5:20 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

St. Joseph School District To Lose $2 Million In State Aid

The St. Joseph School District's summer school program is under scrutiny by the State of Missouri.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR

The troubles for the St. Joseph, Mo., School District just keep getting deeper — and coming from unexpected directions.

The district is already under investigation by the FBI and the Missouri State Auditor. Now, Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) says the district improperly charged the state for more than two dozen summer school classes.

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4:00 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Missouri Denied Federal Early Childhood Development Grant

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received some bad news Wednesday.

Its application for a $17.5 million grant to boost the number of children in state-funded early childhood education programs was turned down by the U.S. Department of Education.

The grants were announced in conjunction with a Dec. 10 White House summit on early childhood development. Eighteen states will share $226 million in federal grants to either develop state pre-kindergarten programs or expand existing programs.

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8:07 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Five Finalists Named In Search For New Missouri Schools Commissioner

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 4:14 pm

(Updated with interviews from all candidates.)

The Missouri state board of education has narrowed to five the field of candidates seeking to become the state’s next commissioner of elementary and secondary education.

After reviewing 12 applications in closed session Friday, the board announced Monday that it would interview:

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Missouri General Assembly
2:04 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Common Core, District Accreditation Topics Of Debate When Lawmakers Return

Two bills already have been filed for 2015 session that would drastically change education in Missouri.
Credit Wickipedia-CC

Missouri legislators don’t return to Jefferson City for another month, but two bills that would make big changes to education in the state already have been filed.

One would drastically change the way school districts are accredited and another would stir the controversy around Common Core standards.

Rep. David Wood, a Republican from Versailles in mid-Missouri, pre-filed a bill that would require the state to accredit individual schools rather than entire districts.

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Beyond Our Borders
5:57 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Look What Happens When Kansas, Missouri Test Scores Are On A Level Playing Field

Missouri and Kansas fourth-grade math scores compared using the state standards (top), and the international benchmarking.
Credit American Institutes for Research -- highlighting KCUR

For years, states have decided the definition of reading and math proficiency with their own sets of standards.

The result? Kansas children often seem to come out ahead of Missouri children in math and reading, when comparing the states' data.

But when this data is normalized across all 50 states, there's a different story.

RELATED: What You Probably Didn't Know About Academic Standards In Kansas And Missouri

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Beyond Our Borders
5:19 am
Wed November 26, 2014

What You Probably Didn't Know About Academic Standards In Kansas And Missouri

When test scores for students in Missouri and Kansas are compared using international benchmarking, Missouri students perform better.
Credit / Creative Commons

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.

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7:50 am
Mon November 24, 2014

How The Common Core Is Changing Math Instruction For Elementary Students

Fourth-grade teacher Emily Callahan at Ravenwood Elementary School in North Kansas City, Mo., talks to her students about the different strategies they could use to solve a math problem.
Credit 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.”

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5:32 pm
Sat November 22, 2014

Legal Troubles Mount For St. Joseph School District

Legal troubles piled up for the St. Joesph, Mo., school districts this week as their insurer moved to be dismissed of liability in a pending lawsuit.
Credit 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.

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6:43 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Federal Investigation of St. Joseph School District Narrows

A third grand jury subpoena was served at the St. Joseph School District headquarters, which is about an hour north of Kansas City, Mo.
Credit 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.

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3:15 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Missouri Auditor Points Out Problems In Charter School Closures

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.

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7:54 am
Tue November 18, 2014

Fewer Missouri Children Using Subsidized Childcare

Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 10:02 am

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.

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3:54 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

St. Joseph Public School Administrator Returns As Stipend Scandal Continues

The St. Joesph School District has been suffering under a scandal over stipends handed out to administrators by Superintendent Fred Czerwonka.
Credit 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.

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6:51 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Group Scrutinizes Kansas Teacher Benefit Packages

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.

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2:58 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

College Costs Continue To Climb In Missouri, Kansas

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.

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4:00 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Kansas Educators Worried About Budget Gap

Gov. Sam Brownback claims victory on election night.
Credit 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.

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6:00 am
Wed November 12, 2014

Student Homelessness Spikes In Rural And Urban Kansas City Metro

Volunteers prepare food items from the Harvesters Food Bank at the Gardner Church of the Nazarene.
Credit 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.

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1:45 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

As Missouri Picks New Education Chief, Union Sees Opportunity For Diversity

Kansas City Public Schools Supt. Stephen Green announces the district has regained provisional accreditation from the state. Green has expressed his desire the State Board will select a new commissioner with more experience dealing with urban districts.
Credit 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.

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6:12 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Program Helps Kansas City-Area Students Create Technology, Not Just Use It

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.”

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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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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.

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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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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2:27 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Superintendent Cheers Kansas City Public Schools Progress In Annual Address

Kansas City Public Schools Board President John Hile, left, and Superintendent Stephen Green announce the state's granting of provisional accreditation in August.
Credit 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.

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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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7:47 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

School Standards Meetings Have Contentious Start

Originally published on Thu September 25, 2014 10:59 pm

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.

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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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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.

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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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 / 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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8:35 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Nicastro Gets Mixed Grades For Education Tenure

Chris Nicastro

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 3:48 pm

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.”

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12:19 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Missouri Education Commissioner To Step Down In December

Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro is stepping down at the end of 2014.
Credit 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.

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