Students in the Kansas City, Kan., Public School System showed positive gains in their state assessment results, graduation rates and in the results from the district’s flagship Diploma+ Program.
It’s fair to say, Dr. Charles Foust, superintendent of Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools, was almost giddy during his presentation to members of the Board of Education on Oct. 22. It was obvious those in the audience were impressed. He was stopped often by applause, and you could even hear the occasional, “okay,” “alright” and even a few “wows” as Foust presented student improvement data, finally reflecting a positive gain in USD 500 student performance.
Foust, who was hired to head the district in large part because of his reputation at turning around failing schools, was proud to announce Kansas City Public Schools are no longer the worst schools in the state. Up from the bottom may not be impressive to some, but the results are great for KCKPS students, says Foust.
“Our students can learn. This data proves that they can,” said Foust.
The data, from the 2018-2019 school year, showed positive gains in three areas; state assessment, scholarships awarded and the district’s Diploma+ Program.
On the state assessments, 39 of the district’s 43 schools showed positive gains in English Language Arts (ELA) which covers writing and reading and 40 schools showed gains in Math.
District-wide proficiency scores compared to the previous school year were:
English Language Arts (includes Reading and Writing)
2017-18 – 14.3%
2018-19 – 18.6%
2017-18 – 11.4%
2018-19 – 17.6%
2017-18 – 13.9%
2018-19 – 17.8%
By comparison, the state proficiency levels for 2018-19 were 36.6% in ELA and 32.6% in Math. However KCKPS progression significantly outpaced the improvements in similarly sized districts in the state.
Even better, the disaggregated numbers showed positive gains in all subgroups, including gains in all grade levels tested, all ethnic groups and for both males and females.
When asked how he was able to move the numbers so significantly in just one year, Dr. Foust credited the teachers, the principals and the students.
“Individuals wanted to do it,” said Foust. Even still, he said the work was hard, but he wasn't willing to accept any excuses.
“We are a turnaround school district,” said Foust proudly. “The goal is to have an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective principal in every one of those buildings. That’s the ultimate goal, but when we can't get there, we have to work with what we have, we have to get them to that level of effectiveness ... because we have to educate our kids.”
Foust’s presentation also included information on scholarships received by graduating USD 500 students. Students from the district received more than $120 million in scholarship funding in 2018-19, the most the district has ever been awarded in scholarships.
Final numbers presented covered progress with the district’s Diploma + Program, which encourages students to receive their diploma plus at least one of five endorsements: an ACT of 21 or higher, at least 18 hours college credit, completion of an industry-recognized certificate or credential, completion of a qualified internship, or acceptance into the military. The district had 369 students graduate with at least one endorsement. This number reflects significant growth in what is a relatively new USD 500 strategy.