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Kansas City, Mo., Schools Granted Provisional Accreditation

Missouri's Kansas City Public School District, which lost its accreditation in 2012, was granted provisional accreditation status this week by the state school board.

The Missouri State Board of Education unanimously approved the  accreditation during a special meeting Wednesday based on the recommendation of Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro, who said that state test numbers to be released later this month showed "growth points" in mathematics and English/language Arts, The Kansas City Star reported. 

The Kansas City Star said the district's performance was still considered "low," according to Nicastro, but that student improvement was evident.

In a news release on the approval, the Missouri Department of Education said that despite the improvement, "it is clear that the district has continued work to do to help students succeed."

"The preliminary performance report shows student achievement in the district fell slightly this year with less than 30 percent of students earning proficient or advanced in English language arts and mathematics," the Department of Education noted. (A draft copy of the annual performance report can be seen here.

The district lost its accreditation status in January 2012  following the 2011 departure of former Kansas City Superintendent John Covington and plummeting test scores. Since then, the state has threatened to take over the district on a number of occasions.

In a press conference held after the state decision, Superintendent Stephen Green said the district had to continue making progress.

"We are no by means satisfied, and by no means settling, for this accomplishment," Green said.  "We will take some time to enjoy and appreciate it, but we know we have a much higher level we need to get to."

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, issued a statement after news of the accreditation:

"When educators, parents, administrators, and the community come together to address the real challenges facing Kansas City, the community—particularly its children—stands to benefit. We celebrate this achievement today, but we recognize that the hard work is just beginning as we build on this success and strive for full accreditation.

 "This progress was made not by dismantling public schools but by working together, trusting educators—who are closest to our children in the classroom—and focusing on what kids need to succeed. As the meaningful partnership between educators and the community grows stronger, so, too, will Kansas City's public schools."

The school district has been working steadily toward accreditation under Green, and it's been a long and bumpy road to even get to this point. In December, the district sued the state to be granted provisional accreditation, which would have meant that it did not have to comply with the state student-transfer law that allows students to transfer from an unaccredited district to a higher-performing one. The state board decision on Wednesday achieves that goal, The Kansas City Star reported. 

The road ahead could still be a difficult one for the district of nearly 16,000 students. It will have to show continued growth to be granted full accreditation, the Kansas City Star reported. 

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