This past Tuesday, Missouri decided to strip the Kansas City, MO school district of its accreditation. School board members and the Education Commissioner called the decision “agonizing,” but asserted that given the lack of improvement after two years of lukewarm efforts on the part of the district, removing accreditation was “the only recourse we [had].”
The accreditation loss will be effective January 1, 2012. The delay is to allow the district, neighboring districts, and parents time to sort out next steps, as well as for the state to make plans to ratchet up its two-year-long collaborative effort with the district to turn around its flagging performance.
This is not the first instance of Kansas City losing its accreditation. In 1999 the district was stripped of its accreditation, and has been only provisionally accredited since 2002. In the most recent review of its performance, only 3 of the 14 standards were met. State law requires at least 6 of the 14 to be met for provisional accreditation, and needs 9 for full accreditation. However, only six of the standards are related to students’ academic performance, so it is entirely possible for a district to meet only one student performance standard and still be accredited.
The question now is what will happen between now and January 2012? For the present, classes are continuing as usual and the value of graduates’ diplomas should not be materially affected. But beginning January 1, state law allows families to seek enrollment for their children in other districts, with the cost being borne by the unaccredited district they are leaving.
Here lies another complication. In a similar case, St. Louis schools have been unaccredited since 2007, but have seen little student movement due to the resistance of neighboring districts, who refuse to enroll students from outside due to financial and space concerns. The law allowing families to send their students out-of-district for their schooling does not currently compel districts to accept the students, but this question is now under litigation. The decision of this case could have a significant impact on the Kansas City situation, as it is not unlikely that surrounding districts will have concerns over their own capacity limits and budgets and may resist an influx of students.
Kansas City has two years to regain accreditation, and if it fails to meet its obligations the state will intervene. The district could be taken over by state authorities or dissolved altogether. However, acting Kansas City school board President Derek Richey maintains optimism, calling the situation a “speed bump that we will overcome with flying colors…this decision is simply asking us to dream bigger.”