Kansas City, June 21, 2019: Kansas City Public Schools is receiving national recognition for its efforts to unearth the impact of evictions on students and to refine data into a cutting-edge program that helps families stay in their homes.
The Council of Great City Schools (CGCS) has announced that it is giving the 2019 Research and Assessment Leadership Award to the KCPS Division of Research and Accountability. The decision was prompted by a unique data-mining research and solution development collaboration forged by KCPS with the Kansas City Eviction Project, Legal Aid of Western Missouri and the Local Investment Commission (LINC).
“The partnership you have created…struck us as an example of research that is innovative and proactive in supporting students and school staff,” CGCS Legislative and Research Manager Moses Palacios wrote in an email informing the school system of the award.
The collaborative effort was driven initially by a need to address the issue of student mobility and the impact mobility has on schools, according to Chief Research and Accountability Officer Michael Reynolds.
KCPS currently has a 48 percent student mobility rate, according to the calculation used by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This statistic functions as an index of the rate at which students change schools during the academic year. The state average is 23 percent.
Multiple studies have concluded that high student mobility can have a negative impact on academic achievement, attendance, discipline, graduation rates and parent engagement. The KCPS Strategic Plan includes a focus on increasing student achievement by supporting families who face challenges like eviction, which is a major factor in the high mobility rate.
The Kansas City Eviction Project was launched in 2013 as a collaboration between researchers, community leaders, attorneys and policymakers to use data and public advocacy to increase housing stability for residents. Mr. Reynolds and his team recognized that there was an opportunity to work with project leaders, including Tara Raghuveer, to help meet the needs of both the school system and the community.
Eviction project participants and LINC staff downloaded a decade’s worth of eviction data from the court system; KCPS IT staff and attorneys and Reynolds’ team then overlaid that eviction data with student data. This research produced a quantifiable conclusion that evictions have a significant negative impact on KCPS families, according to Reynolds. They found that some schools had up to 30 families a year being evicted, which disrupts teaching and learning.
“We were able to identify clearly that eviction is a problem for our students and for our schools,” Reynolds said. “Now we can begin to apply creative and innovative solutions to address these challenges that are truly out of the control of our students.”
The eviction research led to the development of an automated, cloud-based process that alerts KCPS staff when a student’s family appears to be in danger of being evicted through the court system. These families are referred to the recently launched Justice In the Schools program, a new partnership with Legal Aid of Western Missouri that provides free legal assistance for KCPS families. More information about the program is available at www.kcpublicschools.org/justice.
Households can decrease the likelihood of being evicted by 50 percent if they have any degree of legal representation, according to the Kansas City Eviction Project. Preventing evictions helps both schools and neighborhoods increase stability, safety, and social, emotional and economic wellbeing.
CGCS is a coalition of 74 urban public school systems from across the U.S. The award for KCPS will be presented during the council’s 2019 Curriculum and Research Directors Meeting on June 25 in San Diego. A member of Reynolds’ team will also be given the opportunity to lead a presentation about the eviction research and solutions during the meeting.
“It’s nice to get this recognition for our team, but we really see this as a chance to share this model for other urban school systems,” Reynolds said. “It’s important that we shine a spotlight on the issue of evictions and the impact that it has on our children. We’re trying to educate the public about the consequences of housing policy.”