R-5 High seeks alternative status, improved grade

R-5 High School wants to be compared to its peers in a statewide grading system.

The school was graded by traditional school standards last year, when the state debuted an accreditation system called School Performance Framework.

The school was unable to meet state standards for ACT scores and graduation rates as a traditional school and was placed on a turnaround plan, which means it would have to close or replace staff members if it didn’t improve within five years.

The school may have a shot at a better grade if it is classified this year as an alternative-education campus, a status District 51 has applied for and the state is considering.

The criteria for that classification, such as almost all of a school’s students being homeless or on free or reduced lunch, didn’t allow that to happen last year, according to District 51 Director of Academic Options Ron Roybal.

This year, though, the state reworked the alternative-campus definition to include schools that have nontraditional instruction methods, serve at-risk kids, and serve one of a number of specialized populations, including students who attend school part-time or have dropped out of school.

Roybal said he balked at reporting R-5 High as an alternative school before he even saw the criteria because he knew the classification would make R-5 High a “Tier 2” school in the military’s eyes.

But that issue has been cleared up, he said. The military will accept R-5 High graduates if they get high-enough scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam.

Roybal said he is fairly confident the state will award R-5 High alternative status.

If so, student engagement would be a new part of R-5’s grade, and the school’s test scores and graduation rate would be judged against other alternative schools rather than a state average or expectation.

R-5 High was ordered to create a turnaround plan last year because it had a graduation rate of 35.5 percent in 2010, well below the 80 percent rate the state expected of traditional high schools.

Plus, it’s average ACT score of 16.5 in 2010 was below the state average of 20.6.

Roybal said he could have predicted what would happen when R-5 High was stacked up against traditional schools, but that doesn’t mean he wants R-5 students to have an excuse to perform less impressively on tests.

“There’s always going to be naysayers about academic options. Our responsibility is to make sure it’s rigorous and that we’re all on the same page when the dust settles,” Roybal said.

He added that R-5 High scores are sometimes lower because students may have been at the school a short time before taking the ACT junior year.

Actual graduation rates are hard to measure because they’re based on how many students start with a school in ninth grade, a rarity at R-5.


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