5 school districts on track for sanctions from state
Five Colorado school districts face the unprecedented prospect of state sanctions and three were spared that fate, according to final state school district quality ratings released Thursday.
The Colorado Department of Education’s ratings are the first since the state made a switch in assessments designed to measure student learning in English and math.
The ratings are also the first to be released since a growing number of families began opting their children out of the tests, driving down many districts’ participation rates and complicating state officials’ efforts to rate them.
The five districts that failed to improve student learning enough during the last six years and now face state action are a mix of suburban and rural: Westminster Public Schools, Adams 14 School District, Aguilar Reorganized, Montezuma-Cortez and Julesburg RE-1.
Those districts have one more chance to appeal to the State Board of Education for a higher rating, which could halt the sanction process. Such an appeal has never been granted.
The sanctions could come as soon as February. The state board is giving the five school districts the following options: close schools; turn some over to a charter authorizer; or reorganize and turn over some operations such as teacher training to a third party.
Adams 14 and Westminster had asked for the state to reconsider their ratings before finalizing them. But both those bids fell short. State officials concluded that Adams 14 neither improved enough nor provided sufficient data, and district officials say they will not appeal.
In Westminster’s case, the state said the district could claim some promising data but not enough to lift its rating. District officials also contended the state accountability system doesn’t adequately take into account the way it groups students not by age but by what they know. District officials told Chalkbeat they plan to appeal.
The three districts that beat the state’s so-called “accountability clock” and escaped sanctions were Pueblo City Schools, Sheridan Public Schools and Ignacio. The three districts learned they had made enough improvement earlier this fall, and the final ratings make it official.
Overall, more than twothirds of the state’s districts were awarded one of the state’s top two ratings. Another five districts ranked in the bottom two.
More than half of the state’s 184 school districts and other agencies that get ratings — including the Charter School Institute, the state’s charter school authorizer — have similar ratings compared to 2014, when the ratings were last issued. Forty districts saw a rating increase, while 33 dropped at least one level.
Under the system, which was created by the General Assembly in 2009, districts that fall in the bottom two categories have five years to improve or face sanctions. This year marks the first year the State Board of Education must take action on districts that have crossed that threshold.