Steamboat Springs For the first time, schools not students received grades when the state Department of Education released its accountability ratings Thursday.
In the state's first-ever school report card, Steamboat Springs School District led area schools as the only district in Routt County to have all its schools rated as "high," the second-highest rating given by the state.
Hayden and Soroco school districts' grades had one school with a "low" rating, the second-lowest schools could receive.
The ratings were part of Colorado's School Accountability Reports, a statewide program that compares schools based on third- to 10th-grade Colorado Student Assessment Program scores and ACT scores of juniors taken last year. With those scores averaged by school, each school was given a rating of "excellent," "high," "average," "low" or "unsatisfactory."
Hayden Valley Elementary School and South Routt High School were the only area schools that received ratings of "low," which includes 25 percent of all schools and was only higher than the unsatisfactory rating, which includes the bottom 2 percent of schools.
Steamboat's high school, middle school and elementary schools, Hayden Middle School and high school and South Routt Elementary and Middle School received "high" ratings.
The "high" rating was given to 25 percent of the state schools and fell underneath the excellence category, which was only given to the top eight percent of all Colorado schools.
Morris Danielson, regional manager for the Colorado Department of Education, said the rating system is a way for schools statewide to gauge how they are doing academically.
"Most of the states in the union want a way for the public to learn more about their school environment in specific ways," Danielson said. "(We) have generated a sure process so everyone knows how schools are doing."
After receiving low CSAP scores for its elementary school, Hayden Superintendent Scott Mader said he was not surprised but disappointed by the low ranking.
"We knew the CSAP scores this summer, knew that the elementary school would hardly help the average. (The rating) doesn't come as a total shock," Mader said. "We were shocked at (the CSAP) scores, we didn't believe they were like that."
Mader said the elementary school rating was partially due to the low scores of the fourth-grade class that dropped 21 percent in its writing proficiency and 12 percent in its reading proficiency from last year's CSAP scores.
An improvement plan also will be in place for the elementary school, Mader said.
With a three-year-old accountability committee, Steamboat Springs Superintendent Cyndy Simms said the district already had a program to measure how students perform academically.
"Now we have an idea how we compare to other schools. It is just one more mechanism," Simms said.
Simms also noted that the CSAP scores are just one of three criteria the district looks at in determining its schools' achievements.
The program also looks at building character and virtue and finding ways for students to explore areas where they are successful.
Under the accountability ratings, Mader said CSAP content will be emphasized in curriculum and could take away from subjects like social studies and the arts, which are not tested.
"Reading and writing are key in schools. You need to do them in other subject areas," he said. "On the other hand, it's unfair that we have to take away from other areas."
Because this is the first year of accountability ratings, the schools were rated on a curve.
Next year, schools will be rated using the percentile cutoffs of this year as the benchmarks to establish the range of scores between excellent, high, average, low and unsatisfactory.
Thursday's ratings will be part of a report card sent out to all school parents sometime next week.
The report cards, which were supposed to arrive Thursday, were delayed because of mail interruptions from Tuesday's terrorist attacks.
The report cards show how each school fared against its 10 nearest counterparts.
They will also have information on that school's student performance, school history, staff, and safety and school environments.
A complete report card of every school in Colorado can be found on the state's Web site at www.state.co.us/schools.