Because of Kansas City Public Schools’ (KCPS) persistent underperformance, the state is contemplating taking over the district. They engaged CEE-Trust and Public Impact (organizations I admire and have worked with) to produce a plan.
What they’ve come up with is revolutionary. Should the state board of education adopt it, Kansas City will soon rival New Orleans as the most exciting and important city for K–12 education.
I’ve now read the entirety of the nearly 80-page report, and I’m impressed. It’s a document informed by the best thinking on systemic reform over the last two decades. You can see Chubb and Moe, Paul Hill, Ted Kolderie, and Neerav Kingsland in its pages. And that’s a delight.
While the report argues for some traditional interventions—namely, higher teacher salaries, more expansive pre-K, and greater wrap-around services—those pale in comparison to its main thrust.
Over decades, there have been countless state takeovers of districts across the nation, and they’ve all failed to bring about the dramatic improvement needed. That’s because they’ve all kept in place the failed district structure.
The traditional state takeover just installs a new, state-hired superintendent and removes governance authority from a locally elected board. The district’s position as the dominant, default operator of schools is preserved.
The report’s recommendations address that fundamental problem. In its own words, “Our conclusion is that it’s not the people in the system that’s the problem; it’s the system itself.”
The report makes the case for ending the district.
“Simply put, the traditional urban school...