated. KCPS defined a segregated school as a school with more than 75% of children receiving free or reduced lunch and having more than 75% Black/Hispanic students.

Intensively segregated is defined as a school that has more than 90% of students receiving free or reduced lunch and 90% Black/Hispanic students.

In 2017, 30 charters and 25 KCPS schools (78%) qualified as segregated and 17 charters and 10 KCPS schools (39%) qualified as intensely segregated.

Only 10% of students enrolled in the KCPS/Charter system are White. Of those 10% of White students, nearly half (47%) of them attend one of seven schools.

Those schools include six elementary schools, which are currently 34-67% White and one middle/high school, which is currently 17% White.

While enrollment is more diverse, individual schools are becoming more segregated.


There are approximately 33,658 total seats in the KCPS/Charter System, with only 79% of system seats being filed.

An exact number is not calculable considering KCPS does not have facility assessment for charter schools.

These seats, however, are not located where the students live. Half of all seats are located in the Central and Southwest zones, yet only 31% of students live there.

In the North and East zone, there are 34% of seats available, even though nearly half (47%) of all students live there.

There are 8,972 more seats than students in the Central and Southwest zones and the East, North, and Southeast zones have 1,474 fewer seats available than students.

And laying one set of data on top of another, only 52% of the total number of seats are fully accredited.

In the Southwest Zone, 72% of these seats are accredited, but in the Southeast zone, only one in four seats are accredited.

Student Mobility

Mobility refers to students who change schools during the school year. Data presented by KCPS showed that a higher mobility rate leads to lower graduation rate and ACT scores.

Neighborhood schools see the majority of student mobility during the school year. One speculation presented during the presentation was the influx in evictions in certain portions of the metro.

The system average mobility rate is 34.2 with 20 KCPS schools receiving a higher mobility rate than the system average.

During the 2016-2017 school year, 93% of persistent students (students who were enrolled on count day every year from 9th to 12th grade) graduated. During the same school year, 71% of mobile students graduated.

Moving Forward

With this system-wide data, KCPS has identified five key objectives to address to be able to improve the challenges facing students in the education system.

These objectives include building awareness among key stakeholders about the challenges associated with the fragmented state of the KC public education system, reaching a consensus that a more cohesive system is needed, improving trust between KCPS, charters, and stakeholders, establishing expectations for developing a more cohesive system, and looking to local stakeholders to provide cross-sector support to improve the educational outcomes and development of a more sustainable education system.

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