State mistake changes school rankings
EAGLE COUNTY ” Anne Hirn thought something was fishy with the state’s “report card” for Avon Elementary School. She was right.
When the state report cards for schools ” called “School Accountability Reports” ” came out in December of last year, Avon’s score was disappointing.
The school was rated “low” in its academic performance, based on kids’ scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP, tests. That was expected, given the high number of kids in the school who are learning English as well as the three R’s. The disappointment came when the state measured students’ growth from one year to the next. That score was listed as “stable.”
“That doesn’t mirror what my kids do in school,” Hirn said.
It turns out Avon Elementary’s “academic growth” score was low. So were the growth scores for Eagle Valley, Edwards, Gypsum and Meadow Mountain elementaries.
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“I know what my kid’s accomplishing here,” Gypsum Elementary mom Shelly Doyle said. “I’m glad the state resolved the problem and fixed it. It’s important, because the kids and teachers work hard.”
A letter from state education officials stated the reason for the mistake ” made with the Eagle County schools and 44 others across the state ” was comparing scores of students who took their state tests in Spanish one year and English the next. That shouldn’t have been done.
“This doesn’t affect the schools’ overall rating, and it was our first year calculating growth,” said Jared Polis, vice chairman of the Colorado Board of Education.
The changes were made to scores on the Department of Education’s Web site, and letters were sent to the affected schools and districts on Jan. 19.
But there hasn’t been a lot of publicity about the changes, and that has Superintendent John Brendza frustrated. The state changing schools’ scores is good news, Brendza said.
“But it’s upsetting because people have already made judgments about how the schools are performing,” Brendza said.
“Parents are concerned about the ratings they see in the paper,” he said. “I talked to one parent at Gypsum Elementary School who said she and her husband are making a decision about schools, and these ratings influenced her perception of the school and the district.”
Polis said parents and school administrators may be putting too much emphasis on the report card scores, especially regarding growth.
“These can provide useful information, but it’s not the Bible,” Polis said. “I urge parents to look at the school’s overall performance.”
But perceptions can be powerful. Hirn and other parents at Avon Elementary are working to change perceptions of that school, which is more than 75 percent Hispanic, due both to the population there and the fact that many parents in Singletree, Wildridge and other areas are sending their kids to the Eagle County Charter Academy or one of the valley’s three private elementary schools.
A higher score from the state will help, she said. “But it’s difficult to watch everyone go elsewhere.”
Trying to change some parents’ perception of the district is spurring Brendza to go to make the more than four-hour round-trip to Thursday’s meeting of the state board of education in Denver for three minutes of comment time.
“I know there are going to be mistakes,” Brendza said. “If this would have affected one school I’d have been upset, but this affects almost three-quarters of our kids. It’s affected the decisions parents are making.”
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or email@example.com.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado