KC Plans to Reward, Penalize Schools

Published April 1, 1999

Although exact details of the plan remain to be worked out, the Kansas City school board in January approved a measure that would demand greater accountability of the city’s schools by rewarding or penalizing them based on student performance, according to a report by Phillip O’Connor in the Kansas City Star.

While additional resources and public recognition would go to schools that improve student performance, employees in schools showing no improvement could lose their jobs. The proposed accountability system is among the most rigorous in the nation, according to district officials.

The plan, which has been submitted to U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple for approval, contains the following accountability measures:

  • Individual teacher evaluations will be tied to student performance.
  • Principals and teachers will be evaluated and rated Exemplary, Above Standard, At Standard, or Below Standard.
  • In an annual report card providing detailed statistics on their performance, each school will be rated Outstanding, Accomplished, Needs Improvement, or In Crisis.
  • Schools that meet their goals and are rated Outstanding or Accomplished would receive additional resources; schools in the bottom two ratings would receive supervision and assistance; chronically failing schools could be overhauled, resulting in staff terminations.

“This district is going to be on the cutting edge of accountability and hopefully show results real soon,” the district’s interim director of curriculum and instruction, Phyllis Chase, told the Kansas City Star.

Individual schools would be rated on their progress towards closing the achievement gap between black and white students and on achieving the academic goals set by the district. The following measures also would be used to assess school performance:

  • improvement in scores on standardized tests;
  • percentage of third-graders reading at grade level;
  • number of special education students;
  • dropout rates;
  • number of graduates accepted at two-year and four-year schools;
  • enrollment in higher-level courses and elimination of lower-level courses; and
  • teacher absenteeism.

Although principals will be assessed on leadership and other factors, the primary measure of their performance will be student achievement. Teachers will be evaluated mainly by their principal, but input from parents, students, and other teachers will also be part of the evaluation process. Currently, principals are reviewed infrequently and teacher evaluations often are based on only brief observations. The new focus will be on how well students perform.

“This is going to be the standard by which every component of a school system is measured: student achievement,” Chase told the Kansas City Star‘s O’Connor.

For more information …

on the challenges facing the Kansas City school district, see “Money and School Performance: Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment,” published in March 1998 by the Cato Institute. The 36-page study is available from Cato, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001-5403; phone 202/842-0200; fax 202/842-3490; or at its Web site at www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa_298es.html. The study is also available in two 18-page parts through PolicyBot. Point your Web browser to http://www.heartland.org, click on the PolicyBot icon, and search for old documents #2114401 and #2114402.