A second annual release of ratings for Colorado schools and districts under the state’s latest accountability law shows three-quarters maintained the same rating in 2011 as in 2010, though there were some changes at the very top and bottom.
State Board of Education members on Tuesday signed off on ratings for more than 1,600 schools, essentially declaring nearly 88 percent are making adequate progress and can continue without additional oversight.
That leaves 202 schools that must show improvement over the next three to four years or face sanctions, including closure.
The ratings dictate the annual plans that all schools must file with the Colorado Department of Education to demonstrate they’re on a path to continuous improvement.
Here’s the school ratings breakdown for 2011:
- Performance – Assigned to 69.5% or 1,144 Colorado schools. This is the top rating and while a performance school must file an improvement plan, it will receive little state oversight.
- Improvement – Assigned to 18.3% or 301 schools. The second-highest rating also means little state oversight.
- Priority improvement – Assigned to 8.9% or 147 schools. This rating, along with the lowest rating of turnaround, requires a school to file an improvement plan that will be reviewed by a state panel and is subject to approval by the state education commissioner.
- Turnaround – Assigned to 3.3% or 55 Colorado schools. The lowest rating. Both priority improvement and turnaround schools have five years to progress to a higher rating. Today’s release shows 122 schools are on priority improvement or turnaround status for a second year.
Overall, the number of schools receiving the top rating increased by 2 percent this year or by 52 schools, but 36 of those were new schools during 2010-11 and received the rating by default. The number of schools facing possible sanctions also increased slightly in 2011, from 197 to 202 or by another five schools.
The latest accountability system, based on the Education Accountability Act of 2009, replaces the School Accountability Reports. Like the SARs, it relies heavily on results of the Colorado Student Assessment Program or CSAP.
How school ratings are calculated
But the new system differs from the SARs in placing greater weight on student academic growth, considering the extent of achievement gaps among students and factoring in graduation rates, dropout rates and ACT scores for high schools.
For example, elementary and middle schools are judged by:
- Academic achievement – 25 possible points
- Academic growth – 50 possible points
- Academic growth gaps – 25 possible points
For high schools, the mix is slightly different:
- Academic achievement – 15 points
- Academic growth – 35 points
- Academic growth gaps – 15 points
- Postsecondary and workforce readiness – 35 points
Schools are labeled as Exceeds, Meets, Approaching or Does Not Meet on each performance indicator.
State officials have said the new system is intended to be “a floor” rather than “a ceiling” after some concerns that the system sets too low a bar. Schools need not score particularly high on the performance indicators to be named Performance schools. Earning 60 percent or above of the possible 100 points – a D in many classrooms – nets the top rating.
To receive the lowest rating of Turnaround, a school must achieve less than 33 percent of possible points.
Sanctions facing low-performing schools
All schools must submit improvement plans, which are publicly available online, but only those designated Turnaround or Priority Improvement are subject to extra state scrutiny.
A state review panel reviews the plans and evaluates the school’s leadership and staff before making recommendations to the education commissioner, who has final approval.
If a Turnaround or Priority Improvement school does not progress to a higher rating after five years, the commissioner then asks the panel to review it and recommend one of a series of sanctions:
- Management by a private or public entity other than the school district
- Conversion to a charter school, if not a charter
- Change in status to an innovation school
- Closure of school or revocation of charter
The State Board of Education has final say on which sanctions would be imposed.
District ratings also little changed
The state also released ratings today for Colorado’s 181 school districts. Here’s the final breakdown:
- 9.9%, or 18 districts, received the highest rating of Accredited with Distinction. These districts meet or exceed statewide performance indicators. The list includes Academy District 20, Aspen, Cheyenne Mountain 12 and Littleton, the only metro area district to make the cut.
- 51.6%, or 94 districts, received the next highest rating of Accredited, meaning they meet statewide performance indicators. This includes Jefferson County, Douglas County, Cherry Creek, Boulder, Fort Collins and St. Vrain.
- 24.7%, or 45 districts, received the rating of Accredited with Improvement, meaning they must complete a plan to improve but those plans aren’t subject to approval by the Colorado Department of Education. This includes Adams 12 Five Star, Colorado Springs D-11, Greeley 6 and Mesa 51 Grand Junction.
- 9.9%, or 18 districts, are rated Accredited with Priority improvement, meaning they must file improvement plans for CDE review and approval. This includes the Aurora, the Charter School Institute, Denver, Englewood and Mapleton.
- 4%, or 7 districts, received the lowest rating of Accredited with Turnaround and also are to CDE approval for improvement plans. Districts with this rating include Adams 14 Commerce City, Pueblo City, Sheridan and Adams 50 Westminster.
Districts were evaluated on four performance indicators:
- Academic achievement on state exams, a possible 15 of 100 points
- Academic growth on state exams, a possible 35 of 100 points
- Closing achievement gaps among student groups on state exams, a possible 15 of 100 points
- Post-secondary and workforce readiness as determined by performance on the Colorado ACT, dropout rate and graduation rate, a possible 35 of 100 points
On each indicator, a district was determined to be either an Exceeds, Meets, Approaching or Does Not Meet on the criteria set by the state.
So how tough was it to be Accredited with Distinction? Districts had to achieve at least 80 percent of points possible. Districts received the lowest rating of Turnaround for scoring below 42 percent of possible points.
Overall, the number of school districts received the highest rating increased by four in 2011, with several small rural districts such as Agate – which reported fewer than 30 students in 2010-11 – joining the distinguished list. Those facing possible sanctions increased by one district, growing from 24 to 25.
