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Report: Colorado schools get a C

Colorado earned a C and ranked 32nd in the nation in terms of the quality of its educational system, putting it behind the national score of C+.
Colorado ranked low in the areas of teaching profession and school finance, according to data released Thursday by Education Week in its annual Quality Counts report. This year’s report included for the first time school finance and put particular focus on issues of school safety.

No state earned an A in the 2013 edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts report, “Code of Conduct: Safety, Discipline, and School Climate.”

Colorado, which joined 19 other states that received grades of C or lower, moved up three slots after ranking 35th in the 2012 Quality Counts report.

Colorado’s rank

In the report Colorado earned its highest mark – B – in the category of “chance for success,” which factors in early foundations in learning, such as family income and parent education; school years, which includes elementary reading skills, middle school math ability, high school graduation and postsecondary participation; and adult outcomes. The latter category includes adult educational attainment, annual income and steady employment. Colorado ranks fourth nationally in terms of adults with two- or four-year degrees – a fact that likely bumped up the state’s ranking in this category.

That B placed Colorado in 10th place nationally, as did the B- Colorado received in standards, assessments and accountability.

However, the state ranked 42nd and earned a D in the category labeled “the teaching profession,” which examines accountability in teacher preparation and incentives to entice quality teachers.

Colorado ranks 42nd for school finance

New this year is a school finance category in which Colorado earned a C-. A closer look at that category shows that Colorado ranks 42nd nationally in adjusted per pupil expenditures and 41st in terms of students funded at or above the national average. No surprise there.

However, the state ranked second nationally in the McLoone index, which reflects actual spending as a percent of the amount needed to bring all students to median level.

Colorado also got a C- in the K-12 achievement index, which examines achievement levels in math and reading at certain grade levels, achievement gains, the poverty gap, high school graduation rates and high Advanced Placement scores.

Also this year, researchers and journalists gathered opinions on factors that can be important to student achievement, such as school climate and safety.

The report is an acknowledgment – especially in light of the recent shootings at a Connecticut elementary school –  that school climate and a sense of security are growing in importance in broader conversations about school reform.

Of 1,300 teachers and administrators, who are also Education Week subscribers and who filled out an online survey, 98 percent of administrators pegged “teaching quality” as “very important” to student achievement compared to 90 percent of teachers.

School climate ranked as the second most important category of five, with 83 percent of administrators and 72 percent of teachers listing it as “very important” for educational success. Interestingly, “family background” ranked last (below school safety and school discipline policies) with 22 percent of administrators polled and 42 percent of teachers labeling it as a very important factor in terms of educational success.

As far as school responses to misbehavior by students, most – 76 percent – of survey respondents favored in-school suspension, the least severe of disciplinary options, including law enforcement referral, zero tolerance policies, out-of- school suspensions and expulsion.

Thornton Middle School popped up on a top 20 list for most student expulsions nationwide. According to the database, the school reported that 35.2 percent of the school’s 725 students have been expelled. When contacted by Education Week, a spokesman for Adams 12 expressed “substantial questions about the validity of data the districts submitted to the U.S. Department of Education,” according to the report. However, Adams 12 staff had not formally sought changes from the Education Department as early December.

The Quality Counts report is a collaboration between the Education Week newsroom and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.

For the fifth year in a row, Maryland earned honors as the top-ranked state in the overall rankings, posting the nation’s highest overall grade, the only B+ awarded. South Dakota earned the worst grade, a D+.

Colorado State Highlights 2013 Quality Counts by EdNews