Colorado Public Schools Rated at C+ Nationally

By Krista Kafer Colorado’s public education system got a C+ rating the other day from Education Week, the nation’s premier trade journal for schools. Education Week is a solid paper. It’s a little left of center but generally fair. When I lived in Washington, DC, it was one of my must-reads.

Every year the paper releases an edition of “Quality Counts” which grades each state on a variety of factors. You can check it out at this link. It’s free but you’ll need to register.

The report revealed that Colorado has higher than average reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (a national test given to a sample of students in each state) and a slightly higher than average graduation rate.

The report notes, however, that poor students here do slightly worse on these tests than the national average. Graduation rates for Hispanic and Asian students are also lower than the national average.

States’ grades were determined by how the state rated on four criteria: standards and accountability, efforts to improve teacher quality, school climate, and resource equity. Our state received a B, C, B, and C- respectively.

Colorado’s high grade for its standards and accountability system is based on the American Federation of Teachers’ review finding Colorado’s standards clear and specific with little exception. Points were lost because the state does not provide all low- performing schools assistance or reward high-performing and improving schools.

On the issue of teacher quality, Colorado was commended for requiring high school teachers to have a major in the subject they teach and for requiring new teachers to student teach. The report docked the state points for not requiring middle school teachers meet the same high standards.

Education Week awarded Colorado the second highest grade for “school climate” because the state has strong policies concerning school safety, choice, autonomy, and class size.

Finally the state scored below average on “resource equity” because of moderate differences between per-pupil expenditures across the state.

Although I recommend reading the report, it is important to keep in mind the organization’s premises. For example, Education Week assumes that class-size reduction works, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is worthwhile, and it is preferable to have uniformity in funding among districts. Research is mixed on the efficacy of these policies.

Similarly, if I were a liberal I might disagree with the report's bias in favor of standards and school choice.

Again, this is a valuable report but do bear in mind the paper’s viewpoint. If you’d like a slightly different viewpoint, check out this from the Fund for Colorado's Future.

The "Quality Counts" publication also includes basic statistics. The following Colorado totals are copied and pasted from the report:

**Public schools 1,658

**Public school teachers 44,904

**Pre-K-12 students 757,693

**Annual pre-K-12 expenditures $5.6 billion

**Minority students 35.4%

**Children in poverty 15%

**Students with disabilities 10%

**English-language learners 12.8%