It’s no secret. The Kansas City School District isn’t just in trouble – it’s an embarrassment. And the statistics and personal stories coming from the school, despite all the taxpayer money and Federal scheming dumped into the district, aren’t exactly rosy. With a high dropout rate, crime, low test scores, and years of administrative power struggles, it’s clear that something is wrong – and the data proves it. Since 1999, enrollment has declined from 35,000 to 17,000.
In addition, according to Fox 4 News (April 18,2011), out of 209 non-tenured teachers at the school district, 115 were told not to come back next year – even though they had good evaluations and letters of recommendation. Instead, they were replaced with 150 teachers from the federal program, Teach for America.
Teach for America, (see TFA’s Propaganda video) which claims to give educational opportunities to underserved schools across America, carefully selects college graduates who are willing to spend two years working in troubled schools. And as Carl Schramm, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation states, “If you don’t let the new ideas in, the old ideas will prevail. And we know the old ideas aren’t working. So anything that we can see that’s entrepreneurial in Teach For America, is all to the good.”
Brendan Lowe, an inner-city high schoolteacher, offers another view of Teach for America, by stating that Teach for America educators are inexperienced, they leave after their two year commitment, have a holier-than-thou attitude, and are merely a stopgap solution that requires students to serve as a training ground and laboratory to TFA teachers. And according to the article “Teach for America: A False Promise”, “The trade-offs are straightforward. TFA teachers are elite college graduates, but they receive a much shorter training process than conventional teacher education programs. They teach in hard-to-staff schools, but they generally do so for only two years. So one would expect that these TFA teachers would show outcomes better than other minimally trained beginning teachers but worse than fully trained teachers or experienced teachers. In fact, the research shows exactly these results”
But the Kansas City School District is soldiering on, and in the approximately 400 page Executive Summary of the “Transformation Plan”, readers can find details on Board Members code of conduct, organizational flow-charts, and legal fees paid to outside counsel (amounting to $2,518,991.02 for FY10). But most importantly, we get down to the nuts and bolts of what “Transformation” really means. But don’t get your hopes up. This isn’t the transforming power of God, morality, or even good manners. But rather, it’s a DEMAND for change by placing high priority on academic achievement, fiscal responsibility, and the raising of expectations from administrators, staff, students, parents and community.
A list of demands can only get one so far, and this time the School District is prepared to kick butt with math. Yes, as depicted on pg. 388 of the guide, a handy formula, which depicts such variables as parents, green mindset, culture, and non-traditional scheduling, is provided: (TLC)3 + C4 + T3 + A4 + (NS)2 + π + GM + D2 + (R2/G2) = TRANSFORMATION
- Create “fiercely competitive global citizens” through a rigorous curriculum, facilitated by culturally sensitive, and highly skilled educators.
- Install state-of-the-art closed circuit television
- Construction of “green” elementary school
- Study lunch menus to determine appropriate “Brain food” for high student performance, and provide meals during extended school hours (pg 174)
- Health Clinics (pg 137): Staffed by licensed professionals who provide treatment, education, and referrals to students in order to promote the total health and well being of KCMSD students.
- Create community gardens for student and community utilization (pg 156)
- Create a Parent University of free workshops on parent participation (pg 78)
- Full family participation sought through tracking family attendance at events – connect with families that haven’t communicated with the school (chapter 2)
So, how’s the District plan on paying for all these new programs? How’s a sweet $14.6 million Teacher Incentive fund from the Federal Government (pg 121) sound? Not convinced? Then how about 17.6 million made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was signed into law by Pres. Obama? (pg 313) But just in case that’s not enough either, Missouri has jumped on the funding bandwagon too, and created The Missouri Early Childhood Development Act (Senate Bill 658). Through the ECDA, school districts are authorized to use state funding in providing educational programs and services to families expecting a child, or have a child from birth to kindergarten. Kansas City Schools makes clear note of the ECDA act, and explains on pg. 284 that although parents are the first and most influential teachers in their child’s life – most have been given little or no information on how to give their child the best possible beginning. Fortunately (according to the Transformation plan), the role of the school can be to assist the family in giving that child a solid foundation.
So now the question: While good things can be accomplished through state-sponsored or state funded education, will our future as a nation really be secured through the continued (and increasing) governmental interference of our children’s education?