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Kansas City District Will Remain Unaccredited

Missouri's education commissioner will recommend that the Kansas City school district remain unaccredited, the Kansas City Star reports.

The Kansas City district had requested that it be provisionally accredited after two years of academic improvement, but commissioner Chris Nicastro said that the improvement is still too tenuous to change the district's accreditation status.

The stakes are high: Missouri has a statute that allows an unlimited number of students to transfer out of unaccredited districts and requires the unaccredited district to pay their tuition.

That law, passed in the early 1990s but only implemented once before, created chaos in the St. Louis area this summer and could potentially bankrupt districts there if it is not revised. I wrote about how that law is affecting the unaccredited Riverview Gardens and Normandy school districtsas well as the school districts their students are transferring to, in the most recent edition of Education Week. 

Whether or not students will transfer out of the Kansas City district will be determined by the outcome of a state supreme court case involving the law, which will be heard some time this fall. The courts upheld the transfer law in the St. Louis area earlier this summer.

In an interview with Education Week earlier this month, Kansas City superintendent R. Stephen Green said that since the district lost accreditation in 2012, it had made a concerted effort to address problem areas. "We've made significant progress, and we think that that progress speaks to a two-year trend of improvement," Green said. He said the district was hoping to avoid triggering the transfer law. 

Nicastro said that while the district had made improvements, it needs to sustain them for at least another year before it regains accreditation. Kansas City-area districts' pleas to change the city district's accreditation status were based on the desire to prevent transfers—which could hurt the district financially and create instability in the entire region—rather than on sustainable academic improvements, she said.

The Star reports that the ultimate decision rests with the state's school board, but that the board usually follows the commissioner's recommendation. 

Missouri's education department is working with CEE-Trust, an Indianapolis-based group, to develop a plan to improve schools in Kansas City, but said it is too early to give more details about what that plan will be. Ethan Gray, the executive director of CEE-Trust, said the organization would be interviewing stakeholders, including the district, and that a draft plan will be released in January. 

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