Tag: Kansas City Public Schools


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This is Dropout Nation: Where the Boys Don’t Go in KC’s Sister City


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The closing of 29 (of 61) schools by the Kansas City (Mo.) school district has captured the attention of the nation. But across the state line in the Big KC’s…

Although in the shadows of Big K.C., Kansas City, Kansas City, K.S. struggles with similar academic woes.

The closing of 29 (of 61) schools by the Kansas City (Mo.) school district has captured the attention of the nation. But across the state line in the Big KC’s sister city that shares the same name, a more-fundamental crisis looms. It is one that both cities share with each other — and with other urban school systems across the nation: The young men, no matter their skin color or ethnicity, don’t graduate.

At the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year, young men made up the slight majority of Kansas City’s graduating Class of 2008. This is typical in many districts. But five years later, according to data from the National Center for Educational Statistics, the numbers reverse. Young women, no matter their race or ethnicity, make up the majority of seniors. Among blacks in the Kansas City district, young women account for a slight majority over young men in the Class of 2008; but among whites and Latinos, the young women outnumber the young men by a 3-to-2 ratio.

Chart of Kansas City, KS black male and female attrition

Black males in KC barely progress, but...

The white males do even worse. And...

Promoting power rates for young black men are, as one would expect, not high. But with 63 percent of young black male 8th-graders reaching senior year of high school (compared to 72 percent of their female counterparts), at least more than half are making it through. Among young white men, the numbers are even worse: A mere 44 percent of them made it from 8th grade to senior year versus 71 percent of young white women. And only 49 percent of the district’s Latino male 8th-graders were promoted to 12th grade; the promoting power rate for Latino females was 71 percent.

the Latino males do little better.

With less than 60 percent of the young men in the Class of 2008 actually making it from 8th to 12th grade, one wonders how so few are making it to graduation. The answer seems to lie in several factors common across urban districts (and even many suburban ones). This includes over-diagnosis of learning disabilities (13 percent of young black men in the district are labeled as some sort of special ed case versus a mere 7 percent of young black women); and the overuse of harsh school discipline (15 percent of Kansas City’s white males were suspended during the 2005-2006 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s office for Civil Rights database, compared to a similarly atrocious 9 percent of their female schoolmates). The latter may play less of a role because the out-of-school suspension rate of 13 percent for all females, while lower, is far too high anyway.

The consequences can be seen in little Kansas City’s demographic and economic statistics: Seventeen percent of the city’s residents are economically impoverished; only 10 percent of Kansas’ citizens (and 13 percent of U.S. citizens) report poverty-level incomes; 18 of Kansas City households are headed by an unmarried woman (versus 8 percent of the U.S. population). But these consequences can be felt nationwide, especially as higher educational attainment becomes key to economic sustainability.

The issues facing young women, especially young black women (who are more likely than the general population to become head of households and never marry) cannot be ignored; the likelihood that young women are being under-diagnosed for learning disabilities must always be kept in mind. The promoting power rate for Kansas City, while better in some respects than its more-populous neighbor, still means that one out of every four children are dropping out. But if the nation wants to stem the dropout crisis, it needs to work on improving academic achievement among young men. Working in little KC wouldn’t be bad place to start.

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Read: Shutdown Edition


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What’s happening today in the dropout nation: In Kansas City, Superintendent John Covington is taking a radical approach to dealing with the urban district’s declining fiscal profile: Shut down half…

Walking into trouble: Kansas City school superintendent John Covington.

What’s happening today in the dropout nation:

  1. In Kansas City, Superintendent John Covington is taking a radical approach to dealing with the urban district’s declining fiscal profile: Shut down half of the city’s 60 traditional public schools, according to the Star. Whether or not this will actually work is a different story. Such efforts have shown little result, either in improving revenues, cutting costs or improving the quality of learning for children. It may be time for Covington to give a call to my fellow A Byte At the Apple co-authors, Rick Hess and Jon Fullerton, about how to revamp the district’s back-office and transportation functions. Oh, and Dave Eggers’ brother, who specializes in revamping government operations.
  2. Covington, who just arrived in K.C. after serving in Pueblo City, Colo., is having a little trouble with the school board president too. Given the reported history of infighting within the district’s board, Covington may have just landed in dysfunction (and may find himself praying for mayoral control) for the next three years.
  3. K.C. isn’t the only district with budget problems.A.P. notes that other districts may need to cut budgets as they run out of federal stimulus funds. This may force many to adapt a Houston/N.Y.C/L.A. Unified solution and do a better job of weeding out laggard teachers before they achieve tenure. Or re-work the traditional system of near-free health benefits for their teachers(which will happen eventually anyway because of the high costs of such benefits). Unless Obama comes up with a second stimulus, as I have also predicted.
  4. Across the state line in Kansas, school districts and their lawyers were told by the state supreme court that their funding lawsuit would not re-opened, according to the Star. The lawsuit resulted in a judgment against the state to fund the suing school districts to the tune of $1 billion; the state has since retreated in order to handle its budget deficits.
  5. Speaking of school leadership, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wants to spur reform of how superintendents and administrators are trained, reports eSchool News. As he pointed out, it’s a bit much to require a superintendent to take a course in, say special ed, before assuming his job. Especially if the superintendent has plenty of experience teaching in — and running  — such programs.  Of course, as seen in Indiana (where superintendents are often not recruited from outside the state borders), diversifying the field of potential administrators — including looking at executives with private-sector management experience — may do districts good, especially in addressing the important (but rarely well-managed) transportation, school lunch, human resources and capital maintenance functions.
  6. An example of leadership: New York City schools chieftain Joel Klein declares in the New York Post that laggard teachers must go.
  7. And, about Indiana: State officials there are unveiling a new value-added assessment system under which parents, teachers and school districts can see student progress over time, according to Andy Gammill. As you would expect, suburban districts aren’t too pleased, largely because the assessments show they aren’t doing as good a job improving student learning as most expect.
  8. Meanwhile in L.A. Unified, where the school reform effort has in some ways fizzled amid antics by both L.A. Unified and its AFT local, the state’s parent trigger is getting used, especially by parents in an enclave in the San Fernando Valley whose students attend Mount Gleason Middle School. L.A. Unified officials are afraid that there will parents at marginal schools such as this one who will just pull the proverbial trigger and the AFT local fears that the law will be used by charter school operators in order to gain market share. But, as far as they should be concerned, it’s not about their concerns. Their concerns shouldn’t matter. It’s those of the students and their parents that should matter most. Period. If this leads to the full devolution of L.A. Unified and other systemically failing bureaucracies, so be it. The children haven’t been well-served by them anyway.
  9. Speaking of more parent power and charters:The Washington Post editorial board backs Virginia Gov. bob McDonnell’s charter school expansion plan. And in New York City, the Daily News notes one consequence of the charter school movement’s growing power: Politicaly-connected charters get millions in state dollars, including one supported by state senate leader Malcolm Smith and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Charter advocates need to be as concerned about corruption within their ranks as they are about shenanigans by teachers unions and traditional school districts.
  10. The Mobile Learning Institute offers a video series on new approaches to instruction in this century. Some of the videos (particularly the one on portfolio-based instruction) argue for approaches that are actually tried (and failed). But others, such as the one featuring Green Dot founder Steve Barr discussing the reform efforts at Locke High School, are interesting.

Check out this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, this time on why school reformers should build ties to grassroots activists in order to sustain policy goals. Also read my Labor Watch report on how the collapse of an NEA affiliate may help spur overhauls of traditional teachers compensation.

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