Sam Zeff

Education Reporter

Sam covers education for KCUR. Before joining the station in August 2014 he covered health and education for KCPT.

Sam began his career at KANU in Lawrence. He hosted Morning Edition at WHYY in Philadelphia where he also covered organized crime, politics and government corruption.

The Overland Park, Kansas native has won a National News and Documentary Emmy for investigative reporting, four Edward R. Murrow awards and four National Headliner Awards.  Sam was assistant news director at the ABC station in the Twin Cities, executive producer at the NBC station in St. Louis and executive producer of special projects at the CBS stations in Minneapolis and Kansas City.

Sam was educated at the University of Kansas.

Sports
5:00 am
Fri October 24, 2014

Kansas City Is Baseball Crazy Now, But You Should've Seen 1955

The Kansas City Athletics competed at Kansas City Municipal Stadium, located at 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Wikipedia -- Creative Commons

    

With the Royals in the World Series you might think that Kansas City has never been quite this excited about anything.

Everywhere you look there’s Royals blue.

But if you think Kansas City is baseball crazy now, you should have seen 1955 when the Athletics arrived from Philadelphia.

Jeff Logan, president of the Kansas City Baseball Historical Society says the whole city turned out when the team flew in from its spring training site in Florida.

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Sports
3:53 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

The 10 Best Major League Baseball Players Raised In Kansas City

Frank White, one of Kansas City's best and possibly its most popular baseball player.
Credit baseball card image

The Kansas City area has a long and rich baseball history.

This year's Royals team is just another chapter.

With that in mind, this longtime Kansas City baseball fan came up with a list of the top 10 Big Leaguers who hail from Kansas City.

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Election 2014
6:50 am
Tue October 14, 2014

Education Now Top Issue In Race For Kansas Governor

Education may be the most important issue in the race for Kansas governor.
Credit city-data

We all knew education was going to be an important issue in the race for Kansas governor.

But in the last three weeks of the campaign it just might turn out to 'the' issue.

Gov. Sam Brownback and his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, have charged each other with dastardly education deeds for weeks.

At a news conference last month in Topeka, Davis accused the governor of cutting education funding.

“All we’ve gotten from Gov. Brownback on education is deep cuts and failed leadership," he said.

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Education
6:59 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Who Is Missing From The Kansas City Chamber's Big 5 Pre-K Push?

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has made high quality preschool one of its Big 5 Initiatives.
Credit 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.

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Education
5:41 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

Missouri Seeks Federal Grant For Early Childhood Education

A multi-million dollar federal grant would pay for more children to go to high-quality preschool programs in Missouri.
Credit 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.

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Police Investigation
8:16 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

KU Fraternity Investigated For Sexual Assault

The Kappa Sigma fraternity at KU has been put on suspension and is at the center of a sexual assault investigation.
Credit 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.

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Education
5:00 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Davis Says Education, Brownback Says Tax Cuts To Grow Kansas Economy

Will the Kansas economy get a bigger boost from tax cuts or additional spending on education? That's a major issue in the race for governor.
Credit city-data

There are two big issues in the race for Kansas governor this year: How to fund education and how to grow the economy.

Republican incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback is standing firm on cutting taxes to boost the economy.

Brownback has cut income taxes for individuals and eliminated them for small businesses. He says this will spur business development and thus the economy will grow.

But House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Davis has a very different idea.

Davis says he will drive economic growth by spending more on education.

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Education
3:09 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Two Kansas City Metro Schools Named National Blue Ribbon Winners

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.

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Education
1:19 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

University Of Missouri System Expected To Change Sexual Misconduct Policy

The University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo.
Credit 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.

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Economy
1:04 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Claycomo Assembly Plant Now Biggest In Ford System

United Auto Workers members look on as Ford announces 1,200 additional jobs are coming to the Claycomo assembly plant.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

Thursday morning Ford announced it was adding 1,200 jobs at its Claycomo, Mo., plant because of surging demand for the company’s new Transit van.

Ford says Transit van sales have grown every month since it was introduced.

With hundreds of United Auto Workers union members looking on, John Hinrichs, Ford president in the Americas, said by the end of the year there will be 6,000 UAW jobs in Claycomo.

That makes it the assembly giant in the company.

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Education
3:00 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Former Mayors To Lead Kansas City Chamber's Pre-Kindergarten Effort

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce announces it is adding pre-kindergarten education to the Big 5 agenda at the Chamber's Union Station headquarters.
Credit 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.

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Education
7:41 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Chamber Adds Early Childhood Development To Big 5

Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce President Roshann Parris. The chamber is adding early childhood education to its Big 5 goals.
Credit 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.

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Election 2014
5:00 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Education Emerges As Major Issue in Race For Kansas Governor

The K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission meets in the old state supreme court chambers in the Kansas Statehouse
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

Everyone knew education was going to be an issue in the race for Kansas governor.

In debates and TV commercials, Republican incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback says he’s increased spending on public schools. His Democratic challenger, House Minority leader Paul Davis from Lawrence, claims Brownback has cut funding.

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Education
5:11 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Missouri Amendment 3 Campaign Closes Down For Good

Amendmend 3 would limit teacher contracts to no more than three years and would prohibit teachers from negotiating any classroom evaluation system.
Credit 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.

