Colorado school accreditation and School Performance Framework reports released Friday show mixed results at Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1.
The Colorado Department of Education evaluates schools and school districts annually based on achievement and growth on state tests – with high schools also evaluated on graduation rate, dropout rates and matriculation – and rated, from top to bottom, as Performance Plan, Improvement Plan, Priority Improvement Plan and Turnaround Plan.
If a school or district is on a Priority Improvement or Turnaround plan, an “accountability clock” begins. If the school or district is on the clock for more than five years, it receives specific direction from the state on how to improve.
The RE-1 school district as a whole is accredited in 2018 and placed on a Priority Improvement Plan, a drop from the Improvement Plan rating from 2017.
Montezuma-Cortez High School in 2018 joined 68 percent of Colorado schools in attaining the highest rating of Performance Plan for the first time. The high school has earned the Improvement Plan rating since at least 2010, but Superintendent Lori Haukeness said administrators and teachers have recently focused on decreasing the dropout rate and improving the graduation rate.
This year, 89.8 percent of students graduated, compared with 88.5 percent in 2017 and 80.7 percent in 2016.
“As you can see, it’s really increased drastically the graduation rate,” Haukeness said.
Manaugh Elementary School made progress in 2018 after being on the accountability clock for six years, and jumped two ratings, from Turnaround in 2017 to Improvement in 2018. The school made significant improvement in student growth, with 25 percent of points earned in growth in 2017 and 62.5 percent of points in growth in 2018.
Mesa Elementary School continues to struggle, however.
The school this year earned a Priority Improvement rating, marking the fifth year it failed to reach statewide standards. Haukeness said Mesa Elementary now has one more round of testing, in spring, to show improvement. If the school stays on Priority Improvement or Turnaround, the accountability clock will begin next year. In both 2017 and 2018, students at Mesa Elementary scored in the 27th percentile in math.
“I know the administrators and teachers are working very hard to raise that, so we’re anticipating them getting off the clock next year,” Haukeness said.
The RE-1 district rating includes scores at 10 schools, including two charter schools and one alternative education campus. Of the seven district schools, none decreased in the ratings this year. Kemper Elementary, Lewis-Arriola Elementary, Mesa Elementary and Montezuma-Cortez Middle School maintained the same rating, while Manaugh Elementary and Montezuma-Cortez High School improved. There are not enough students at Pleasant View Elementary for reliable results.
Battle Rock Charter School improved from Turnaround in 2017 to Priority Improvement in 2018, and Children’s Kiva Montessori School dropped two ratings, from Performance Plan in 2017 to Priority Improvement in 2018. Southwest Open Charter School, an alternative education campus, went down a grade from Improvement in 2017 to Priority Improvement in 2018.
Haukeness said the inclusion of the Southwest Open Charter School results in the districtwide evaluation caused RE-1 to earn the Priority Improvement rating this year. As an alternative education campus, the school is evaluated on a different matrix than other schools, Haukeness said, and the school district can petition the state to omit those scores if the school earns an Improvement or Performance rating, but the school district was not able to omit the Southwest Open Charter School results this year.
“The district has improved in growth and achievement in language arts and math from last year so we are moving forward, but because of not being able to petition the state we stayed in priority improvement,” she said.
In the state of Colorado, parents can choose to opt their children out of state testing. That has at times produced strange results. In the 2016-2017 school year, three schools could not release any testing data because of low participation and two others had data, but less than 95 percent of students participated in the state test so a “Low participation” caveat was added.
Haukeness said the district was “on the clock” that year and a high number of students opted out. She said the lack of reliable data made it difficult to find areas that need improvement.
“It wasn’t an accurate reflection of the district or our community, quite frankly, because we didn’t have a majority of our students testing,” Haukeness said. “We went back and asked the parents if they would please have their students test.”
Only Battle Rock Charter School this year had low participation.
Haukeness said the school district plans to continue focused work at each school centered on improving language arts and math.