KCPS Remains Provisionally Accredited, New Charter School Approved

Dec 1, 2015

Kansas City Public Schools will become the first district in Missouri to sponsor a charter school after action by the State Board of Education Tuesday.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Missouri State Board of Education acted Tuesday on two major pieces of education business in the Kansas City.

First, the Board decided to keep the Kansas City district and the Hickman Mills School District provisionally accredited. Both districts had lobbied the state hard to move up to full accreditation, but both fell below expectations on the last round the state standardized tests. Because the test and the way it was given changed from the previous year, the state had already decided to "hold harmless" districts that did not meet standards.

At the time the scores were released in October, Hickman Mills Superintendent Dennis Carpenter was particularly upset, charging the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) with discriminating against his students because most of the district's students aren't technologically savvy due to economic disadvantages.

The state board Tuesday also approved a unique partnership that will bring a new charter school to Kansas City's urban core.

Kansas City Public Schools will hold the charter, the first district in the state to sponsor a charter school, but the school will be operated by the Urban Neighborhood Initiative.

Called the Kansas City Neighborhood Academy (KCNA), the school has very ambitious goals. In its application to the state the school said it will "exist as part of a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization effort aimed at (1) helping families break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, and (2) attracting additional families to those Kansas City neighborhoods hardest hit by population loss."

The application also says KCNA plans to open for the 2016-2017 school year. While no building has been purchased, the KCNA says it will operate somewhere in an area from 18th Street to 52nd Street and between Troost and Prospect Avenues.

While the state board voted unanimously to approve the new charter, there was some controversy when the plan was brought before the KCPS school board in August. Some on the board said they didn't want the district distracted from improving education for students already in the district. The proposal passed on a 5-3 vote.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR. He's also co-host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.