Colia’s troubles a symptom of state pressure on schools |

Colia’s troubles a symptom of state pressure on schools

Carbondale students, parents and teachers got some good news Wednesday – Carbondale Middle School principal Cliff Colia will stay on the job next year.

But the furor that erupted over the possibility that he would be reassigned to a teaching job created hard feelings in the community that will not be easy to heal.

While many Carbondale residents are still angry with the Roaring Fork Re-1 School Board and superintendent Fred Wall, the real culprit here appears to be the state’s pressure-cooker approach to school achievement ratings.

Colorado moved to a new style of student testing that tells us a lot more about how well kids are learning. But the Owens administration coupled that progressive move with harsh consequences for schools that either don’t meet standards or don’t show marked signs of improvements.

If schools fail three years in a row, Owens has said, the state will take over the management, although this has yet to happen anywhere in Colorado.

Threatening those consequences at a middle school where half of the students speak little or no English is unfair, and a recipe for failure. And that’s the situation Carbondale Middle School is facing.

The state’s criteria for a properly performing school are reflected neither in the spirited, congenial atmosphere of Carbondale Middle School, nor by the talent and dedication of its principal, Cliff Colia.

Yet as the school’s manager, Colia must work to improve students’ test scores and other indicators used by the state in rating the school’s overall achievement.

This is a very tough task, for Colia or any other administrator.

Success is going to take every drop of effort that can be wrung from teachers, school staff, parents and community volunteers. It also will depend on support and assistance from the school board and the school district’s administrative staff.

Carbondale Middle School has no hope of getting there if the community remains stuck in a battle with Fred Wall and the school board. The same energy that rallied for Colia should now be used to foster academic achievement for CMS students.

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