Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) | KCUR

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Over the last year, the embattled St. Joseph School District has had very little good news when it comes to audits and investigations. But Monday it received a report from the IRS that wasn't too bad at all.

The district says after an audit that started in June it will be fined just $27,249. The fine, according to IRS documents, is for failure to pay Medicare taxes for several employees in 2013 and 2014 and for improper documentation for about 30 staff take-home cars in the same years.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) is getting ready to release its master plan, and it will almost certainly call for closing some schools and possibly cutting jobs.

In a news release, the district says the goal of the master plan is to ensure that limited resources are being used as effectively as possible.

What that means is that there is a very good chance the some buildings will be closed, boundaries will be moved and that some jobs will be lost. Attrition is more likely than layoffs.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Updated 9:05 a.m. Monday:

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) representatives say school districts were given ample time to prepare for online science testing that caused big drops in annual performance points for the Hickman Mills School District.

Sarah Potter with DESE's communications department says the district had years to get students ready for the switch.

"Districts were notified in 2010 that all state assessments would go online by 2015," Potter said. "That gave districts time to direct budgets toward technology and also prepare students with 21st century computing skills. At the end of the day, it's up to districts to help students prepare for any state test."

Crossroads Academy

One of the more successful charter schools in Kansas City says it plans to open a second campus in time for the next school year.

Crossroads Academy is on Central Street just around the corner from the main branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

It opened in 2012, has doubled in size since that time and now educates about 350 students.

Executive Director Dean Johnson says the school will look for a building to buy downtown that will eventually serve about 400 students in  kindergarten through eighth grades.

Missouri Auditor's Office

The social security numbers and other personal information of almost 1.5 million current and former Missouri public school students are in jeopardy, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

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. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

School districts across Missouri found out Monday how they did on last year's standardized tests.

For Kansas City Public Schools and the Hickman Mills districts, both provisionally accredited by the state, the news was mixed.

Missouri changed its test so it's impossible to accurately compare scores year-to-year. However, both districts scored below 50 percent proficient or advanced in all four subjects tested —English, math, science and social studies.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The release of standardized test scores in Missouri this year are coming out slowly, so the Kansas City Public Schools and the Hickman Mills School District won't know for at least a few weeks whether they will gain full accreditation from the state.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released statewide test results Tuesday, but the district-by-district numbers won't be available for another week.

Kansas City and Hickman Mills are provisionally accredited and were hoping to have the state fully accredit them this year.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

When Missouri releases its standardized test scores, it’s always a tense week for some school districts.

But this year two area districts are both tense and confused.

The confusion for Kansas City Public Schools and the Hickman Mills School District comes because the state changed its standardized tests.

Both districts are provisionally accredited and hoping for full accreditation following this year’s results which will be publicly released Tuesday.

However, the state says because of the change, a year-to-year comparison would be almost useless.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Officials in the St. Joseph School District have been nervously waiting for months for a report from the Missouri State Auditor.

KCUR has learned that the report is back and the board will discuss it Tuesday in executive session.

The Missouri State Auditor moved a five-member team into district headquarters last Spring after it was revealed that the new St. Joseph school superintendent, Dr. Fred Cerwonka, handed out $5,000 stipends to 54 administrators without seeking board approval.

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.

Dan Verbeck / KCUR

More than a dozen people, picked from among scores who wanted to speak,  reacted with passion to proposed changes in Kansas City Public Schools Wednesday night.

Nearly all who spoke to a two- thirds filled Paseo Academy Auditorium wanted to keep local control of schools.

Public testimony taken by Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was first in a series around the state.

Two members of the Missouri General Assembly are calling on elementary and secondary education Commissioner Chris Nicastro to resign. They think Nicastro has lost the public’s trust.

In a written statement, House member Genise Montecillo and Sen. Paul LeVota, both Democrats, say Nicastro has, “demonstrated a troubling tendency to abuse power.”

Montecillo specifically accuses Nicastro of releasing inaccurate information regarding a proposed constitutional amendment to do away with teacher tenure.

A joint Missouri House/Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday on whether the state's teacher tenure system is working.

Among those testifying was Mark Van Zandt, General Counsel for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). He says tenured teachers can be held accountable under the current system.

"There are procedures in place, if a teacher is not meeting the standards that are expected of them, in terms of instruction," Van Zandt said. "There can be consequences."

Kansas City< Missouri School Disrict

Kansas City public schools showed improvement in a preview of new Missouri school district ratings, but will not regain provisional accreditation at this time.

Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro said in a Thursday evening conference call that the district had improved proficiency ratings in science and social studies to on a par with its scores in English language arts and math, but with those only at 30 percent proficiency ratings, 7 out of 10 students were not achieving "at proficiency."

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the statewide averages on MAP Test scores Tuesday, but the Kansas City district was more focused on another DESE announcement.

The State Board of Education will vote on a plan Tuesday for an outside group to study unaccredited Missouri school districts and develop recommendations for improvement.

The move comes on the heels of some 2,600 children transferring from the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens school to neighboring districts.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is recommending the board vote yes.

DESE Spokeswoman Sarah Potter says failing schools face systematic challenges.

Payne Roberts / KCUR

Fifth grade graduation at Gordon Parks Elementary school this week was an especially emotional event. 

The 13-year old charter school was founded to serve some of the most disadvantaged kids in the Kansas City area, but the school has some of the lowest scores of any public or charter school in Kansas City, Mo.  

bigstock.com

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is moving forward with plans to fully implement new standards for math, English and language arts. 

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