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Education
9:48 am
Fri September 12, 2014

School Scam Sweeps Across 22 States Including Missouri

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.

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Education
7:55 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Campaign Called Off For Controversial Missouri Teacher Ballot Measure

A constitutional amendment that would require districts to base the majority of an educator’s evaluation on student achievement has suddenly lost backing from its supporters.
Credit 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.

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Education
4:20 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

New Program To Fight Chronic School Absenteeism In Kansas City

A new mentoring project aimed at getting young students to go to school was announced at the Kansas City Public Library
Credit 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.

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Central Standard
3:55 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Meet The Class Of 2015 Teens We’re Following During Their Senior Year

Ruskin High senior Harold Burgos is working on high school and college at the same time through "dual credit" classes.
Credit 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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FBI Probe Launched In April
9:54 am
Mon September 8, 2014

St. Joseph School District Braces For Fallout In Wake Of Federal Investigation

The St. Joseph School District is being investigated by the FBI and the Missouri State Auditor
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

If you wandered into the St. Joseph, Missouri School District convocation a couple of weeks ago you would probably think everything in the district is just fine.

The 2,000 faculty and staff jammed into the Civic Center downtown were loud and seemed primed for the start of the 2014-2015 school year. But everyone in the arena that morning knew the district was in serious trouble.

Since April the FBI, a federal grand jury in Kansas City and the Missouri State Auditor have all been investigating the district of 11,000 students.

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New Report
4:33 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

How Many Kids Chronically Miss School In Kansas And Missouri?

September absentee rates in schools are a good indicator of rates for the year to come.
Credit Lauren Manning / Flickr--CC

With all Kansas City-area students back to school, a new report shows just how important attendance is in the first month of school.

A report by the nonprofit Attendance Works calls chronic absenteeism a "national challenge" and says about one in five U.S. students miss 10 percent of school a year.

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Education
6:18 am
Fri August 29, 2014

Scores Show Kansas City, Hickman Mills Schools Doing Better Than Expected

Credit Cynborg / Wikimedia-CC

Friday is the day almost every school district in Missouri waits for all year. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on Friday morning released its yearly evaluation of schools and districts in Missouri.

More like tax day than Christmas, the results produce winners and losers.

Kansas City Public Schools found out three weeks ago that it moved up to provisional accreditation. DESE bases its entire assessment on a complicated 140-point scale, based on everything from academic achievement to graduation rates and classroom growth year to year.

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Northland Schools
4:48 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

New Way To Manage Northland Crime Tips

Credit Courtesy Crime Stoppers

Parents and students in Northland school districts  have a new, more efficient way to relay tips to Crime Stoppers.

Crime Stoppers has promoted its 474-TIPS hotline number for 32 years. More recently, the organization started taking tips by texts. The Northland Safe School Task Force got so many texts that officials reached out to Kansas City Crime Stoppers to help manage the information from students and parents.

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KCK School District
5:23 am
Wed August 27, 2014

In Wake Of Sandy Hook, KCK Public Schools Roll Out District Police

New Kansas City, Kansas School District police officers will be in all district high school and middle schools this year
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, a lot has changed in the way police respond to a school shooter.

Squads no longer wait for SWAT teams to arrive. Now, they rush in to try and stop the shooter as quickly as possible.

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Education
3:43 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Educators Meet In Kansas City For Early Childhood Education Summit

Educators are meeting in Kansas City to discuss the importance of pre-kindergarten education.
Credit CC: Lochoaymca

Educators, politicians, doctors and clergy all gathered in Kansas City Monday to discuss early childhood development.

Almost everyone agrees Pre-K education is crucial. The mantra for early educators is, "Talk, read, play."

Before they start kindergarten, teachers say, children need a lot of interaction with adults. Research shows that, on average, lower income children start school knowing 900 fewer words than more affluent children.

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Education
9:02 am
Sun August 24, 2014

Missouri School District MAP Scores To Be Released This Week

Credit Christopher Sessums / Flickr--CC

Later this week the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will release Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test scores for every school in the state.

The state already released preliminary results for Kansas City Public Schools on Aug. 6 when DESE announced the district had been provisionally accredited. At that time DESE said Kansas City received 86 out of a possible 140 points. Enough for the board to accredit the district for the first time in two years.

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Education
7:57 am
Wed August 20, 2014

School Districts Arming Teachers In Rural Missouri

A dozen school districts in Missouri, including tiny Climax Springs in the Ozarks, are training teachers and arming them for the start of school.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

As the school year begins we're hearing a lot about accreditation, Common Core and teacher tenure. All important, but the issue that may worry educators the most is security. School officials spend a lot of time thinking about it and a huge amount of money trying to improve it.

Right now, about a third of all states allow teachers or staff with a conceal and carry permit to pack a gun in school as long as they have permission from the school board. Nowhere in America right now is the issue of armed teachers more complicated than in Missouri.

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Education
6:04 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

Hale Cook Elementary Reopens As Kansas City Kids Head Back To Class

Children all over the metro are going back to school this week – Monday was the first day of school in the Kansas City Public School District. 

It’s been a long time since the sound of students echoed through the halls of Hale Cook Elementary School near 73rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Shut down in 2009 as the district went through a massive consolidation, parents in the Brookside neighborhood and the district have been working for the past two years to recruit enough families to re-open the building.

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