The State Board of Education has unanimously approved a compromise that allows part of HOPE Online Learning Academy’s program to be rated under the special system used to evaluate alternative education campuses.

Such campuses typically serve high school-aged and older students with low academic achievement levels and other personal challenges. State law allows such schools to be evaluated and rated under a different, somewhat more lenient system than used for other schools.

The State Board annually approves a list of schools authorized as alternative campuses. HOPE, which is chartered by the Douglas County Schools, had applied for such designation for its entire program, including elementary and middle school students. Department of Education officials opposed that, arguing that younger students couldn’t be classified as “over-age and under-credit,” one criterion for AEC designation.

In September a divided State Board denied HOPE’s request. Since then department and school officials have negotiated an agreement that basically splits HOPE into three schools for accreditation purposes, Only the high school portion of the program will be designated an AEC, the board decided Wednesday. The split takes effect for this so school year so won’t show up in HOPE’s accreditation until 2014.

See this EdNews story for background on HOPE and the accreditation issue.

The performance of alternative schools also figured into the 2013 district performance ratings released by the department on Wednesday.

Even though alternative schools are rated separately, in the past no adjustment has been made when the performance of alternative school students was rolled into a district’s overall rating. Some districts have complained that low alternative student performance has unfairly dragged down their ratings.

A law passed earlier this year allowed districts to appeal their proposed performance ratings if they feel ratings have been unduly affected by alternative campus students.

Ten districts appealed their preliminary 2013 performance ratings, several of them based on the AEC issue.

The department granted the AEC appeals by the Englewood, Monte Vista, Montrose, Plateau Valley and Salida districts, which raised those districts’ ratings. For Englewood and Monte Vista, the change took them out of the priority improvement category and off the state’s five-year improvement clock. (See this EdNews story for more details on the 2013 performance ratings and the “clock” for districts that are in the two lowest groups.)

In Salida’s case, the change moved it into the state’s top category, accredited with distinction.

CDE staff denied an appeal by the Mapleton district, finding the AEC impact wouldn’t change the district rating, and the department also denied an appeal from Sheridan, which was based on AEC impact and other issues.