The Region 9 Economic Development District’s report examined education in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties as part of its 2016 Southwest Colorado Index Report.
Investments in education and early childhood care pay off via a more educated workforce, involved citizens, higher business productivity and profits and increased tax revenues, the report states.
“A high-quality and effective education system plays a fundamental role in societal and community health,” report author Donna Graves wrote.
Per-student spending variesMontezuma-Cortez Re-1 spends less per-student than most area districts, the report shows. The district spent $9,554 per student in 2015 on operational expenses, which include instruction and support, administration, building maintenance, transportation, food services, community services and adult education programs. Dolores Re-4A spent $9,951 per student, Mancos Re-6 spent $10,557, and Re-2J Dolores County spent $16,486.
The student-to-teacher ratio across the region is lower than the state average, meaning that students are provided more individual attention and instruction from teachers. Re-1 had a student-to-teacher ratio of 13.6 in 2015, up from 12.6 in 2013. Mancos Re-6 had a ratio of 12.9, Dolores Re-4A had a ratio of 16.4, and Dolores County had a 13.5 ratio. The state average ratio was 17.5 in 2015.
Expulsions down, graduation rates upExpulsion rates have decreased around the region, most notably in Re-1. Montezuma-Cortez had 35 expulsions in 2012, but in 2015 just five students were expelled. From 2011 to 2015, only one student in Mancos was expelled, in 2013. In Dolores Re-4A, five students were expelled in 2014 and two in 2015. From 2011 to 2015, three students were expelled in Dolores County schools in 2013.
Montezuma-Cortez and Ignacio were the only districts that exceeded the state average for percentage of minority students. About half of Cortez students are members of minority groups, above the state average of 45.9 percent. However, Cortez employed just 7 percent minority teachers in 2015, under the state average of 12 percent.
Most area districts exceeded the state average of 77.3 percent graduation rate. Montezuma-Cortez graduated 85.2 percent of students in 2014, but the rate has decreased from 93.5 percent in 2011. Re-1 Superintendent Lori Haukeness has identified improving graduation rates in the district as a top priority during her tenure.
Mancos graduated 80 percent of students in 2014, up from 62.7 percent in 2013. Dolores schools graduated just 54.9 percent in 2014, a slight improvement from 2013. Dolores County schools graduated 86.4 percent in 2014.
Drop-out rates were under the state average across the region, except Dolores Re-4A, where 8.4 percent of students dropped out in 2015.
School districts that have charter schools, after-school tutoring programs, links to Adult Education Programs and alternative education programs increase their chances of helping all students stay in school, Graves wrote in the report.
ACT composite scores under state averageThe state average ACT score in 2016 was 20.4, and has increased slowly from 20 in 2012. Area schools have approached the score, but only Bayfield, Durango and Mancos have consistently met or exceeded the statewide average.
The average ACT score for Mancos students was 20.1 in 2016, just under the state average. But the district has exceeded the state score every other year since 2012.
Montezuma-Cortez students had an average score of 18.6 in 2016, up from 17.9 in 2015. The average score among Dolores students was 19.2 for 2016.
Early childhood care scarceThe total number of kids in Montezuma County under five years old in 2014 was 1,565. However, there were only 640 childcare slots available in the county for those kids.
In Montezuma County, there are nine child care centers, eight child care homes and one school-age program. Costs for child care in southwest Colorado range from $38.69 per day for infants, $33.89 per day for toddlers and $31.62 per day for preschoolers.
Early childhood care helps kids develop cognitive, emotional and character skills, the report states. Kids who have had early childhood care and are ready for school before kindergarten are more likely to be successful students and graduate from high school, according to the report.
“The investments we make between birth and age 8 achieve some of the best financial and social returns, including healthier, happier children, a more educated population and, ultimately, a stronger and more stable economy for our state,” Graves wrote in the report.