Colorado earned an overall grade of C, coming in at 35th, behind the U.S. average, on six key education indicators in Education Week’s annual state rankings.

Image of school grades B, C and D.The state’s highest mark, a B, came in the area of Chance for Success, meaning educational indicators across a lifetime. Colorado earned points for its relatively higher numbers of affluent and well-educated parents, its performance on a national fourth-grade reading test and the percentage of adults with two and four-year degrees.

The only other better-than-average grade, a B-, came in the area of standards, assessment and accountability, where Colorado’s system of school accountability achieved a perfect 100. But it flunked the standards portion of the category, because the state’s standards are not course or grade-specific.

Colorado’s lowest mark came in the area of its commitment to the teaching profession, where the state achieved a D, ranking 42nd out of the 50 states.

In particular, the state was dinged because it doesn’t fund induction, mentoring or reduced workloads for new teachers and it doesn’t allow pension portability across state lines.

Also, the state doesn’t require substantial coursework in the subject taught and it doesn’t provide incentives for teachers in targeted schools, such as those with high levels of poverty.  Some districts, such as Denver, offer these types of incentives but it’s not required by the state.

Perhaps most interestingly, Colorado’s teacher pay was found lacking and not at least equal to comparable professions. EdWeek found public school teachers nationwide make 94 cents for every dollar earned by workers in 16 occupations such as accountants and nurses.

Only 13 states met or surpassed the pay-parity line, meaning they earn at least as much as workers in those comparable fields.

Colorado scored almost as poorly in the area of school finance, where it achieved a C-. The state did well on how its education funding is distributed, or equity, but flunked the adequacy of its spending. This may not surprise those who followed the recent Lobato school funding case, which dealt with the adequacy issue.

In the two other areas – K-12 achievement and transitions from preschool through workforce – the state earned solid C’s.

Which states did the best? Maryland, with a B+, was the overall winner for the fourth year in a row, followed closely by Massachusetts, New York and Virginia, all with B’s. The U.S. as a whole earned a C, and 41 states achieved grades between a C- and a C+, according to the report.

How Colorado compares to other states on education indicators

States’ combined scores on all six indicators – all scores out of 100

1. Maryland, B+, 87.8 points
2. Massachusetts, B, 84.2 points
3. New York, B, 83.9 points
– U.S. average, C, 76.5 points –
35. Colorado, C, 75.1 points
48. Washington, D.C., C-, 69.9 points
49. Nebraska, C-, 69.8 points
50. South Dakota, D+, 68.1 points

Indicator: Chance for Success – Colorado’s overall grade – B, 83.7 points – Rank: 10

  • Early foundations, including parent income, education, employment and linguistic background – B, 86.1 points
  • School years, including kindergarten enrollment, elementary reading, middle school math, high school graduation – B-, 81.5 points
  • Adult outcomes, including adult educational attainment, annual income, steady employment – B, 84.8 points

Indicator: K-12 Achievement – Colorado’s overall grade – C, 73.8 points – Rank: 10

  • Status, including achievement on national math and reading exams, high school graduation – C+, 78.8 points
  • Change, including gains on national reading exams, change in graduation rate – C, 74.1 points
  • Equity, including progress in closing performance gaps among low-income students and others – D, 64.8 points

Indicator: Standards, Assessments & Accountability – Colorado’s overall grade – B-, 81.8 points – Rank: 32

  • Standards, including whether state academic standards are course or grade-specific – F, 57.1 points
  • Assessments, including whether tests are multiple choice, require short answers or extended responses – B+, 88.3 points
  • School accountability, including whether the state assigns ratings to all schools – A, 100 points

Indicator: The Teaching Profession – Colorado’s overall grade – D, 66.4 points – Rank: 42

  • Accountability for quality, including whether the state holds teacher education programs accountable for graduates’ performance – D+, 67.6 points
  • Incentives & allocation, including whether teacher salaries are at least equal to comparable occupations – D-, 61.5 points
  • Building & supporting capacity, including whether the state funds induction, mentoring and reduced workloads for new teachers – C-, 70 points

Indicator: School Finance – Colorado’s overall grade – C-, 69.6 points – Rank: 38

  • Equity, including the relationship between district funding and local property wealth – A-, 89.6 points
  • Spending, including state spending on K-12 education as a percent of state taxable resources – F, 49.7 points

Indicator: Transitions & Alignment – Colorado’s overall grade – C, 75 points – Rank: 28

  • Early-childhood education, including whether the state formally defines school readiness and has programs for those not ready – B-, 80 points
  • College readiness, including whether the state requires college prep to earn a high school diploma – C-, 70 points
  • Economy & workforce, including whether the state offers high school diplomas with career specializations – C, 75 points

Source: Education Week Quality Counts 2012