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Bill seeks to bridge data gap in district, school ratings

A bill expected to be introduced this week would allow school and district performance ratings earned in the 2014-15 school year to be carried over into the following year.

The proposal, prepared by the Department of Education, is intended to bridge a data gap that will be created when the state moves from the current TCAP testing system to the new CMAS system, which will be based on multi-state online tests. Those new tests are to launch in the spring of 2015.

CDE officials have been talking for months about the need for such a bill.

School and district performance ratings are based partly on student academic growth, as measured by changes in test scores over multiple years. Because the old and new tests are different, there will be a growth data gap.

Performance ratings are a key element in what’s called the “accountability clock.” That refers to schools and districts that remain in the two lowest rating categories for five consecutive years.

Under current state accountability law, the State Board of Education is supposed to intervene with schools and districts that reach the five-year point. Options for such schools and districts include hiring an outside partner to improve the school, reorganizing school leadership, becoming an innovation school or clustering with other schools in an innovation zone, “restarting” a school by hiring contract management or conversion to a charter school.

A total of 190 schools are on the accountability clock. Some 40 are entering year four of the five-year clock. (Get more information in this Chalkbeat Colorado story.)

An interesting part of the proposed bill would give the State Board the power and flexibility to choose additional, unspecified options for struggling districts, beyond those in current law.

Any change in the accountability law is not expected to have an impact on use of the state’s educator evaluation system, which requires 50 percent of principal and teacher evaluations be based on student academic growth. That’s because statewide tests are not the sole growth measure used for evaluation.

The measure is expected to be sponsored in the House by Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon and chair of the House Education Committee.

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