New guidelines set to gauge school performance

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— State tennis championships, a regional music title and a high graduation rate all tell of a school's performance. But the state's board of education is looking for more concrete numbers in determining a school's success rate.

"It is like high jumping without the bar. At the end of the day, you don't know how well you did," Roger Neppl said on how schools were given accreditation in the past.

Neppl was one of five representatives from the Colorado Department of Education who explained the new accreditation process to area superintendents, board members, teachers and parents Wednesday afternoon.

Although state laws have required that schools be accredited by contract since 1998, the CDE and state Legislature have adapted new guidelines they feel will be a better gauge of school performance.

One of the biggest changes is judging student assessment on an individual basis.

The CDE's Melody Henson explained that the state would begin to look at student performance in the Colorado Student Assessment Program on a yearly basis comparing students as they move through grades. The new standard requires that students show a year's growth in a year's time.

The adjustment termed as "value added growth" changed from the previous accreditation process that set a long-term goal for schools to have 80-percent of their students at a proficient or advanced level in the CSAP scores for reading, writing and math.

If schools were not at the 80 percent level, they were required to have a 25-percent annual increase in the percentage of

students who were proficient or advanced in the CSAP. The 25-percent increase was required until schools reached the 80-percent mark.

The old system was based on a grades score year to year, meaning a different class for every year a process Henson said was like comparing apples to oranges.

Currently, the CSAP scores can be compared only from grade to grade for the reading test. A scale that would measure the performance of students as they advanced grades has not been calculated for CSAP math and writing scores.

Because a scale does not exist, there is not a set number that would determine this year if schools have met the one year's growth in one year's time requirement, Henson said.

The CDE's northwest regional manager, Morris Danielson, said this is just an information-gathering year with a very small likelihood schools would be put on academic watch. CSAP scores are just one of the many pieces that will be included in the schools' accreditation process. Schools can also use other assessment tests to help determine student performance.

The accreditation indicators also focus on closing the learning gap between different groups of students, school safety, career-based education and other areas of schooling like social studies, art and foreign languages.

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