Students choosing charters over Kansas City Public Schools

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The unaccredited status of Kansas City Public Schools may actually be helping a group of other schools in the city.

The Kansas City Missouri School District has lost around 12,000 students over the last ten years. Meanwhile, enrollment is increasing at other schools right down the street.
     
Students, many whom are economically challenged, were in search for a better education. More and more said they found their answer in charter schools.

Sean Ray transferred out of a public school and into De La Salle Charter High School two years ago.

The "C" average student is now an "A" student. The senior credited the smaller class sizes and extra attention to books and students' battles in life.

"When I was first here, I was not this easy to talk to. I was quiet. I had a hard time looking at you in the face, but now I can do that," said Ray with a smile.

Phyllis Chase, the director at the UMKC Charter School Center, said Missouri offers charter schools in Kansas City because they are "an alternative to a failing school district."

Chase said that the schools offer the promise of a better education and a better future to many parents who cannot afford private schools or to move to a better performing district.

UMKC said its 11 schools have added on average 450 students every year to its charter program.
       
While nine of those schools are below the state's proficiency standards, UMKC said charter test scores have shown gains each year.

UMKC said there is a reason for the gain -- teacher tenure does not exist in charter programs, so charter school teachers must perform.

"If we have a teacher that's not getting the type of gains that he or she should, we can release them immediately. That's huge," explained Chase.

Kansas City Missouri Public Schools reported gains in enrollment numbers this year, but acknowledge much of that increase came from other charter schools that closed.

Back at De La Salle, students continue to improve their test scores, and the school graduated nearly every senior last year.

Ray promised he will be one of the graduates this year, and said he has big dreams ahead.

"I'm excited, anxious and ready."

To find out more about De La Salle, log onto www.delasallecenter.org . To find out more about the UMKC Charter School Center, log onto education.umkc.edu .

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