By Paul Thompson
December 1, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – James Elementary was one of three buildings in the Kansas City Public Schools district to earn 100% of the points possible on its 2016 Annual Performance Report (APR), and district leaders had an opportunity to show just what makes the school special on Thursday, December 1, when they invited representatives from Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to tour the school.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell decided to host one of the district’s two building tours with DESE representatives at James Elementary after coming away particularly impressed by the school during an unannounced visit last month. According to district data, 91% of James Elementary attendees are students of color, while 74% of students are English Language Learners (ELL).
“When I walked in, the climate of the building just caught me off guard,” said Bedell. “The student work was not worksheets; it was actually authentic student-created products, which lets me know that there’s a level of expectation here that’s significantly high, and regardless of zip code, when you come into this building you are expected to learn.”
Following his November visit to James Elementary, Bedell knew that he wanted DESE representatives to exactly what he had seen in one of the district’s most successful school buildings. After the roughly 25-minute guided tour on Thursday afternoon, Bedell felt that the right message had been sent. During an open public meeting at Truman Medical Center (2301 Charlotte) on the morning Friday, December 2, DESE officials and the Missouri Board of Education will be deciding the accreditation status of KCPS and other school districts throughout the state. Despite its significant gains this year, KCPS is expected to remain provisionally accredited until it can sustain its progress for another year. Even so, Bedell hopes the James Elementary tour can begin to change the conversation surrounding the district.
“It’s an adult mindset that, regardless of where kids come from, we have a lot of power inside of buildings to control for those variables,” said Bedell. “When you walk through a building like this, you see that. There’s a reason why this school has 100% of their APR points two years in a row, and they’re continuing to grow. It’s about mindset.”