Our View: Punished for following state law

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The state of Colorado's rules regarding Adequate Yearly Progress for schools and school districts are conflicting and should be changed.

Adequate Yearly Progress determinations are designed to tell communities whether their school districts and individual schools have met targets established by the state to comply with the requirements of the federal "No Child Left Behind" law. This is the first year such determinations have been made.

The state has ruled that neither Steamboat Springs Middle School nor Steamboat Springs School District met adequate yearly progress last year.

The reason? The state requires that 95 percent of monitored groups at each school participate in CSAP testing. At the middle school, four of the 53 students in one of the monitored groups -- students with disabilities -- did not take the CSAP last year, meaning only 94.34 percent of the students in that group participated in the test. Because the middle school failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress, the school district was deemed to have failed as well, even though the other three schools in the district were deemed successful.

If the middle school could fix the participation level, then the state's decision would make sense. But here's the catch -- three of the students with disabilities who did not participate opted out because their parents refused to allow the school to test them. State law gives parents the right to choose that option.

In essence, state law punishes Steamboat Springs Middle School -- and by extension the Steamboat Springs School District -- for following state law.

The whole process was disheartening for middle school Principal Tim Bishop, whose students scored higher than ever on the CSAP test. "This is very demoralizing for a staff," Bishop said.

The school district is filing a complaint with the state. Let's hope that complaint will prompt a review of the Adequate Yearly Progress guidelines. Obviously, if the state is going to allow parents to opt their children out of CSAP testing, the state shouldn't penalize the schools for such decisions.

Federal law requires the state to develop strict accountability measures when it comes to standardized testing to ensure "no child is left behind." But it is wrong to hold schools accountable for a condition they can't control. Students whose parents choose to withhold their children from taking the CSAP are an example of such conditions. Those students should not factor into whether a school has made Adequate Yearly Progress.

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