Education

KCUR 89.3 covers education issues across the Kansas City region and in Kansas and Missouri. 

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Sam Zeff / KCUR

This story was updated at 9:35 pm

An email to faculty and staff in the Olathe School District has prompted a bitter back-and-forth between the state legislator who authored it and the board of education. It has also triggered suggestions of illegal use of email and a possible Kansas Open Meetings Act violation.

Crossroads Academy

One of the more successful charter schools in Kansas City says it plans to open a second campus in time for the next school year.

Crossroads Academy is on Central Street just around the corner from the main branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

It opened in 2012, has doubled in size since that time and now educates about 350 students.

Executive Director Dean Johnson says the school will look for a building to buy downtown that will eventually serve about 400 students in  kindergarten through eighth grades.

Missouri Auditor's Office

The social security numbers and other personal information of almost 1.5 million current and former Missouri public school students are in jeopardy, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

Jane McQueeny, Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access (IOA) at the University of Kansas, has resigned.

McQueeny has been the face of the university’s response to an increase in the number of sexual assault and discrimination complaints under the federal Title IX law. The increase does not necessarily mean an increase in the incidence of cases, but an increase in reporting. In the past, McQueeny has said higher numbers of complaints is a good thing because it means more people are coming forward.

“Jane was first person to head the newly-created Title IX office in 2012,” said Erin Barcomb-Peterson, with the KU Office of Public Affairs. “She spearheaded the role of the university’s response to sex discrimination complaints.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Most people know by now that it's pretty hard for women to land a high-tech job.

In fact, while 57 percent of all professional jobs are held by women in the United States, only 26 percent of computing jobs go to women, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

But, it turns out, landing that high paying tech job is even harder for women who go to Midwestern universities.

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Missouri is in the process of rewriting the learning standards that govern the academic expectations for students in the state. Later this month, the Missouri State Board of Education will meet to review the drafts of revised standards that were submitted to the state by working groups made up of educators and parents.

"We’re  optimistic that we’re going to have some very good standards, better than the ones we’ve had before," says Sarah Potter with the Missouri State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Emory Maiden / Flickr--CC

You might be surprised to hear it, but the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) says it's in a funding crisis that has had a "crippling" effect on everything from class size to property values in the district.

The surprising admission comes in a friend-of-the- court brief the district filed with the Kansas Supreme Court in the pending school finance case.

AFGE / Flickr--CC

For the past seven years, Randi Weingarten has led the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers' unions in the United States. 

In an interview with KCUR, she discussed what may be behind the persistent teacher shortages in Kansas, the politically tinged process to rewrite Missouri's learning standards and a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court that could forever alter how unions like hers do business. 

Rough Tough, Real Stuff / Flickr--CC

 

The University of Kansas has received an $8.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help low-income and first-generation students finish college.

KU is just one of 11 universities that are part of the grant, aimed at increasing college retention.

The money will be used for research.

“The end game is to ensure the students by the end of the study, are on track to complete a degree in four years," says Randall Brumfield, director of KU’s undergraduate advising center. 

  MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Thursday that the University of Missouri will soon require faculty and new students to go through diversity and inclusion training.

His announcement came following an incident of racism that occurred during the early hours of the morning on October 5. The Legion of Black Collegians homecoming royalty court was practicing a performance at Traditions Plaza when a racial slur was yelled at them.

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas has an unusually high number of teacher vacancies this year.

Some 317 teacher vacancies were reported across the state last month, according to a Kansas State Department of Education report.

Officials said that’s at least 100 more than normal for this time of year.

Special education teachers are needed most, according to the report. There are 46 openings around the state, with many in southwest Kansas where teachers with special language skills are needed for a large population of Spanish speakers, which are always difficult to fill.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

At an unusual early morning meeting Wednesday, the Shawnee Mission School District board decided to allow a tax increment financing (TIF) project to move forward.

The school board could have vetoed the plan to redevelop the old Meadowbrook County Club at 91st Street and Nall Avenue in Prairie Village. Most of the 133-acre property, about two-thirds, would be turned into a park operated by Johnson County. The rest would be redeveloped into single family homes, a senior living center and a small hotel.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Kansas State Department of Education is moving full speed ahead towards its goal of perhaps drastically changing what is taught in public schools.

The department's top two officials brought their case to Johnson County educators and a few lawmakers Tuesday at the Olathe School District headquarters.

"Can we reinvent ourselves and hold on to what we have always done," asked Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson who took over KSDE in July.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

What should a successful 24-year-old know?

That’s the question top Kansas education officials are debating after a tour of the state this summer.

But asking is the easy part. The difficulty comes in figuring out how to actually teach some of the skills.

It's a discussion that could forever change education in Kansas and that conversation comes to Olathe Tuesday morning.

First, know this: the discussion in Kansas is far loftier than how to teach math or reading. It’s at the 50,000 foot level — maybe even 100,000.

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

We’re a month away from a Kansas Supreme Court showdown on whether the state is providing enough money for public schools.

The final briefs in this part of the case were filed Friday.

