That’s CDE’s response to news Chalkbeat reported late Tuesday that the tiny Sheridan School District southwest of Denver is suing the state over about $1 million in student funding.
What’s in dispute is how the Sheridan district counts some of its students who are in a “concurrent enrollment” program and how it wants the state to calculate its graduation rate for accountability purposes. Students who are in concurrent enrollment programs are high school students who take college-level classes either at their school or a nearby college.
Sheridan, which serves mostly low-income and Latino students, offers three diploma levels, among them an advanced degree that includes college credits that could add up to an associate degree from a community college.
Many students who are seeking the advanced diploma, which the district calls a 21st Century Diploma, have earned enough high school credits to graduate from high school with a traditional diploma. The district, in a pitch to the State Board of Education last year, said those students should count toward the district’s graduation rate and remain in the school system, bringing in state per pupil funding that Sheridan would pass along to the community college to cover the cost of tuition.
Sheridan is at the end of the state’s accountability watch list timeline. The district faces state intervention if does not prove it has done enough to boost student achievement, and its graduation rate, by the end of the school year.
Sheridan’s superintendent Michael Clough, in a statement this morning, said the lawsuit is about more than the money, but about a fundamental problem of how the state runs its concurrent enrollment:
“The state’s current approach for managing concurrent enrollment programs is haphazard, at best, and we believe the court will concur. As a district, our approach to providing college-level opportunities for students was unchanged for many years before a question regarding accreditation caused a sudden, abrupt change in the state’s approach. The end result is an attempt by the state to punish our district in a way that is, at the very least, arbitrary. Our students don’t deserve an arbitrary system. In addition, taxpayers statewide expect to have a state-funded concurrent enrollment program that is fairly administered across the board.”