Education

Education News.

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It’s not really fair, but when many people around here think of quality schools, they think of Kansas.

Indeed, going back decades lots of real estate agents have guided new residents to the Kansas side of the line.

But there’s a significant difference between how Missouri schools and Kansas schools are judged.

"Our Missouri standards tend to rank at the more rigorous levels than do our standards assessments in Kansas," says Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight of the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

  If you’ve been on social media lately, you’ve probably seen parents complaining that the Common Core has ruined math for their kids.

They’ll share comedian Louis CK’s bit about the incompressible homework his kids are bringing home.

“‘Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How many dogs live in London?,’” he tells David Letterman. “Or something like that.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It was a brutal legal week for the embattled St. Joseph, Mo., School District.

It was served with a third federal grand jury subpoena for documents, as staff welcomed back CFO Beau Musser after seven months on paid administrative leave after accusing him of sexual misconduct.

An outside investigation showed Musser did not act improperly. Musser sued the district and that lawsuit is still pending.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The federal investigation into the St. Joseph School District is becoming more focused.

A third grand jury subpoena was served on the Missouri district late Thursday.

This latest subpoena for documents asks for some very specific information.

In a news release, the district says the grand jury sitting in Kansas City, Mo., wants to know about the district's tuition reimbursement and teacher certificate reimbursement programs.

The state auditor blasted two Kansas City, Mo., charter schools Tuesday for mishandling their 2012 closures.

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich gave both the Urban Community Leadership Academy and the Renaissance Academy for Math and Sciences "poor" ratings for wasting money and failing to keep adequate records as the schools shut down.

About 12,300 fewer children attended federally subsidized day cares in Missouri during fiscal year 2013 than in 2012. That marks the largest decline in the country. But child service nonprofits say it’s unlikely the decline is due entirely to a reduction in need. Instead, it may be due to changes within the state agency that administers the funds.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The St. Joseph School District in St. Joseph, Mo., faces a raft of problems, including an investigation by the FBI, a federal grand jury in Kansas City, the U.S. Department of Education and the Missouri State Auditor. 

But at least one of the embattled district’s problems may be cycling to an end.

A survey of school districts in Kansas by an efficiency commission has raised some questions about benefits paid to school district employees. The survey from the K12 Performance and Efficiency Commission showed differences in retirement and other benefits offered to employees.

Dave Trabert is a commission member and he also heads the Kansas Policy Institute, a think tank advocating for what they call a "low-tax, pro-growth environment."

He questions the higher benefits packages offered by some districts.

It's no surprise to parents, but the cost of a college education continues to rise.

The College Board issued a report Thursday showing the average in-state student paid $9,139 in 2013-2014. That's up 17 percent in the past five years, according to the report.

In-state students in Kansas and Missouri fare a little better.

The average cost in Kansas is $8,086. That's up 16 percent in the past five years.

In Missouri, in-state students paid $8,383 last year. But that's an increase of only five percent in the last five years.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

This week some very dire budget predictions came out of Topeka: In the next two years Kansas may come up $1 billion short of expenses.

But that’s in the future. Right now the state has to find $279 million.

When budget experts gathered Monday, school districts all across Kansas were watching closely.

They knew if the projected budget shortfall for the rest of this fiscal year was bad, they faced potential cuts in state funding.

Not next year but this year — money already budgeted would be lost.

Cody Newill / KCUR

New figures from the U.S. Department of Education show that homelessness among American students has sky-rocketed by 58 percent in the past five years.

While the problem is at its worst in urban school districts the government data reveals that, for the first time, rural and suburban school districts are dealing with homelessness on a large scale. 

There are now an estimated 1.3 million homeless students in this country.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education wants to know what qualities the public values in its next education leader.

Current education commissioner Chris Nicastro plans to retire at the end of the year, leaving the State Board about two months to hire her replacement. The department released its criteria for selecting a new leader on Tuesday.

Bradley Covington, a senior at Lee’s Summit North High School in Lee's Summit, Mo., remembers well the time he planned out Santa Claus’s Christmas Eve route. 

“We had to think of all the problems we could face: where he would travel, the direction he would travel, how he’s going to travel to all these places,” he says. “We had to actually specifically look up the time zones, to find which ones Christmas would fall in first.”

woodleywonderworks / Wikimedia-CC

Everyone, it seems, wants more children to attend pre-kindergarten.

Just last week President Barack Obama called for 6 million more high quality early childhood education slots by the end of the decade.

But the United States now has fewer children in state-funded pre-K programs, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. About 28 percent of 4-year-olds were enrolled across the country. Overall there were 4,301 fewer children in pre-K classes in 2013 when compared to the previous year.

Sarah Gilbert / Flickr--CC

The state of Missouri is going after a multi-million dollar federal grant that would pay for more children to go to high-quality preschool programs.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says it has applied for a $17.5 million Preschool Development Grant.

This is the same grant program that Kansas said no to last month.

Most educators agree that high-quality pre-school is crucial to improving education at all levels.

gamma-o.org

University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little moved quickly to place Kappa Sigma fraternity on interim suspension after allegations of a sexual assault at the house over the weekend.

