KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools district is no longer the lowest-performing district in the state, according to the latest data released Tuesday during a Board of Education meeting that shows growth in all areas.
Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust credited a realigned focus and reallocated resources with turning the district’s numbers around.
“We made sure that our schools who were at the lowest, they were sometimes triple-teamed to get them where they needed," Foust said. "So, we are still in that development stage, but we are again making that move, so putting the resources where the kids are."
Of the district’s 43 schools, 39 showed positive gains in English language arts, outpacing the progress of students in similarly sized (and similarly struggling) districts in Wichita and Topeka.
“Our kids deserve the best,” Board Member Wanda Paige said. "They may not have a lot of money, but they are hard-working people. Their parents are hard-working people, and they want nothing but the best for their kids."
The KCK Public Schools administration went as far as knocking on doors to track down students who were absent from the classroom.
“Individuals on the dropout list that needed somewhere, literally like three to four credit hours short of graduating," Foust said.
Board members, school principals and even Foust himself divvied up the names on the list and asked the students to come back.
“We are a community," Paige said. "We have to invite people to come in and work with us and be just as excited as we are with what we are trying to do. There’s been so many misconceptions, but we are trying to be truthful, we are transparent, we want it to work."
One year after only 4% percent of KCK Public Schools students were proficient in language arts, math or science, that figure jumped to 18% in 2018-19, according to study results presented by FOust.
KCK Public Schools saw proficiency scores jump to 18.6% for English language arts, 17.6% for mathematics and 17.8% for science in 2018-19, gains of nearly 4% or more across the board.
”The data shows we are on track to becoming proficient,” Foust said in a release from the district. “We’re seeing early results of efforts to provide support to teachers in the classroom.”
KCK Public Schools added Instructional Improvement Officers in each building to help spur improvement.
According to the report’s findings, only 14.3% of KCK students were proficient in English language arts, which includes reading and writing, in 2017-18.
That was down from 15.7% in 2015-16, but jumped 4.3% to a four-year-high last academic year.
Among the 60% of students who “scored below Kansas Curricular Standards” in 2017-18, according to a release from the district, only 13.9% were proficient in science and 11.4% were proficient in math in 2017-18.
Both reached four-year highs with science proficiency gaining 3.9% and math jumping 6.2%.
Overall, the 2017-18 report card found that a little more than 4% of the district’s 22,000 students were deemed proficient across the board in 2017-18.
Of course, the gains made last year are only the tip of the iceberg and KCK continues to lag behind the state average in proficiency.
The district’s goal is to reach 75% proficiency by 2030.
“We have to be on the same page to ensure guidance, coordination and support of quality instructional practices,” Foust said in a release. “We have a lot of work to do and know the challenges we have in front of us addressing the educational needs of students and staff.”
Foust planned to present some of the strategies in place for fixing the deficiencies.
"I want parents and the community to be informed about the work that is being done in every school and every classroom to ensure that we're all ‘On Track’ to excellence,” he said in a release from KCK Public Schools. “We implemented a 30- to 60- to 90-day plan to begin the movement towards positive growth.”
The Board also was scheduled for a briefing on state assessment results and graduation rates and an update on the district’s Diploma+ program, the district’s “flagship” initiative “to prepare our students for success in a global society.”