There was some movement in the very bottom tier, with Englewood moving up from Turnaround to Priority Improvement and Pueblo City Schools dropping from Priority Improvement to Turnaround. But districts have to leave both those ratings behind in five years if they don’t want to face the possibility of losing state accreditation.
Ratings for Colorado’s six largest school districts and their schools
Jefferson County – District Rating: Accredited – Earned 72% of points possible
- Schools with Performance rating – 77.3% or 123 of 159 schools – Led by Bradford Primary, Meiklejohn Elementary and Bradford Intermediate
- Schools with Improvement rating – 12.5% or 20 schools
- Schools with Priority Improvement rating – 1.88% or 3 schools – Molholm Elementary, Jefferson County Open Elementary and Alameda High School
- Schools with Turnaround rating – Less than 1 percent or 1 school – Arvada K-8
- Alternative Education Campuses – 7.54% or 12 schools
- Fall 2010 – 83,025 students, 30.6% poverty rate
Denver – District Rating: Accredited with Priority Improvement – Earned 50.2% of points possible
- Schools with Performance rating – 48.4% or 79 of 163 schools – Led by Cory, Polaris at Ebert and Steck elementaries
- Schools with Improvement rating – 23.3% or 38 schools
- Schools with Priority Improvement rating – 13.4% or 22 schools
- Schools with Turnaround rating – 7.97% or 13 schools, including Math and Science Leadership Academy, Smith and Greenlee elementaries
- Alternative Education Campuses – 6.74% or 11 schools
- Fall 2010 – 73,787 students, 72.9% poverty rate
Douglas County – District Rating: Accredited – Earned 72.7% of points possible
- Schools with Performance rating – 93.8% or 76 of 81 schools – Led by Northridge Elementary, Core Knowledge Charter and Redstone Elementary
- Schools with Improvement rating – 1.23% or 1 school – Sagewood Middle
- Schools with Priority Improvement rating – 3.7% or 3 schools – Hope Online, Eagle Academy and EDCSD:Colorado Cyberschool
- Schools with Turnaround rating – 0
- Alternative Education Campuses – 1.23% or 1 school – Daniel C. Oakes High School
- Fall 2010 – 59,749 students, 10.9% poverty rate
Cherry Creek – District Rating: Accredited – Earned 71.3% of points possible
- Schools with Performance rating – 94.7% or 54 of 57 schools – Led by Cherry Hills Village, Cottonwood and Dry Creek elementaries
- Schools with Improvement rating – 5.26% or 3 schools – Village East Community Elementary, Overland High School, Highline Community Elementary
- Schools with Priority Improvement rating – 0
- Schools with Turnaround rating – 0
- Alternative Education Campuses – 0
- Fall 2010 – 50,504 students, 26.2% poverty rate
Adams 12 Five Star – District Rating: Accredited with Improvement – Earned 56.6% of points possible
- Schools with Performance rating – 73.5% or 39 of 53 schools – Led by Meridian Elementary, Stargate Charter and Coyote Ridge Elementary
- Schools with Improvement rating – 7.54% or 4 schools
- Schools with Priority Improvement rating – 16.9% or 9, including Thornton Elementary, Colorado Virtual Academy and Coronado Hills Elementary
- Schools with Turnaround rating – 0
- Alternative Education Campuses – 1.88% or 1 school – Vantage Point
- Fall 2010 – 41,202 students, 34% poverty rate
Aurora – District Rating: Accredited with Priority Improvement – Earned 45.8% of points possible
- Schools with Performance rating – 37.9% or 22 of 58 schools – Led by Aurora Quest K-8, Side Creek Elementary and Options School
- Schools with Improvement rating – 29.3% or 17 schools
- Schools with Priority Improvement rating – 24.1% or 14 schools
- Schools with Turnaround rating – 6.89% or 4 schools – APS Online, Fletcher Primary, Vista Peak P-8 and Mrachek Middle School
- Alternative Education Campuses – 1.72% or 1 school – New America School
- Fall 2010 – 37,130 students, 65.2% poverty rate
Highest and lowest-performing schools and districts statewide
Top five districts in state ratings system
- Hinsdale County School District – Earned 95.4% of points possible – 96 students – 18.8% poverty rate
- Aspen School District – Earned 89.6% of points possible – 1,727 students – 6.2% poverty rate
- Frenchman RE-3 District (Logan County) – Earned 88.8% of points possible – 200 students – 45.9% poverty rate
- Cheyenne Mountain 12 District – Earned 87.3% of points possible – 4,561 students – 14.3% poverty rate
- Plateau RE-5 District (Logan County) – Earned 86.4% of points possible – 176 students – 46.3% poverty rate
Bottom five districts in state ratings system
- Vilas RE-5 District (Baca County) – Earned 32.2% of points possible – 354 students – 53.7% poverty rate
- Mountain BOCES – Earned 32.8% of points possible – 142 students – O poverty rate
- Karval School District (Lincoln County) – Earned 38% of points possible – 235 students – 21.8% poverty rate
- Adams 14 Commerce City District – Earned 38.6% of points possible – 7,549 students – 84.9% poverty rate
- Adams 50 Westminster District – Earned 40.2% of points possible – 10,049 students – 79.1% poverty rate
Five school districts on third year of the state’s five-year sanctions clock
- Vilas RE-5 District, Baca County in southeastern Colorado
- Mountain BOCES, Leadville area
- Karval School District, east of Colorado Springs
- Huerfano School District, Walsenburg
- Center School District, San Luis Valley
*Schools can only be on year 2 of the state’s improvement cycle and 105 schools are there. But districts can be on year 3 if they were issued a Notice of Support by the state in 2008-09. Districts face loss of state accreditation if they don’t improve their ratings within five years.