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Kansas City Public Schools celebrates full academic accreditation for first time in 30 years

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --  How's this for an improved report card?

Kansas City Public School leaders are celebrating full academic accreditation for the first time in 30 years. It's welcome news to a district that's fallen well below state standards.

It's a product that's been three decades in the making. KCPS students and teachers are celebrating their improved score on its annual academic progress report, raising it from 22 percent to 98 percent. KCPS superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell says this will help the district win back students and families who had left for greener pastures.

“We know this has been a long road traveled, but this district has arrived. We also know we have a lot of work to do,” Dr. Bedell said.

It's an achievement worth celebrating, and the district brings out all the stops, using the Lincoln Prep marching band and cheerleaders to greet visitors as they arrived to a special ceremony at Attucks Elementary School on Prospect Avenue.

For decades, students in this district's 38 schools had recorded low test scores and high dropout rates.

“We have been transparent for our opportunities for improvement. That will continue to be the case as we strive to build the high-quality school system our students deserve,” Dr. Bedell said.

Dr. Bedell says over 400 families have already contacted the district, hoping to return to this school system. Bedell took the KCPS leadership role in July, after leaving a similar position with Baltimore Public Schools in Maryland.

“We have to stand together and fight for our kids,” Jameka Kendrix, mother to two of the near 18,000 students within the district, said.

“We have proven, that when we come together, regardless of whom our superintendent is, this school system can be successful. I'm so excited.”

Attucks Elementary School teachers, such as fourth grade instructor Reaundra Pauley, commented that students will gain a new self-assuredness as a result of this achievement.

“They will see the difference in themselves. They will have a new confidence in themselves, knowing they are growing and they can do it and change what people think of the district,” Pauley told FOX 4 News.

The moment isn't lost on students, who could benefit from more and better teachers coming to class.

Some parents were moved to tears by the announcement. One told reporters the best part of the achievement was seeing kids from this community excel when people outside the district told them they'd fail.

While KCPS has made the grade, accreditation is not a guarantee. The Missouri State Board of Education still needs to vote on it.  Missouri state guidelines require school districts to maintain their standards for a full year before seeing their accreditation status updated.