A state commission on Wednesday made the rare decision to revoke a Kansas City school’s charter in the middle of its contract, effectively closing it after this school year.
Amid impassioned pleas from parents to keep Genesis School open, the Missouri Charter Public School Commission voted to void its charter on June 30, due to years of underachievement.
Genesis, however, can now appeal the decision to the state board of education.
If the board agrees with the recommendation to revoke the charter, the board will initiate the Genesis shutdown process, including notifying parents of options to transfer students to a new school, such as one within Kansas City Public Schools or a different charter school.
Robbyn Wahby, executive director of the state’s charter commission, previously said he recommended revoking the charter after years of “broken promises” and “devastating” academic results.
“We haven’t broken a promise to anyone,” Genesis executive director Kevin Foster told The Star. “Our promise is to the families we serve, that is, to whom we are committed.”
Foster said the Genesis board has yet to decide whether to appeal the decision, though he expects the school to do so.
The school, at 3800 E. 44th St., operates out of the Thornberry Unit of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City and serves approximately 200 students. Genesis has served families on Kansas City’s East Side for 47 years, since 1999 as a charter school. It is now one of the oldest charter schools in the state.
During a public hearing last month, dozens of parents, students, teachers and community members packed a standing-room lecture hall at the Lucile H. Bluford Public Library to urge the state commission to keep the school open.
For the past 15 years, the school has failed to meet academic performance standards, according to the state commission. During that time, Genesis’ test scores consistently fell below the Kansas City state and public school average.
Only 13 percent of Genesis students read and perform grade-level math, Wahby said, compared to 21 percent of KCPS’ most vulnerable students.
The commission said that in the 2015-2016 school year, the charter school saw 27 percent of K-5 students score at the proficient or advanced level in English. Five years later, it dropped to 2.6%. Students’ math scores dropped from 24% to 8%.
“We could not find a single time from 2007 to 2022 where Genesis performed better than KCPS in English or math. Not a single year for 15 years,” Wahby said during last month’s hearing.
But Foster argued that the commission’s assessment is unfair. She said the school’s state evaluation scores have improved since 2020, despite the pandemic, and that her students are seeing academic growth throughout the year. Foster said the card’s test scores were lower than expected in both 2018 and 2019, which she attributed to a new state performance test.
The school has seen students grow academically in 2021. He argued that the school needs time to demonstrate that it can continue to improve.
“I believe any fair assessment of the data since (our charter was) renewed in 2020 would validate the work we do and allow us to continue,” Foster said on Wednesday.
Genesis was placed on academic probation when its charter was renewed in 2015 by the University of Missouri-Kansas City, its first sponsor. The school also failed to meet performance standards when it was later sponsored by the University of Missouri at Columbia, which lost its authority to sponsor Genesis and two other charter schools.
In 2020, the state agreed to renew Genesis’ five-year charter, but again placed him on academic probation. The following year, the state school board voted to make the Missouri Charter Public School Commission the sponsor of the school.
“Two sponsors, two trials, multiple performance notices,” Wahby said last month. “We are the third sponsor. Third time failing standards is enough.
Foster said the state commission did not give the school enough time to demonstrate that it is meeting the standards set out in the new contract approved last July, along with an action plan that sets standards and performance goals for the next few years.
He also believes the school has not been given enough notice to counter the commission’s recommendation to rescind its charter, leaving “staff and families in the lurch with three months left in the school year.”
After evaluating the school, Wahby said the board notified the school of its findings last spring and asked it to submit the action plan.
“They knew the stakes were high. They knew they had the money and they had to do something faster and better,” she said. “They knew that most of the students in their care were below grade, some way below grade.”
Foster said the school will work with the families to inform them of their options for enrolling students elsewhere next year.
“If our board decides to continue fighting this, which I think they will, and if we’re successful, our families will choose us,” Foster said. “They are about to make a choice. But they already have that choice every day. And they choose us.”