State officials have denied Westminster Public Schools’ plea to reconsider the district’s performance rating, putting the district one step closer to facing consequences for low performance.
Colorado Department of Education staff presented the final ratings to the state Board of Education Thursday. The state notified district officials earlier this week that the evidence they had presented to request a higher rating included good data, but was insufficient.
“Though some of the data provided showed some progress and promise over the past five years, comprehensively the data did not present a compelling case of performance that warrants a higher accreditation rating,” state officials wrote in a letter to the district this week.
As it stands, the rating means Westminster Public Schools is one of five districts that will face state sanctions in the coming months after five low performance ratings from the state. This group of districts would be the first to face sanctions under the state’s accountability system.
Westminster officials say they plan to appeal the state’s decision.
“We are disappointed by the decision and will be vigorously following all avenues available to us,” said Pam Swanson, Westminster schools superintendent. “We don’t think the Colorado Department of Education fully considered or responded to all of the information that was submitted in our request for reconsideration. Importantly, the decision doesn’t reflect the fact that none of our schools face sanctions.”
The district had requested that the state reconsider its most recent rating in part because the district has been working on switching the 9,500-student district to a competency-based model. Under the model, the district did away with placements based only on age and instead groups students by what they know. The approach also requires students to prove they’ve mastered certain competencies before passing onto the next level.
Westminster officials worry that because students must be grouped by age for state tests, the accountability system might not be fairly evaluating their progress. The district presented data from its own internal tests and from a review by a third-party they hired to assess the model.
The data, especially from 2010 through 2014, showed positive trends, the state agreed. But in 2016, state officials pointed out that several schools saw a decline.
The state also took time in the letter to address some of the district’s concerns with the accountability system, countering some statements made by Westminster officials, including on how often the standards have changed in the last several years. The state standards have “evolved,” officials stated in the letter, but districts were given years to make the transition.
Specifically addressing the district’s competency based system, state officials noted at several points that there may be more to learn from the system and how it works with the state’s testing.
“The department recognizes that the district has been working to implement a Competency Based System,” the letter to the district states. “Your input around assessment options has been shared and is being considered. But we welcome further conversation.”