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What makes a good school? A task force could recommend changes to how Colorado answers that question. (Local Tips & Reviews)

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Two bills before the Colorado legislature would spur changes to the system Colorado uses to measure school quality and improve performance. Both bills are in response to an audit of the school accountability system, despite that review finding the system to be “reasonable and appropriate.” 

One bill, which enjoys broad bipartisan support, would create a task force to recommend changes to the system. A more controversial bill would seek to dramatically reduce the use of standardized testing. 

While finding that Colorado’s school accountability system was working as designed, the audit also raised questions about whether the system lets schools serving mostly middle-class students earn high ratings despite failing their students in poverty or whether all schools have access to the same resources.

“I agree it’s doing what it is designed to do,” St. Vrain Valley School District Superintendent Don Haddad said of Colorado’s 13-year-old school accountability system. “I think what it’s designed to do is problematic.”

Colorado’s school accountability system, adopted in 2009, uses standardized test scores to rate schools and districts. 

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Students take English language arts and math tests in third through eighth grades, science tests in fourth and seventh grades, the PSAT in ninth and 10th grade, and the SAT in 11th grade. Only the PSAT is a state requirement. The federal government requires that Colorado administer the other assessments. 

High schools are also judged on graduation rates and measures of college and career readiness. Schools that have several years of low performance face state intervention. 

Haddad is backing House Bill 1241, which would create a task force of superintendents, teachers, charter leaders, advocates, and parents to consider questions raised by the audit and recommend changes to the accountability system. 

“My hope is that the task force will tackle some really significant structural issues uncovered in the audit,” he said.


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