KCPS unveils its own turnaround plan

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Just hours after members of an education reform think tank presented their draft of a plan to dismantle the Kansas City Public School district and replace it with a bold, if highly controversial new model, school district leaders fired back-- presenting their own plan at a community meeting and calling on the state board of education not to experiment on Kansas City students.

"I think the best approach that we can take is to be calm, composed, focused and do it again -- and seize control of our own destiny by asserting our plan for ourselves," KCPS Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green told a gathering of a few dozen parents and teachers on Monday night.

Unlike the CEE-Trust plan, which calls for a total transformation of the long-struggling district, the KCPS plan amounts to more of a "stay the course" approach, offering comparatively minor reforms in exchange for the stability of leadership and organization the district has so often lacked in the past.

"We are on course, if things go according to plan, for another year of dramatic improvement for the Kansas City public schools," Green explained.

His argument is summarized as essentially: we are making progress, don't change everything now.

The changes proposed in the plan presented by KCPS, described as being in the "nascent stages of its development," would move some more authority to principals and special School Improvement Advisory Committees which would develop and oversee school improvement plans.

In the KCPS plan, schools would be individually accredited across four levels. Accredited schools at the top tier would have the most autonomy. Provisionally accredited schools would receive more monitoring and outside input into how they are run. Academically stressed schools, the third tier, would receive even more resources and more oversight and the lowest tier of "lapsed" school could be closed or reconstituted and its student's transferred.

Parents at Monday's meeting were largely supportive of the KCPS plan, as were teachers, who were consulted in its preparation. One teacher's union official called stability a better plan than continued "experiments" on Kansas City students, which she said was what the CEE-Trust plan amounts to.

Dr. Green took a similarly strong tack, telling gathered parents that the state board of education "can't treat us like lab rats."

"The biggest challenge that we face now is external. It's political," Green said. "We have become the battle zone for politics and experimentation."

The biggest advantage of the KCPS plan, Green said, would be its grassroots nature and what he said he expected to be significant community involvement in its finalization.

"It is a plan for us, by us. Unlike any of the other plans that are out there that are plans for us, not necessarily by us, this plan is a plan that is going to come from the grassroots of this community," Green said. "It is going to be designed and shaped by you."

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