Got kids? Pay taxes? Check this out

By Krista Kafer Got kids? Do they attend Colorado public schools? You’ll want to see this. Pay taxes? You better look, too. Last week the Colorado Department of Education released School Report Cards for the 2004-2005 school year. Each Colorado school receives a rating of ““Excellent,” “High,” “Average,” “Low,” and “Unsatisfactory” based on achievement data and other school characteristics. The report also states whether student year-to-year achievement as measured by Colorado Student Assessment Program test scores, is improving or declining. The reports also provide a wealth of information beyond CSAP data.

In addition to checking out your local school’s report card, I recommend taking a look at the big picture. Wednesday’s Rocky Mountain News contained several pages of analysis of the reports. They reported that the number of schools with ratings of “high” or “excellent” increased 2.6 percent to a total of 42.9 percent. Likewise, the percentage of schools rated “low” or “unsatisfactory” has declined from 21.1 percent of all Colorado schools to 20.6 percent of schools. Additionally, in the 2004-2005 school year, more schools improved than declined.

In the state’s largest school district, Jefferson County Public Schools, 96 schools received “high” or “excellent” ratings while 20 schools received “low” or “unsatisfactory” ratings. Of Denver’s 155 schools, 106 received “low” or “unsatisfactory” ratings while 21 received a “high” or “excellent” rating.

Of the Rocky’s analysis, the part I found most interesting is where the paper shows the ratings of groups of schools with similar characteristics such as highest teacher turnover, highest/lowest teacher ratios, highest mobility, highest/lowest attendance, highest salaries, and highest percentage of teachers teaching subjects in which they have a degree. In glancing over the lists I noted that there were “low,” “average,” “high” and “excellent” schools in each of these categories with two exceptions; schools with high mobility and low daily attendance were almost always rated “low.” It’s interesting that schools with high salaries, strong subject area mastery among teachers, low pupil-teacher ratios, or low teacher turnover, aren’t uniformly high performing. Perhaps these school characteristics are not the panaceas they are often claimed to be.

I also recommend checking out this excellent new report, The State of Education in Colorado, published by the Fund for Colorado’s Future. It provides an overview of Colorado achievement, funding, graduation rates, No Child Left Behind implementation, and other education issues.