JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City's schools superintendent said Tuesday the district is improving and requested that it be upgraded to provisional accreditation, a change that would make the district no longer subject to a school transfer law that the superintendent says could be financially devastating.
R. Stephen Green, superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools, pointed to stable finances, improvement on school performance reports and an audit that identified no issues while making his case to the State Board of Education in Jefferson City. Green said the district is best equipped to meet the needs of students. The school system has taken steps to bolster student performance, including offering spring and winter break sessions.
"The trajectory of the school district is improvement, rapid improvement - not incremental improvement but dramatic improvement," Green said.
Kansas City nearly scored in the provisionally accredited range last year and hit the mark in the most recent school performance report. That was the first to be issued under a new evaluation system that uses test scores, attendance rates and other data to evaluate schools. Kansas City got a boost because the new system gives credit for improvements, but most of its students are not hitting proficiency goals in core subjects.
Green also noted 13 schools individually hit marks for accreditation, and six scored at the partial accreditation level, but work is needed at another dozen. Kansas City has been unaccredited since 2012 and has more than 15,000 students in kindergarten through high school, plus 1,000 in preschool.
The state board took no immediate action on Kansas City's request. Board President Peter Herschend said it could take at least one or two months.
"It is not an easy decision," he said. "There is a lot that hangs on the line. It will just take time."
One consequence of the decision stems from a Missouri law that allows students attending unaccredited districts to transfer into an accredited system at the unaccredited district's expense. Unaccredited districts also can face a state takeover.
Kansas City has avoided the student transfers because of a pending court case, but there has been acrimony in the St. Louis area since students were allowed for the first time to transfer out of the Riverview Gardens and Normandy school systems.
After Kansas City's presentation Tuesday, the State Board of Education proposed requesting an additional $6.8 million of state aid to help Normandy pay tuition and transportation costs for transferring students while continuing to serve the students who remain. Gov. Jay Nixon and lawmakers would need to approve the funding.
Green said a similar student transfer situation in Kansas City could cost the district $150 million from its $238 million budget. He said the transfer issue is just part of the reason provisional accreditation was requested.
State education officials have said most districts will not see changes to their accreditation until 2015 to give them three years to improve under the new system.
Herschend said an important factor is whether Kansas City's gains are sustainable. He said the worst thing that could happen is for Kansas City to gain provisional accreditation only to falter in a "yo-yo effect."