District 51 continues to improve its ratings

The latest reports from the Colorado Department of Education refute the claim —  made frequently in the campaign leading up to last month’s mill levy override election — that School District 51 is doing an abysmal job of educating children.

In fact, the district continues to improve in the state ratings system, although not as fast as most people would like.

The state’s convoluted rating system for measuring a school district’s performances considers a district’s success in several categories. These include the academic performance and growth of its students on Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, how well its high school students compete on ACT tests, graduation and drop-out rates.

In this system, called the performance framework, District 51 has demonstrated real growth in the past year. That growth actually began several years ago, before the performance framework was implemented, as measured by steady improvements in many categories of test scores.

Under the performance framework, District 51’s overall score increased from 60.5 percent in 2010 to 62.5 percent this year. It needs to reach 64 percent overall to be listed as a fully accredited district rather than one that’s listed as “accredited, with improvement.” District officials hope to reach the higher mark next year.

But overall, District 51 has demonstrated in recent years that it is committed to improving the academic performance of its students and its schools. Reading assistants, new graduation requirements, districtwide curriculum alignment — these are all part of the effort by the district to boost academic performance.

The problem is that such efforts cost money. And, due to state budget cutbacks and the decision by local voters not to approve the mill levy override, District 51 will be trying to maintain its academic progress with fewer resources than it previously had.

It will now be up to the school board, based on the recommendations of District 51 administrators, to cut items from next year’s school budget as judiciously as possible to try to ensure academic improvement isn’t sacrificed to budget expediency.


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