The legislative session and the accountability clock: Time’s up
Across the Street
This week will end the 2017 legislative session. As of May 7, there were 61 bills addressing K-12 education issues. Of these, 25 did not pass, 23 passed and 10 are pending. I’m sure we will hear more as the month comes to a close and we understand their impact. One of the bills still being discussed at length is the Sustainability of Rural Colorado, Senate Bill 17-267. This bill has a lot of moving parts including capital construction, K-12 school finance, higher education, state revenue and budget, and transportation.
While legislators are looking forward to the end of the session, the State Board of Education is busy with decisions regarding our lowest performing schools and districts. This is all because of the School Accountability Act of 2009. Statute holds state school districts and public schools accountable on “statewide performance indicators.” In other words, accountability. It recognizes and rewards areas of success, while also identifying and compelling change for areas that need to improve. The State Board must make decisions for dramatic change in these lowest ranked schools and districts.
Understanding accountability measures created by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is the first step in this process. Stick with me here: CDE created a primary accountability tool called the District and School Performance Frameworks (DPF/SPF). Accountability includes: academic achievement, growth, and post-secondary and workforce readiness. Based on the assessments one of four basic classifications are assigned to each school: 1) Performance, 2) Improvement, 3) Priority Improvement, and 4) Turnaround. Beginning in 2010 any school that remained on 3) Priority Improvement or 4) Turnaround status for five consecutive years (one year was paused because of an assessment change) will be evaluated by the commissioner and the State Review Panel (a body of experts in the field of education). They, along with the school or district, will present their plans for dramatic change which the State Board can either approve or can make a different final recommendation. By law the final determination can be: change in management, Charter School conversion, Innovation status, school closure or, in the case of a district, reorganization. This is the first year for this review process.
All of the 12 schools and five districts that are currently identified must have a hearing and final determination must be made by June 30. The hearings began in February and can take up to three hours each. Extra meetings have been held in order to accommodate two hearings a day and include up to a thousand pages of reading. The final determination is made at the next scheduled board meeting. There’s a lot of background study involved.
Believe me when I say I’m not complaining, however, with the close of the legislative session this week and a two-day board meeting, I’m ready for a little time on the Western Slope.
Thank you for the honor to serve.
Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the 3rd Congressional District. “Across the Street” will appear monthly.
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