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Missouri delays vote on KC schools accreditation

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 9:51 p.m. CDT; updated 10:04 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY — Parents and students in the Kansas City School District will have to wait until the final few days before classes begin to learn whether the urban school system will remain unaccredited.

The school district had offered to end a lawsuit challenging its unaccredited status if Missouri education officials would grant it temporary provisional accreditation for the school year starting Aug. 11. The State Board of Education met in closed session to consider the proposal but took no action Tuesday.

It instead decided to meet again Aug. 6, when state officials expect to have more information from the district's annual performance report that includes standardized test scores.

"There is not sufficient data available yet for (Kansas City schools) to verify that they have earned provisional accreditation," the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said in a written statement Tuesday.

The Kansas City School District has been unaccredited since January 2012, but local school officials say it has shown significant improvement academically. The district sued the state last year after the board rejected its request for provisional accreditation.

Under Missouri law, unaccredited school districts must pay the costs of students choosing to transfer to other nearby schools — a scenario that played out last year in two unaccredited St. Louis County school districts.

The transfer requirement is scheduled to kick in this coming school year in Kansas City.

Just 24 of the nearly 16,000 students in the Kansas City district had applied to transfer, and just 18 of those are preparing to do so, Kansas City Schools Superintendent Steve Green said.

If the state board grants provisional accreditation to Kansas City before the school year begins, those transfers could not occur.

If the state lifts Kansas City's unaccredited status after the school year already has started, students who transferred elsewhere could remain at their new schools for the 2014-2015 academic year but would have to return to the Kansas City district the following year.

The state's annual school performance report isn't scheduled to be publicly released until the end of August, which is why the Kansas City district sought a temporary provisional accreditation.

Green said he wants to avoid a situation in which students bounce between schools.

"We're very confident and optimistic that we will at least have provisional accreditation, if not better," Green said. "Then you're into a situation where a family that transferred is doing so with the full understanding that they're only going to be there a year and then they're going to have to come back."


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