Accountability proposal passed by Senate Ed

The Senate Education Committee Thursday unanimously approved a bill that could change the way the performance of alternative education campuses affects the ratings school districts receive under the state’s accountability system.

Teacher evaluationThe measure, which originated with the Colorado League of Charter Schools, would give the State Board of Education the flexibility to consider the “the unique circumstances” of alternative campus students when assigning ratings to districts under the state’s five-level accreditation system.

Alternative education campuses are defined in state law as schools that serve at least 95 percent “high risk” students or 95 percent special education students. (High risk is defined by several categories, including being a dropout, having a criminal record, substance abuse, homelessness and several others.)

There are 76 such schools in the state, including 51 run by districts, 19 charters and six run by other agencies. They enroll more than 14,000 students, about 6 percent of the high school population.

The state rating system for schools makes special allowances for the needs and challenges of such students when alternative campuses are accredited every year.

But no adjustments are made when the performance of alternative campus students is combined with that of other students to calculate a district’s rating.

Senate Bill 13-217 sponsor Sen. Evie Hudak said that can have the effect of “bringing down” a district’s rating and therefore discourage districts from opening such schools. Hudak is a Westminster Democrat and was an author of the state accountability and rating law, passed in 2009.

Accreditation systemThe state annually ranks and accredits districts and schools based on student test scores, academic growth of students, achievement gaps and graduation rates and ACT scores.

There are five levels for districts:

  • Accredited with Distinction
  • Accredited
  • Accredited with Improvement Plan
  • Accredited with Priority Improvement Plan
  • Accredited with Turnaround Plan

There are four rating levels for schools:

  • Performance
  • Improvement
  • Priority improvement
  • Turnaround

Vinny Badolato, lobbyist for the charter league, testified that the current system can have a disproportionate effect on district ratings, “especially for smaller districts. … Some districts have decided they can’t afford to have these schools on their books.”

He cited the case of the New America School alternative campus in the Mapleton Public Schools, which accounted for 25 percent of the district’s high school enrollment.

Because of district concerns, the league worked with the district to have the school transferred to supervision by the Charter School Institute, a state agency.

Mapleton leaders have broader concerns with how the state accreditation system handles districts with high concentrations of poverty and English language learners. The district unsuccessfully appealed its 2012 state rating all the way to the state board (see story).

Accreditation has become a growing concern for some districts and schools as the state moves into its third year of ratings. Districts and schools that remain in the two lowest rating categories for five consecutive years are subject to possible state intervention, including possible closure of schools or conversion to charters.

SB 13-217 wouldn’t dictate specific changes to how performance of alternative campus students affects district ratings. Rather, it gives the state board the authority to come up with policies on the issue.

The bill goes next to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.