Superintendent Lori Haukeness announced Wednesday that the Montezuma-Cortez district is close to moving off the accreditation accountability clock after an estimated overall 6-point improvement.
The district is 1.6 points away from moving off the clock, according to preliminary accreditation ratings released Aug. 25 by the Colorado Department of Education.
Among the district’s schools, Cortez Middle School, and Manaugh and Mesa elementary schools could face state intervention if preliminary ratings don’t improve.
The state required improvement plans after low accreditation ratings from the Colorado Department of Education in fall 2016. The district is currently accredited under a two-year pathways plan for improvement, which focuses on improvement in PARCC test scores in English and math.
According to state Senate Bill 163, passed in 2009, districts and schools can spend five consecutive years at the two lowest tiers — “priority improvement” and “turnaround” — before they face intervention from the state board. To move off the “accountability clock,” the district has to obtain an accreditation rating of “improvement” or “performance.”
Manaugh’s rating declined from “priority improvement” to “turnaround.” Mesa and the middle school improved their ratings from “turnaround” to “priority improvement.”
Districts that are out of time on the accountability clock must submit a turnaround proposal to the state. Proposals may include several options, such as district consolidation, school closures and outside consulting.
Re-1 district officials have worked with the University of Virginia on a turnaround program for the past three years and plan to work with the district for the next two years. District and CDE officials, as well as state board members, agreed it’s in the best interest for the district to continue working with UVA.
“We went before the (state) board in the spring, and our pathways plan was approved for two years,” Carol Mehesy, director of School Improvements and Grants, told The Journal. “They have been supporting us for three years, and now they are supporting us through this pathways plan.”
Accreditation ratings for elementary and middle schools are based on standardized state test results. Ratings for high schools are based on standardized state testing, SAT scores, dropout and graduation rates, and enrollment rates in college or technical school after graduation.
“We are pleased to see that the district improvement efforts and hard work of our teachers and principals are building momentum in our district as evidenced by these results,” Haukeness said in the news release. “We recognize that we still have work to do and are committed to reaching a performance level of accreditation and becoming a district of excellence for our students and community.”
Colorado state’s point system is technical, according to Mehesy. She explained in an interview that the scales do not equate to a percentile or an A, B, or C grading scale.
“The state looks at overall academic achievement and overall academic growth across elementary, middle and high school, and they look at what they call post-secondary workforce readiness, which is things like graduation, dropout rates, SAT, and what they call ‘matriculation’, which is what kids do once they get out of school,” Mehesy said. “So they look at all of that data together across all the schools, and they look at it at the kid level, as in how are the kids doing, and then that rolls up into their overall ratings.”
“Accredited with ‘performance’ is the ultimate goal, but to get off the clock, we need to be at accredited with ‘improvement,’” Mehesy said. “We are 1.6 points away from accredited with ‘improvement’ accreditation.”
The ratings are preliminary and the districts must either affirm or challenge the ratings before they are finalized in January 2018.