Education News.

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 $400 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.


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.


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.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stopped at Kansas City’s Woodland Early Learning Community Monday morning to advocate for high-quality preschool for low-income families.

“We have to make sure our babies are entering kindergarten ready to be successful,” Duncan said. “In education, we spend lots of time playing catch-up, and frankly we don’t often play catch-up well.”

Duncan says the average child from a disadvantaged neighborhood starts school at least a year behind. In Missouri, 80 percent of 4-year-olds don’t have access to a high quality early education program.

St. Joseph School District

One of the whistleblowers who brought to light secret stipends in the St. Joseph School District has resigned.

African American students have greater faith in the fairness of their schools when they have more black teachers. That’s a finding in a new national study conducted by professors from the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri.

The study examined student attitudes towards discipline and fairness by analyzing survey data of 10th graders around the country from the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

New test scores released Tuesday show only a quarter of Kansas 10th graders have the math skills needed to be ready for college or a career after graduation. Around a third of 10th graders were shown to have English skills that place them on the college track.

The goal of the new tests is to better judge if students will be ready for college or a job after high school. Board of Education Chairman Jim McNiece says this year's scores may not be as high as some people had hoped, but board members chose to set high goals for the state's students.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Mike Besler is a former Kansas state high school champion quarterback and a member of the Blue Valley West High School Hall of Fame. But he still needs a coach. 

"When I first heard, I was kind of like, 'I want my own space.' But now that I've seen how resourceful it is, it's made a world of difference," Besler says. 

alamosbasement / Flickr--CC

Parents and teachers in Kansas may be in for a shock when new standardized test scores are released.

The Kansas State Board of Education will meet Tuesday in Topeka to review the results.

After that, statewide results on math and English are expected to be released and then districts will start to send letters to parents on how their students performed.

Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander says because the tests were more difficult, parents should not be shocked with relatively low scores.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It’s the kind of story that’s a little hard to believe until you visit the neighborhood.

Just after 8:00 a.m., a school bus stops on North Freemont Avenue and kids pile on.

They have their backpacks, lunches and homework. It all seems normal.

Except they only live a few blocks from the school and aren't allowed to walk.

It would take Jessica Andrews’ four kids about five minutes to walk to Maplewood Elementary School in the Northland. “We’re really, really close. Why aren't they walking, it’s so close? There’s no sidewalks. It’s not safe for them to walk."

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

"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.