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Kansas City Public Schools investigates falsified attendance data

Misreporting happened from 2013 to 2016
Posted at 6:58 AM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 19:46:26-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Public Schools conducted an investigation after it was discovered that student attendance data was intentionally falsified for several years within the district.

The misreporting is said to have happened from 2013 to 2016.

According to a press release from the district Wednesday, school officials learned about the inaccuracies in the data in January 2019.

Superintendent Mark Bedell said when he started with the district, he noticed the 2015 - 2016 school year had a high attendance rate, but sometimes a high increase can happen.

However, complaints spurred Bedell to launch an internal investigation in February 2019.

The investigation was later handed over to an outside investigative team.

Under former superintendents Stephen Green and Al Tunis, seven district employees changed attendance records to make it look like students were in school 90 percent of the year. Attendance is extremely important to meet Missouri School Improvement Performance Standards and reach full accreditation. It also means more state funding.

The district will have to pay the state back, Bedell said, though the amount won't be "significant."

Bedell said he was disappointed to find this out given the hard work his staff put in to improve the district, but that they're going in a much better direction now.

"I don’t know that it significantly changes anything. It would’ve potentially hurt us if that '15-'16 school year was still on the books, but the way the state does it, they do a three-year average. That whole year that was in question actually came off, and so everything that we’re being held accountable now is based on my body of work as a superintendent working with the board," Bedell said.

The district said that significant changes were implemented when Bedell became superintendent in 2016, and that the misreporting has not happened since his employment.

"We apologize to the state, the city of Kansas City, our teachers and our staff members of the district, and most importantly to our children and families who depend on us," Board of Education Chairperson Pattie Mansur said in a statement. "We believe the district has been on a much stronger path forward the past three years. The appropriate safeguards are now in place, and our children are in good hands."

Three of the employees implicated were already gone from the district when the investigation results came out. The other four are on paid administrative leave. Bedell said the group is made up of administrators and district-level employees.

In a statement, the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office said it was aware of the allegations and would be looking into them further to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

"My office is aware of the recent media reports concerning the Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools," Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in a statement. "The matters that are the subject of these reports have not yet been referred to my office, but we will be evaluating the allegations to determine whether there are any applicable criminal charges."

Because of the findings, KCPS said it has implemented new measures, including an attendance standard operating procedure, revised training for attendance monitors, standardized attendance documentation and improved management controls in the district's student information system.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was informed of the investigation and said it has worked with the district through the investigation. The department issued this statement on Wednesday morning:

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) appreciates the Kansas City Public Schools’ (KCPS’) thorough and transparent response to this serious issue regarding allegations of falsified student attendance records. Throughout the process, KCPS has kept DESE apprised of the status of their investigation and their timeline for resolution. DESE is working with KCPS officials to correct the falsified attendance data and collect the money owed back to the state and the Kansas City area charter schools.

Mansur said that the education board is satisfied with the items that were put in place to make sure the inaccuracies do not occur again in the future.