Five Schools--1,000 More Opportunities for Quality Education in KC

Perfectly-sharpened pencils, crisp new uniforms and yellow school buses galore. This month kicked off the 2016-17 school year for students in Kansas City. Classrooms are abuzz as communities get to know each other, set expectations and learn new routines. The start of this school year brings an enhanced energy and excitement surrounding education in Kansas City, with new district leadership and more options than ever for families to choose a high-quality school for their child.

A New Superintendent

Dr. Mark Bedell joined Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) in July. He has set an ambitious plan for his first 100 days, which is updated and posted online weekly. A key component of this plan is meeting with stakeholders and listening to feedback in order to truly get to know the community and its needs. Dr. Bedell has emphasized that his priority is to do whatever it takes to provide the highest quality education for children. I’m eager to watch Dr. Bedell and his team develop and implement the five-year strategic plan to increase instructional quality in the district.

Brand New Schools

Hundreds of students had the opportunity to attend the inaugural day of school in two new schools: Kansas City Neighborhood Academy (KCNA) and Citizens of the World — Kansas City (CWC Kansas City). Both schools were developed over several years through the collaborative efforts of local community groups.

CWC Kansas City currently serves kindergarten and first-grade students in their Midtown location, and will grow by a grade each year into a network eventually serving students through 12th grade. (Get a glimpse of the first day in action.) The school is the realization of initial efforts by a group of parents and community members committed to quality public school options in Midtown, and is focused on bringing together a diverse community of learners in a rigorous and joyful learning environment connected to the world around them.


Students at Quality Hill Academy enter their new building on the first day of school.

KCNA is forging new territory with a unique partnership between KCPS, the Urban Neighborhood Initiative and Purpose Built Communities to develop a district-sponsored charter school, modeled after the Drew Charter School in Atlanta. It currently serves pre-kindergarten through second-grade students in the Wendell Phillips neighborhood, with plans to add a grade each year until it serves students through sixth grade. Partnerships like this demonstrate that it doesn’t matter what type of public school it is—charter or district—but whether the school is high-quality.

Expansion of Several Quality Options

Crossroads Academy opened its second campus, Quality Hill Academy, with kindergarten through third-grade students, and KIPP Kansas City expanded to serve students inkindergarten through fourth grade, in addition to the fifth- through eighth-grade students it already served. The Kauffman School continues its build-out plans and welcomed 225 new fifth graders this month, increasing the school’s total enrollment to more than 850 fifth through 10th grade students.

As a program officer, I have had the privilege of partnering with community members and school leaders who have laid the groundwork for these new quality school options for Kansas City students and look forward to opportunities to partner with the new KCPS leadership as well. In the past month, with just the schools mentioned here, nearly 1,000 new seats have opened for students in Kansas City. In a system of approximately 25,000 students, this is significant. But it’s not enough. There are still thousands of students in Kansas City who are not getting the education they deserve – one preparing them for life and education beyond high school. The work our partners do every day inspires me to continue to challenge myself to push harder, do better and think outside the box. Our children—and our city—are worth it.

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Amy Gale

Amy Gale is a program officer in Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she manages projects around quality schools and human capital initiatives and identifies, researches, and builds relationships around emerging education-related projects.