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Saturday, May 7, 2011

KIPP Charter Schools Loose some luster

The Kansas City Star

Concerns over the local management of the KIPP Endeavor Academy have prompted its sponsoring college to put the public school through the same kind of comprehensive site review the state conducts for struggling school districts.

According to state documents, the middle school did not establish programs to use certain federal money that will have to be returned. The school also has had too few classroom teachers meeting the state’s criteria for “highly qualified.”

Several parents have been pressing these and other issues, leading to a meeting today with the school board.

The KIPP school is sponsored by Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley, which is responsible for holding it accountable. Charter schools are public schools that operate independently with their own school boards.

The sponsor has been aware of the concerns and set up the review process to take a closer look, said Jerry Kitzi, the charter school sponsor liaison for MCC-Penn Valley.

“We can’t go on hearsay,” Kitzi said. “So we’re doing an audit.”

Parent organizer Marisol Montero said the school management is suffering from “gross negligence.”

“They’re wasting taxpayers’ money,” she said.

Principal Kristi Meyer said she hopes meeting with the parents will help create a unified effort to solve some of the school’s problems.

The school is developing a plan to establish programs to receive federal funds, she said, and teachers will be taking skill exams that will boost the number of highly qualified teachers above 80 percent.

“My hope is that … we get a clear understanding of the concerns of the parents and that they understand the steps we are taking,” Meyer said.

The KIPP model has nearly 100 schools serving some 27,000 students across the country. KIPP, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program, opened its Kansas City middle school in 2007.

The school aims to serve high-needs families with programs geared to help students make up gaps in their education. It has longer school days, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Saturday hours.

The local school’s enrollment of some 225 students includes more than 80 percent from families who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

The school saw enough improvement in its state test scores a year ago to make the federal guideline of annual progress.

In communication arts, 28.9 percent scored proficient or advanced in 2010, compared with 22.2 percent in 2009. In math, the percentage rose from 23.2 percent to 44.1 percent.

A consulting team will visit the KIPP school at the MCC-Penn Valley Pioneer Campus. The school will then need to draft an improvement plan by this summer to address areas that need fixing, Kitzi said.

The progress the school makes according to the improvement plan would determine whether the sponsor would put the school on probation or consider revoking its sponsorship.

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to

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