Colorado schools get new report cards
DENVER (AP) – Colorado schools are getting their first ratings under new performance standards approved by lawmakers last year, replacing school report cards that teachers and educators said only stigmatized schools.
Under the old system, which relied on statewide student test scores and included a complex formula to allow for low-income students and other factors, schools were graded from excellent to unsatisfactory, much like a school report card.
Under the new program, school districts and schools are given accreditation ratings based on academic growth and success preparing students for college and career readiness.
Under the new system 111 school districts were rated as accredited or higher. Only 14 got a higher rating of accredited with distinction. Schools that failed to meet standards were ordered to submit improvement plans.
“This is our first big picture performance review under the new accountability system,” said Education Commissioner Dwight Jones at a ceremony honoring exceptional schools on Thursday.
The report indicates Colorado is closing gaps in reading and math, and increasing the number of students making academic progress.
Gov. Bill Ritter said the new assessments are better than the old report cards that graded schools based on student scores on statewide tests. The new system also measures long-term academic growth, identifies gaps in performance and measures career development.
Ritter said when he took office four years ago, public schools were only concentrating on statewide test scores. He said the high school dropout rates were intolerable, schools weren’t being held accountable for career preparation and there were big gaps between wealthy schools and those with less resources.
“We saw many signals that public education was failing our kids in a serious way,” he said.
Jeanne Beyer, communications director for the Colorado Education Association, the union representing 40,000 teachers statewide, said the new program is a big improvement because it holds teachers and administrators accountable for what happens in their schools.
Jane Urschel, associate executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, said the reports still stigmatize schools. She said rating schools should be left to local school districts and not the state.
“The role of the school district is to accredit the schools. The state role is to accredit the district, and that’s not happening,” she said.
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