Across the Street column: Accountability for Colorado schools and districts |

Across the Street column: Accountability for Colorado schools and districts

Joyce Rankin
Across the Street
Joyce Rankin
Larry Laszlo

The department of education assesses how well our students and schools are performing in two ways. First, students are measured through achievement exams called the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Second, schools and districts are evaluated through a different measure, performance frameworks.

Colorado schools and districts receive performance ratings to let them and their communities know how well they are doing. These frameworks are called the District Performance Frameworks (DPFs) and School Performance Frameworks (SPFs). The overall ratings are based on achievement and growth on state assessments, along with postsecondary measures such as graduation rates, drop-out rates, college entrance exams and college matriculation rates. The ratings help the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and the State Board of Education (SBE) make decisions about how to help struggling schools. At our September board meeting, the department introduced the preliminary performance frameworks ratings and how they may be adjusted this year to align with legislation passed in the 2019 session.

To simplify designations, schools are rated using the following terminology and colors: Performance (green), Improvement (yellow), Priority Improvement (orange) and Turnaround (red). At a glance, parents and community members can see how their schools are performing. More importantly, it informs the education department of the schools in the orange and red zones where additional support may be directed. In the past, this was known as “turnaround” status or on the “accountability clock.”

Because some schools have been on the “accountability clock” over five years, the terminology has been changed to “performance watch.” This allows for schools to exit the clock only following two consecutive years in a higher category.

From this year’s achievement results, we know that only 40% of our third-graders are reading at or above grade level. Then why in our recently released preliminary performance ratings are 84% of our schools rated as “Performance” or “Improvement” (green or yellow) and 7% in the “Priority Improvement” or “Turnaround category” (orange or red)?

Shifting some of our “growth” measures within part of the frameworks may provide us with a better picture of improving accountability. That will be the decision the state board will be making at an upcoming board meeting.

I’ll leave you with an example I found of how the word accountability can be used in a sentence. “There must be clear accountability of the expenditure of public money.”

Joyce Rankin is a member of the State Board of Education. The Department of Education is located across the street from the Capitol. “Across the Street” will appear monthly.

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