The Missouri Board of Education received the first draft of a plan for intervening in unaccredited school districts Monday from the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust).
The department stresses that this draft plan is intends to give the State Board of Education and the department a well-researched plan for intervention, rather than a “takeover.”
CEE-Trust’s study focused on the Kansas City Public School District, but says the recommendations could carry over into state intervention in other unaccredited districts.
The consultants say they focused on developing a public educational system unique to Kansas City, but one that incorporates successful models from successful urban schools throughout the nation.
The plan outlines some a structure that gives individual schools more autonomy and more control over their budgets, staffing and educational programming. Under the plan:
- Every 3 and 4 year old in Kansas City would have access to quality preschool.
- The responsibilities of a new community schools office would be focused on holding schools accountable for achievement and managing operational function like city-wide transportation and common enrollment.
- Each school would be organized as a non-profit organization under a contract with the community schools office with considerably more autonomy, including, but not limited to increasing pay for teachers, providing wrap-around services for students and choosing the curriculum and structure that fits the needs of its students.
CEE-Trust says two core conditions unite most high-performing urban schools, and recommends implementation of a similar structure in Kansas City:
1. Educators Run Schools: In the high-performing urban school our research identified, educators and school leaders are in charge of the major decisions. They control the staffing, curriculum, school culture, calendar, and budget. They are free from the bureaucratic constraints of a one-size-fits-all central office. This broad professional autonomy enables educators to meet the needs of the students that they know better than anyone else. And it makes it possible for schools to attract and keep the best possible leaders and teachers, who crave the opportunity to create schools that help students succeed.
2. Schools are Held Accountable: While empowered educators run great urban schools, the system also holds them meaningfully accountable for
achieving ambitious results with students. The high-performing schools we studied viewed strong but fair accountability as central to keeping them
focused on driving student achievement gains.
“While some argue that the system has been stabilized after years of dysfunction, one must ask: what good is stability if most students still cannot read, write, or do math proficiently, or graduate from high school ready for college or careers?” the report asks. “Today’s operationally stabilized system masks the historical reality that there have been 26 superintendents in the past 45 years — all presiding over KCPS schools
with profoundly low student achievement results. Nationally, the average tenure for an urban school superintendent is under four years. In light of the overwhelming evidence, despite decades of effort from talented leaders and educators, our conclusion is that it is not the people in the system that is the problem; it is the system itself.”
Also under this plan:
- Educators and community members would gain the power to create and operate nonprofit schools that meet the needs of the students they serve.
- Millions of dollars would be unlocked to pay for the highest priorities, such as: paying teachers substantially more, funding city-wide access to high-quality preschool, and offering wrap-around services to meet children’s out-of-school needs. Students would gain access to high-quality schools within their neighborhoods and beyond.
- Educators would be able to collectively bargain at the school level if they so choose.
- The school system would shift its focus from operating schools directly to finding the best possible nonprofit operators, empowering them to run schools, and holding them accountable for results. Schools that succeed would grow to serve more students. Those that continually fall short would be replaced with better options.
- The school system would continue to perform critical central functions such as operating facilities, providing transportation, ensuring that all students have access to great schools, and serving as a steward of the public’s funds.
The full report and an executive summary are available along with other plans here. The Department and State Board encourage community members to provide feedback on all plans by submitting comments here.
In addition, the Department will hold a town hall meeting to discuss this and other plans it has received onJan. 29 in Kansas City, and on Feb. 4 in St. Louis.