State votes to strip KCMO schools of accreditation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Missouri Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to strip the Kansas City Missouri School District of accreditation.

That means at the start of 2012, students attending Kansas City, Missouri schools will be attending classes in an unaccredited school district.

The Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro in Jefferson City recommended to revoke the district's accreditation effective January 1, 2012.

That delay will give the school board, lawmakers and educators time to discuss how to handle the domino effect of potential consequences.

According to State School Board Member Stan Archie, of the 18 schools reviewed Tuesday, the KCMO district was the only district to have its accreditation revoked. Archie said the state board could no longer overlook the district's repeated, failing test scores.

In a news release, Interim Superintendent R. Stephen Green said, "While we are disappointed with this decision, we understand the basis upon which it was made. Student achievement remains our top priority and we will couple with this, a focus on restoration and recovery of our accreditation status."

Starting January, the KCMO district will have two full school years, under current law, to earn its accreditation back before the state of Missouri takes control or decides to dissolve the district.

Commissioner Nicastro is expected to appoint a three-person advisory committee to help the district to come up with a plan to regain its accreditation by the end of the two-year statutory period.

On Wednesday, school will go on as normal, said a school board member, who wanted to remain unnamed.

The board member also said the status change will not take away the validity of a student's education or diploma or ability to qualify for college.

The board member said colleges focus more on ACT and SAT scores and a student's grade point average, not a district's accreditation.

Still, KCMO parent Dana Cutler said on Tuesday, "Kids who are graduating in May...what will they be facing? How does that affect their future and their possibilities, their hopes?"

What would change is a parent's ability to move a child out of the district.

State law allows families living in an unaccredited district to attend neighboring school districts in districts in neighboring counties. That could be devastating to the KCMO school district.

School board members have said in the past they worry a mass exodus of students could eventually mean the end of the district.

In January, when the district officially becomes unaccredited, parents will be able to transfer a child to any school district within Jackson County or go to Clay, Platte or Cass counties.

The financial burden would be on the KCMO school district.

Current law puts the burden of transportation costs on the unaccredited district and requires it to transfer tuition to the new district.

Neighboring school districts, trying to keep class sizes small, are worried how to handle a sudden influx of new students and additional costs.

KCMO schools would have to give up the approximately $8,800 per pupil it receives from the state to the receiving district.

However, districts say state funds per pupil do not fully cover the education of each student and that the costs to absorb new students would be much higher.

The loss of accreditation comes after performance reports revealed the school district met just three of 14 state standards.

The state looks at both academic and performance standards.

A district must meet six standards to be provisionally accredited.

Nine standards must be met to achieve full accreditation.

A school board member said KCMO schools has never achieved full accreditation since the state's inception of accreditation went into effect a decade ago.

The district will be holding two town hall meetings for concerned parents:

WEDNESDAY | 6:30 p.m. at the Paseo Academy at 4747 Flora
THURSDAY | 6:30 p.m. at the Manual Career Technical Center at 1215 E. Truman

A call-in question and answer center will also be open to take your questions over the phone starting Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Parents can call (816) 418-7266.

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