An Overview of School Achievement Data in Colorado

This is the first in a series of blog posts from Colorado Succeeds examining Colorado school achievement data and student socioeconomic status. Our intent is to share this data in an informative and useful way – and to help spur conversation about the importance of student achievement for all Colorado students.

School accountability was developed with a strong grounding in the idea that a community should know whether or not its schools are fulfilling their duty and effectively educating students, and if not, what progress is being made towards improving student achievement outcomes. Federal law mandates states have school accountability systems in place, but states often are left flexibility in the development of the system. Colorado Succeeds believes that, at a minimum, a state’s school accountability system should serve two purposes:

  1. To offer important information to parents, school leadership, and state leadership on how a school is performing and;
  2. To identify those schools that serve as models of success and those schools that need to improve in terms of meeting the needs of all students

Such a system aids policymakers and the State Board of Education in making decisions on where to send additional resources and support in order to help these schools improve. It should provide insights for other schools and districts into successful practices in other parts of the state. And perhaps most importantly, it helps parents make informed school choice decisions.

The driver for any school accountability system should be student outcomes. In Colorado, accountability is based on outcomes measured by the District and School Performance Framework. The framework was designed to better hold districts and schools accountable for their performance. The framework uses a common set of indicators and measures for all of Colorado’s districts and schools, allowing for consistency in results across the state.

Three key performance indicators make up the framework:

  1. Academic achievement;
  2. Academic growth; and,
  3. For high schools, postsecondary and workforce readiness
  4. Districts and schools are given a rating from the state based on the number of points received in each category. The ratings are: exceeds, meets, approaching, or does not meet state expectations.

For the series of blog posts that will follow, Colorado Succeeds compiled the data across Colorado schools and chose to look at the percentage of points each school received, rather than by category grouping as defined by the state. We used this data to provide greater differentiation among schools and a more precise picture of each schools’ standing. The data we pulled can be found on the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) website and is the most recent data provided through the state’s accountability system. The School Performance percentages and the Free and Reduced Lunch percentages are from the 2013-2014 school year.

In order to gain a better understanding of how each school in Colorado is serving their student population we examined the total percentage of points each school earned and the total number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch (the measure used by the state for student and school poverty) within a school.

More in-depth analysis of the state’s elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as top-performing schools, will follow this introductory post. What is clear from our initial analysis, however, is that there are bright spots across the state. Our charts will highlight schools in Colorado that are successful in serving all of their students and enabling them to achieve at high levels, no matter their backgrounds.

These findings also point to the fact that many schools can still do more. Colorado’s accountability system should provide parents, educators, and policymakers with the information needed to make informed decisions about resources, support, and which schools to celebrate as examples of success. Most importantly, Colorado Succeeds is committed to lifting up the work of those places that are achieving, and promoting the policies and practices that help ensure all Colorado’s kids are educated to their greatest potential.

  • Academic Achievement Indicator: The academic achievement indicator uses the Colorado Growth Model and is reported by mean scale score, meaning that it is focused on the achievement of students across all performance levels and not just those near the on-track benchmark.
  • Academic Growth Indicator: In 2015, the academic growth and growth gaps indicators were combined into one performance indicator. The academic growth indicator measures percent of students scoring advanced, proficient, partially proficient, and unsatisfactory. The indicator also measures the achievement gap based on income and ethnicity.
  • Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Indicator: This indicator uses graduation rates and the ACT to measure student postsecondary and workforce readiness.
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