KC schools given accreditation on provisional basis by state

Thursday, April 18, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Thanks to slight academic gains and a commitment to continued improvement, the long-troubled Kansas City School District won back its provisional state accreditation Wednesday.

The unanimous decision by the state Board of Education averts a potential state takeover of the district in July.

State and federal scrutiny of the schools, however, are far from over.

The 35,000-student district has been operating without state accreditation since the end of the 1999-2000 school year. It was the first -- and still the only -- district ever to lose state accreditation due to poor academic performance, state education officials said.

Regaining partial accreditation results in no additional state money or perks, but it does allow Kansas City's local school board to remain in charge of the district.

"The Kansas City School District has done something that is really rather rare -- they've patched the hole in the side of the Titanic," said state education board member Peter Herschend of Branson. "The ship's not safe, but it's a lot safer than it was."

All eight state board members said the district still must show significant improvement to become fully accredited. If results, due next fall, from the next round of academic tests show the district has slipped, then it could again lose provisional accreditation. If that happens, state board member Jeannine Osborn of Kirkwood said she would pursue a state takeover.

Top officials from the Kansas City School District were on hand for the state board's decision. Superintendent Bernard Taylor Jr. said his goal was for the district to gain full accreditation by 2004.

Cause to celebrate

"This is a cause for celebration in Kansas City," Taylor told the board after the vote. "I'm going to give us all one hour to celebrate and then we get back to work."

The Kansas City district now is one of 36 of the state's 524 districts to be on provisional accreditation.

Accreditation was pulled from the Kansas City district after a state review team in 1999 determined the district met none of the state's 11 academic standards and had 25 deficiencies in its operations.

A follow up review in January found 12 of those deficiencies had been corrected and four academic standards had been met, the minimum for provisional accreditation.

The standards met by the district involved third-grade scores on standardized reading tests, the percentage of high school students in college preparatory courses, placement of vocational students after graduation and a reduction in the dropout rate.

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