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Eagle County schools get good grades

VAIL, Colorado – Red Sandstone Elementary School gets the top grade among Eagle County’s schools, says a business coalition that translates education ranking data.

Colorado School Grades is a coalition of 18 business and community organizations across Colorado that translates the state’s public school data into simple letter grades.

Vail’s Red Sandstone Elementary School got the highest local grade, a B+, falling into the top 12 percent.



Red Sandstone received an A in closing the achievement gap.

Not only is experience the best teacher, it makes the best teachers, says Amy Rogers, a Red Sandstone kindergarten teacher.

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Red Sandstone hardly ever hires new teachers, and one of their recent hires is a Ph.D.

“We’ve been together for the last several years and been allowed to develop as a team,” Rogers said.

Most other local schools fell into the average and above-average ranges, getting grades in the “B” and “C” range.



Most schools fall into that average range, says Tim Taylor, a member of the Colorado School Grades coalition.

The Colorado School Grades system grades schools on a bell curve. Most schools get a C, the average grade. The top 10 percent get an A; the bottom 10 percent get an F, Taylor said.

According to the website, 38 Colorado schools received an A+. Most schools (549) earned a C, and 76 schools earned an F.

They do it that way because they’re dealing with the same state and federal Department of Education information everyone else is, Taylor said.

This provides transparency and it’s easy to understand, Taylor said.

“Kids bring grades home all the time,” Taylor said. “We’re not changing the data, just translating in a way that is clear.”

Supporters say the coalition “demystified” school ranking information.

“It seems like we’ve struck a chord with the public,” Taylor said.

Opponents said it’s oversimplified and that it’s just too much information.

The coalition is 18 Colorado-based businesses and business leaders and they translated the agencies’ information through a business lens, Taylor said.

It took 14 months, Taylor said.

“If the system is this complex for us, and we do this all the time, imagine how discouraging it is for parents trying to find information,” Taylor said.

For example, in the Department of Education’s system, the bottom 5 percent of schools are called “turnaround schools.” The next 10 percent from the bottom are “priority improvement schools.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Taylor asked.

The Colorado Department of Education’s top category covers 60 percent of the state’s schools.

Colorado School Grades didn’t want to grade schools on a forced curve. They wanted to grade schools based on absolute scores. Make the cut and you get the grade.

Simple.

But simplicity is not built into the state’s school performance data, Taylor said.

Schools are rated schools relative to other schools across the state. Jurisdictions have to constantly adjust their standards as new assessment tools are added to the calculations, Taylor said.

So, because they’re using the state’s model and data, absolute cut scores were impossible to develop, Taylor said.

“It’s easier to compare vacuum cleaners in Consumer Reports,” Taylor told Colorado Education News.

Information without action is pointless, Taylor says. Colorado School Grades encourages parents to take action, and explains how.

Their website provides links to the original information they used for their analyses, but at least as important is the list of frequently asked questions – or questions that should be asked frequently, Taylor said.

They provide sample answers you should be getting, and some of the information those answers should contain, Taylor said.

The coalition worked with the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs to analyze the data.

Other coalition members include the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Stand for Children, the Professional Association of Colorado Educators, the Walton Family Foundation and the Adolph Coors Foundation.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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