5 school dis­tricts on track for sanc­tions from state

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ni­cholas Gar­cia

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.

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