Suspicions raised about Hope Academy’s reportedly strong attendance

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri education leaders are losing hope in Kansas City’s Hope Academy. The state is investigating reports the school inflated attendance numbers. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said a surprise visit to the school last month confirmed the shocking findings.

According to the Associated Press, a Department of Education spokeswoman said only about 27 percent of students were in attendance at the time of that surprise visit. Yet the school has been reporting a 99.5 percent attendance rate.

A spokeswoman with the department said that high figure would even be unlikely for the state's highest performing schools. Right now Hope Academy is said to be struggling. More than 80 percent of students at Hope Academy are not showing proficient scores in math and language arts.

Some members of the school’s board of directors have been placed on administrative leave and an interim superintendent has been appointed. An external auditor has also been hired to look into these concerns. None of the board members are speaking on Tuesday night, but the board’s attorney had this to say when asked why the board didn't previously had an auditor.

"There's no provision that requires an auditor and that's all I’m going to answer. Thank you," Dana Tippin-Cutler said.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City sponsors Hope Academy. The school released a statement saying that in October it placed the academy on probation because the school's annual performance results were below those of the district the charter school is in during three of the last four years

The school has also been notified that it’s in danger of not having its charter renewed. That decision is still pending, but all applications are due to UMKC in mid-November and to the state in February.

Academic integrity is also being questioned at the school. The Kansas City Star reports state officials said a teacher accepted $700 from a student in exchange for credit the student didn't earn towards graduation. The money is said to have been returned to that student.

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