State education department officials have rejected Adams County School District 14’s attempt to avoid state sanctions for continued poor academic performance, citing a lack of evidence showing improvement.
Colorado Department of Education officials will present final district performance ratings to the State Board of Education on Thursday. Districts received preliminary ratings in October and were given a chance to ask the state to reconsider the rating by presenting different evidence.
But according to a letter sent to Adams 14 that the district provided to Chalkbeat, state officials found the request was not strong enough to earn a higher rating, as the district requested.
“The data across grade levels and content areas did not present a compelling case of performance that warrants a higher accreditation rating,” department officials wrote this week.
The district’s rating will remain accredited with turnaround plan — the lowest of the five possible ratings.
The decision is a significant blow for Adams 14 because the district is one of five in the state that are facing state sanctions for earning low ratings on the state’s evaluations for five years. The state has a small number of options to deal with the low-performing districts, including closing schools, merging districts or turning over management to a third party.
Adams 14 officials have said they are working on drafting an innovation plan requesting waivers and flexibilities from the state to try new approaches to improving student achievement. If the state approves an innovation plan, that could serve as it sanction — giving Adams 14 more time to show signs of improvement before more drastic steps.
Superintendent Javier Abrego, who took the top job in the 7,500-student district this summer, said the district is disappointed but respects the decision. The district will not pursue an appeal, a district spokeswoman said.
“We’ve seen pockets of improvement around the district, but it’s simply not enough,” Abrego said in a statement to Chalkbeat. “That’s why my instructional team has taken a deeper dive into the state test data as well as other instructional data and we’re working with principals and teachers to strengthen the alignment of instruction to the Colorado Academic Standards. We’re also re-evaluating the support and training provided to educators to make sure it’s targeted to improve instruction.”
The Adams 14 request asking for a higher performance rating asked state officials to remove a set of 2015 test data for students who are learning English as a second language, saying it did not reflect recent changes to instruction for those students.
State officials responded that they did remove that set of data, but it didn’t change the overall assessment of the district.
The district also presented data from district tests, but didn’t provide what was required.
“As stated in the request to reconsider guidance, a successful case for a request based on a body of evidence will include three years of data. Only one year of data (2015-16) was provided in the request,” the letter stated. “Without a sense of whether the district is on an upward or downward trajectory, and relying solely on one year of supplemental data—which depicts many of the district’s students failing to meet the 50th percentile in growth—the department cannot accept the district’s request for a higher rating.”
State officials also give performance ratings to individual schools, but those won’t be finalized until January. Adams 14 had asked the state to reconsider several of their district’s school ratings as well, and in the same letter from the state, they learned the state will reconsider one elementary school’s rating.