Education

Education News.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

On a recent summer morning, a dozen would-be teachers gathered outside Kansas City's Juvenile Justice Center, preparing to go inside. 

"This is a lockdown facility," cautioned Uzziel Pecina, the professor leading what was a rather unusual field trip. "Are there any questions before we enter?" 

Pecina teaches what he calls a "summer community immersion" course at University of Missouri-Kansas City's Institute for Urban Education. 

Julia Szabo / KCUR

Name: Kelly Ott

Number of Years In Education: 18

Role: Director of Professional Development (Blue Valley Public Schools)

 Kelly Ott is a second career teacher who came to the profession with the goal of leaving a positive footprint. After graduating from college with International Business and French degrees she worked in the fashion industry in Paris, but she knew she wanted more...

Kelly spoke with some of her colleagues about this shift. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

In a heated two-hour debate, the Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education voted Wednesday night to get into the charter school business.

The vote was the next step in the process for a partnership between KCPS and the Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI). 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Kansas City Public Schools board wants to get into the charter school business.

The board of education is slated to vote to move that process forward Wednesday night.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Perhaps the issue that worries current educators the most is where the next generation of teachers will come from.

Lots of teachers are leaving the profession. But what’s scarier than that is the shrinking number of people who chose teaching as a career.

You can blame economics and politics.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Area school districts seeking additional state aid due to increased enrollment took a beating from the State Finance Council Monday.

Five area districts applied for money from the Extraordinary Needs Fund, a pool of money the Legislature created when it approved block grant funding last session.

But two walked away with no additional state aid. Olathe asked for $458,501 and got zero. Bonner Springs requested $155,094 and also got nothing.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

Lawmakers on the State Finance Council meet Monday in Topeka to determine how much money nearly 40 public school districts in Kansas will get from the state's extraordinary needs fund.

Here are some questions you may have, answered by KCUR's education reporter Sam Zeff. 

1. Kansas has an 'extraordinary needs' fund? What is that?

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Many veteran teachers speak of a time earlier in their careers when they doubted their choice to teach. 

"It was actually one of my first days teaching kindergarten," says Julie Wilson, who now directs the state-run teaching jobs board kansasteachingjobs.com

"I had to get them lined up for a fire drill, and it was such a mess that by the time I got them out to the playground I was in tears. And I was like, 'What have I done? How am I ever going to teach them if I can't get them to line up?'" 

They may not be shocking but the numbers are still illuminating. 

In Kansas City Public Schools, 19 percent of teachers are in their first year on the job. And 17 percent do not have the correct certification. These are the highest proportions of any district in the state. That's according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Education. 

University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Friday that the University will “defer implementation” of its decision last week that would have stopped graduate student health insurance subsidies.

The University will continue to pay health insurance subsidies to eligible graduate students.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It will be a tense day at the Kansas Statehouse Monday as 38 school districts ask the state for more money on top of the block grants they received for this school year.

The districts are asking for Extraordinary Needs Funding, money set aside by the Legislature when it dumped the previous school funding formula for the block grant scheme. The $12.3 million pool is for districts who claim an extraordinary increase in enrollment or plummeting real estate values.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas State Finance Council, chaired by Gov. Sam Brownback and dominated by Republican legislative leaders, is playing hardball with school districts seeking extraordinary funding.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Kansas City's newest charter high school opened Wednesday. Well, not totally new. 

The Ewing Marion Kauffman School has been on the Kansas City charter landscape for four years now.

It opened in 2011 with a lone fifth-grade class and gradually expanded, adding a grade each year. Now, the school is opening a brand new building on its campus near 63rd Street and Paseo Boulevard.

And that original fifth-grade class will become Kauffman's first set of ninth-graders. 

Let's start this story with a big disclaimer: the Common Core-aligned tests Missouri students took this year are a one-time deal that cannot be compared to either what came before or what will come after.

Julia Szabo / KCUR

    

Name: Chris Orlando
Number of years teaching: 4
Grade: 8th
School: Southwest Middle School (Lawrence)

"You taught me the skill of empathy really early on."

For 7th grade Social Studies teacher Chris Orlando, teaching isn’t about facts; it’s about building relationships with students and teaching life skills. This drive, Orlando says, comes from the relationship with his mom, Pat Lorenz, who has been an educator for more than 30 years. 

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Grandview Public Schools is a statistical anomaly in the Kansas City metro.

On average, teachers in Grandview have 15 years experience, which is on par with suburban districts like Blue Valley and Lee's Summit. Likewise, the district's proportion of new teachers (those with five years experience or less) is also small: less than 20 percent, compared to a metro-wide average of nearly 30 percent. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

When the State Finance Council meets next week, it's going to have some tough decisions to make. Kansas has $12.3 million in Extraordinary Needs Funds available but school districts are asking for almost $15.1 million.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

School districts across Missouri found out Monday how they did on last year's standardized tests.

For Kansas City Public Schools and the Hickman Mills districts, both provisionally accredited by the state, the news was mixed.

Missouri changed its test so it's impossible to accurately compare scores year-to-year. However, both districts scored below 50 percent proficient or advanced in all four subjects tested —English, math, science and social studies.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Class has just started for most students, but it’s already a tough year for Kansas schools.

Many districts have been struggling to make ends meet, laying off staff or raising property taxes. But for a few dozen districts, the situation is worse.

So some districts are asking for help from the state’s Extraordinary Needs Fund.

When you think of Olathe public schools, the phrase extraordinary needs doesn’t jump to mind.

New buildings, lots of green space, beautiful offices.

But, the district says, money is tight.

Around the Kansas City metro, there are roughly 20,000 public school teachers in more than 50 districts and charter schools, teaching more than 300,000 students. 

Broadly speaking, the metro reflects statewide trends in both Kansas and Missouri that show teachers are steadily getting younger and less experienced. Both states have two of the youngest, least experienced teacher workforces in the country, according to the most recent federal data. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The embattled St. Joseph School District remains in the FBI’s cross hairs.  The district says it received another grand jury subpoena this week, the fifth in a little more than a year.

While the district wouldn’t say what the government specifically demanded in the subpoena, interim Superintendent Robert Newhart did say it included information from district employees.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The IRS audit of the scandal ridden St. Joseph School District will take an entire year to complete.

When the district announced the audit it said the IRS would be at district headquarters for only four days this month looking at contracts, termination agreements and board minutes from 2013.

But at the very end of this week’s board of education meeting, administrators told the school board the IRS will spend the next year combing through documents from 2012 through 2014. Many board members were stunned to hear the news.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The release of standardized test scores in Missouri this year are coming out slowly, so the Kansas City Public Schools and the Hickman Mills School District won't know for at least a few weeks whether they will gain full accreditation from the state.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released statewide test results Tuesday, but the district-by-district numbers won't be available for another week.

Kansas City and Hickman Mills are provisionally accredited and were hoping to have the state fully accredit them this year.

Julia Szabo / KCUR

Name: Susana Ozaeta
Number of years teaching: 1
Grade: 6th
School: Gladstone Elementary, Kansas City Public Schools

"Their eyes lit up when they knew I was from the neighborhood." 

Susana Ozaeta grew up in Northeast Kansas City. As a child of immigrants she saw how uncomfortable her Spanish-speaking mother felt at her school.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

The front line of the nation's generational shift in teaching may be Kansas City, Missouri. 

Around the metro area  — made up of more than 50 districts and charter schools in both Kansas and Missouri — tens of thousands of students are returning to school this week. And they will be taught by a teacher force that is one of the youngest, least experienced in the nation.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

When Missouri releases its standardized test scores, it’s always a tense week for some school districts.

But this year two area districts are both tense and confused.

The confusion for Kansas City Public Schools and the Hickman Mills School District comes because the state changed its standardized tests.

Both districts are provisionally accredited and hoping for full accreditation following this year’s results which will be publicly released Tuesday.

However, the state says because of the change, a year-to-year comparison would be almost useless.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

This just might be the most challenging year in Kansas education in a generation.

State funding, teachers leaving the state and hiring issues are plaguing districts across the state.

A memorial service for former University of Kansas chancellor Robert Hemenway is set for next Sunday at the Dole Institute of Politics.

Hemenway died Friday, he was 73.

Among his other achievements at KU, athletics reached a high point under his leadership in 2008.

That year, the Kansas Jayhawks became the fourth in major college history to win a BCS bowl game and play in the Final Four the same year. In January of 2008, the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl.

Esti Alvarez / Flickr-CC

Most adults in Missouri who work with children are required by law to report any suspected child abuse to the state. Too often, child advocates say, reports don’t get made but they hope to fix that later this year.

Two years ago the law requiring child abuse to be reported to the Children’s Division of the Department of Social Services drastically changed.

For years teachers, coaches or other youth workers had to report suspicions to a supervisor. Now state law requires those reports to be made directly to state investigators.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It's taken six months since a report from the Missouri State Auditor severely criticized the St. Joseph, Missouri School District and three of its top administrators, but Thursday the district finally pushed out its scandal-tainted former HR director.

The district says it reached a severance deal with Doug Flowers. It will pay Flowers $32,000 to leave the district.

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