Across the Street column: What is accountability?
Across the Street
At the November board meeting, the state Board of Education considered the consequences of the failed performance of Adams 14 school district and two Pueblo middle schools. By law, the board is required to intervene after five years on the “accountability clock.” In 2018, the district and two middle schools entered year eight of continued low scores on the state’s Performance Frameworks.
District and School Performance Frameworks are measurements used for accountability purposes. The legislature holds schools and districts accountable for performance on a consistent set of indicators and measures used throughout the state. The frameworks are also used to select specific support for the lowest performing schools and districts.
In 2009, the Education Accountability Act was passed to provide a process for the State Board of Education to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of supervising the public schools in the state. It provided uniform, useful, credible and fair academic performance information.
The state board makes yearly assessments that use categories of Performance, Improvement, Priority Improvement and Turnaround to describe the evaluation. Districts also include a “Distinction” for those districts performing above “Performance.” There are five levels for district evaluations and four for schools. With these evaluations, the department of education focuses additional resources and support to the lower two levels: “Turnaround” and “Priority Improvement.”
If a school or district is considered Turnaround or Priority Improvement for five consecutive years, the legislature requires the State Board to take measures to improve student outcomes. After five years of additional support from the department, Adams 14 school district did not progress. In November the school district again came before the board after completing its eighth year, with $6.3M in additional resources, and no significant improvement. The board unanimously voted to have an outside management company take over the district. The local school board will work with the external management group to address the challenges cited by the state board.
Following a signed contract with the external management company, the district will embark on a new direction for improvement. The state board will receive frequent updates following the education department’s visitations to the district. If the state board still doesn’t see improvement, other options may be considered.
Two middle schools in Pueblo District 60 are also on year eight of the accountability clock and were directed to acquire external management.
On a more positive note, I attended Jeb Bush’s “Excellence in Educational Reform” conference in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of December. The conference, known as “the best education conference in the nation” brought together state government legislators and educators throughout the nation. I heard about open enrollment and how to best serve parents interested in a variety of school choice options. Ideas were shared on how to simplify and streamline the process. There are some exciting and successful programs going on throughout the nation.
Moving on, Jan. 4, 2019 begins day one of the 72nd legislative session in Colorado.
Joyce Rankin is a member of the Colorado Board of Education. The Department of Education is located across the street from the Capitol. “Across the Street” appears monthly in the Post Independent.