Lawrence police say the alleged crime was reported early Monday morning. According to the university, Gray-Little authorized the interim suspension letter Tuesday. That letter was hand delivered to the Kappa Sigma house. The action and police investigation were announced Wednesday.

The university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access is also investigating.

Two Kansas City metro schools have been named National Blue Ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education.

Only 337 schools across the county were named National Blue Ribbon winners.

Some were named for excelling in academics and others for closing achievement gaps.

Lincoln College Preparatory Academy in the Kansas City, Mo., school district was named. This is the second time the prestigious magnet school has won a Blue Ribbon. It was last awarded one in 2008.

The other metro school was Our Lady of Presentation Catholic School in Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Green celebrated the district's recent successes in his annual State of the Schools address Tuesday.

The district regained provisional accreditation last month after losing its standing with the state in 2012. Green, who took over as superintendent shortly thereafter, says many believed at the time the district couldn't be saved.

But he says that attitude isn't helpful in education.

Yassie / Wikimedia-CC

Later this week, the University of Missouri Board of Curators will vote on a plan to change the way sexual assault and harassment complaints are handled.

But some faculty members say the process is moving forward a little too quickly.

University of Missouri system President Tim Wolfe is proposing a change that would require schools to investigate sexual harassment or discrimination cases within 60 days.

The proposal before the curators also would widen which employees must report harassment to the administration and change the hearing process.

Depending on whose opinion you get, this week’s initial meetings to draw up new school standards for Missouri students were a “Common Core cheerleading session” or a strong-arm attempt that was “hijacked by political extremists” on the right.

Either way, the eight committees impaneled under a law passed earlier this year appear to have a long way to go to meet a deadline of having the new standards ready for approval a year from now.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is jumping into an area it’s never tackled.

At a packed event at the Chamber's Union Station headquarters, Chamber President Roshann Parris said the organization has a new item for its Big 5 agenda of civic goals: making sure every child in the metropolitan area is ready for kindergarten.

"No single issue impacts the health and vitality of our regional community and regional workforce more than education," Parris said.

www.ingramsonline.com

There’s been a push in the past couple of years to improve both the access to and quality of pre-kindergarten education.

Now the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce will jump into that effort and add early childhood development to its Big Five initiative.

Chamber President Roshann Parris says after meeting for months with area school superintendents, education researchers and, of course, business people, members decided that the best place to put their considerable clout and resources was in pre-K education.

www.audio-luci-store.it / Flickr--CC

Teach Great, the Rex Sinqufield-backed campaign to drastically change the way teachers are evaluated in Missouri, has shut down.

Last week, late in the day on Sept. 9, Teach Great spokesperson Kate Casas issued a statement saying the organization would not pursue the Amendment 3 campaign. She said that instead Teach Great would embark on a statewide listening tour and that it looked forward to working with elected officials on other grassroots efforts.

Instead, she now says, Teach Great is closing its doors for good.

Now that she has announced her retirement at the end of the year, how should Chris Nicastro’s tenure as Missouri’s commissioner of education be graded?

Using the guarded tone of academia, Alex Cuenca, an assistant professor of education at Saint Louis University, gave this assessment Tuesday:

“I think she did the best she could with the circumstances she was given and the cards she was dealt.”

State of Missouri

Updated, 3:45 p.m. Monday:

Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro is retiring at the end of the year, according to a statement out Monday from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Nicastro has led DESE since 2009. During her tenure, the department oversaw the first transfers under a Missouri law that allows students from unaccredited school districts to leave for neighboring accredited districts.

Authorities in 22 states, including Missouri, are investigating a scam aimed at school districts.

There’s nothing fancy about this scam. There’s no hacking or card readers.  It’s just what the Better Business Bureau calls an old time invoice scam.

It works like this: someone sends around invoices for $647.50 for workbooks.

The company name on the invoice, investigators say, is Scholastic School Supply, which is suspiciously close to Scholastic Inc., the huge educational book publisher.

Kansas City area teachers and students got a welcome surprise Wednesday after Google "flash funded" all the requests posted by metro teachers to a crowdsourcing website. 

Teachers across the nation can post their needs to the website DonorsChoose.org with the hope that someone will fund the request. Google has "flash funded" the requests in multiple metro areas over the last few months, including San Francisco, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Chicago.

Cybrarian 77 / Flickr--CC

A very contentious ballot issue in Missouri has been suddenly abandoned by its backers.

Amendment 3 would drastically change the way teachers are evaluated and retained.

The constitutional amendment would require districts to base the majority of an educator’s evaluation on student achievement. Teacher pay and retention would be largely based on that data. Amendment 3 would also cut into teacher tenure.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Kansas City Mayor Sly James announced a new program Monday aimed at getting kids to go to school.

A recently released report from the nonprofit Attendance Works says 20 percent of American students are chronically absent from school. The organization calls it a national challenge.

The Missouri superintendents from Kansas City, Center and Hickman Mills all say chronic absenteeism is about the same in their districts.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

This year on Central Standard, we'll be following three teenagers through their senior year of high school, from the beginning of the year through graduation in May, 2015.

Harold Burgos: High school and college at the same time

Age: 17

School: Ruskin High School, Hickman Mills School District, Kansas City, Mo.

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