The arguments from the school districts and the state haven’t changed much over the years.

The school district plaintiffs, including the Kansas City, Kansas School District, say the state needs to provide more money to make sure all Kansas kids get an equal education.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has exceeded a $250 million fundraising goal, a year early.

“Ladies and gentleman, we are already there,” Chancellor Leo Morton announced Thursday. “The campaign for UMKC has exceeded its goal and has done so a full year of schedule.”

But Morton added the university wouldn’t be calling it quits.

“Just because the goal has been reached, the campaign is not over,” Morton said. “We’re not done yet.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR

In a few weeks, Kansas City Public Schools will have a brand new and unusual educational partner.

The district expects to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City to provide an array of services to Mexican students and their families in the district. 

About 25 percent of the district’s students are Spanish speakers and most of them have Mexican roots.

"We have children here who have come to this country at no choice of their own. This was a parent choice," says Luis Cordoba who runs the district’s Office of Student Interventions.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It was the worst audit report ever issued about a Missouri school district.

But in a follow up report issued Monday, the state auditor says the St. Joseph School District is making progress.

The auditor report released in February — the only time the state auditor has ever given a school district a "poor" rating — was scathing.

The St. Joseph district, the report said, had a confusing and inconsistent payroll system that resulted in up to $40 million in unapproved stipend payments going back to 2000.

Kansas Board of Regents

An improving economy may be affecting enrollment numbers of Kansas community colleges.

The Board of Regents released enrollment numbers for its six universities, plus Kansas community colleges and technical schools Friday — and the results are mixed.

Overall enrollment at the state’s 19 community colleges is down 2.9 percent.

That’s probably due to an improving economy and people no longer scrambling to improve their education to land a job.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Cynthia Lane has spent half of her career in public education in Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. On Thursday she ascended to the top of her profession in the state when she was named superintendent of the year by the Kansas School Superintendents' Association (KSSA).

“I am humbled and honored to have been selected for this award,” Lane said in a statement. “I accept it on behalf of the Board of Education and the team of people in the district and in the community who work tirelessly to graduate each student prepared for college and careers in a global society."

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

A new survey of teacher salaries in Kansas suggests there might be some long-term problems filling education jobs.

Teacher pay in Kansas has always been below the national average.

But a new report from the Kansas Association of School Boards says teachers in the state are also lagging behind the increased cost of living and nonteachers with the same amount of education.

Wikipedia--CC

Nearly a third of female undergraduate students at the University of Missouri-Columbia say they have experienced some form of sexual assault or misconduct during their time at the school.

A survey released earlier this week by the Association of American University asked more than 150,000 students about their experience with sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

Of the 27 universities and more than 150,000 students that took part in the survey, MU had the third-highest rate.

Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio

There was some potentially great news for students at Missouri universities and community colleges Monday.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says he’s reached a deal with higher education officials in the state to freeze tuition for next year.

Nixon says he is recommending $55 million more in performance funding for higher education next fiscal year. That's a 6 percent increase and would bring total state higher education funding to $985 million next fiscal year.

Of course, the General Assembly and college boards must approve the plan.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Providing free, lifetime health coverage to a school district employee was so unusual that the Missouri State Auditor called it "questionable and unnecessary". But that's exactly what the St. Joseph School District agreed to in its final contract with former Superintendent Dan Colgan.

On Monday, that benefit ended.

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

State education officials in Missouri hope a newly designed statistical model will identify down to to the district level what content areas and geographic regions in the state are facing drastic teacher shortages. 

"The better your data, the better you can address issues and solve problems. The better you can make things happen. The more we know what our specific problems are, the more we can attack them," Katnik says. 

St. Joseph School Dist.

Three top officials from the Missouri Public School Retirement System (PSRS) will be at the St. Joseph School District headquarters Friday trying to figure out if former Superintendent Dan Colgan has been receiving inflated retirement benefits.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Name: Devon Teran

Number Of Years In Education: 8

Role: Assistant Principal, Alta Vista Charter High School (Kansas City)

Devon Teran grew up in Wichita with parents who were educators. In fact, his father served as superintendent of Wichita Public Schools before moving to Grandview nearly a decade ago. (Ralph Teran recently announced his retirement from that post.) 

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

On a recent Friday afternoon, once students had left for the weekend, the fifth-grade team at the Kauffman School in Kansas City stayed behind and practiced walking down the hallway. 

They were working on how to lead students from class to class during passing periods. While six or so teachers played the role of (relatively compliant) students, one teacher would lead them down the hall giving instructions. 

What's the process being used to determine how well teachers are educating their students? Steve Kraske examines how educators are evaluated in Kansas and Missouri.

Guests: 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

When you get called down to the office in high school it is often for something unpleasant.

But for 575 Kansas City, Kansas School District students that surprise call might be exactly the boost they need to go to college. "It was like, surprising and really thrilling. Like, yes, wow, finally," says Wyandotte High School senior Katya Diaz right after she picked up her offer from Kansas City Kansas Community College Monday.

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