Report: Colorado schools get a C

Colorado earned a C and ranked 32nd in the nation in terms of the quality of its educational system, putting it behind the national score of C+.

Colorado ranked low in the areas of teaching profession and school finance, according to data released Thursday by Education Week in its annual Quality Counts report. This year’s report included for the first time school finance and put particular focus on issues of school safety.

No state earned an A in the 2013 edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts report, “Code of Conduct: Safety, Discipline, and School Climate.”

Colorado, which joined 19 other states that received grades of C or lower, moved up three slots after ranking 35th in the 2012 Quality Counts report.

Colorado’s rank

In the report Colorado earned its highest mark – B – in the category of “chance for success,” which factors in early foundations in learning, such as family income and parent education; school years, which includes elementary reading skills, middle school math ability, high school graduation and postsecondary participation; and adult outcomes. The latter category includes adult educational attainment, annual income and steady employment. Colorado ranks fourth nationally in terms of adults with two- or four-year degrees – a fact that likely bumped up the state’s ranking in this category.

That B placed Colorado in 10th place nationally, as did the B- Colorado received in standards, assessments and accountability.

However, the state ranked 42nd and earned a D in the category labeled “the teaching profession,” which examines accountability in teacher preparation and incentives to entice quality teachers.

Colorado ranks 42nd for school finance

New this year is a school finance category in which Colorado earned a C-. A closer look at that category shows that Colorado ranks 42nd nationally in adjusted per pupil expenditures and 41st in terms of students funded at or above the national average. No surprise there.

However, the state ranked second nationally in the McLoone index, which reflects actual spending as a percent of the amount needed to bring all students to median level.

Data about Colorado from the 2013 Quality Counts report.

Colorado also got a C- in the K-12 achievement index, which examines achievement levels in math and reading at certain grade levels, achievement gains, the poverty gap, high school graduation rates and high Advanced Placement scores.

Also this year, researchers and journalists gathered opinions on factors that can be important to student achievement, such as school climate and safety.

The report is an acknowledgment – especially in light of the recent shootings at a Connecticut elementary school –  that school climate and a sense of security are growing in importance in broader conversations about school reform.

Of 1,300 teachers and administrators, who are also Education Week subscribers and who filled out an online survey, 98 percent of administrators pegged “teaching quality” as “very important” to student achievement compared to 90 percent of teachers.

School climate ranked as the second most important category of five, with 83 percent of administrators and 72 percent of teachers listing it as “very important” for educational success. Interestingly, “family background” ranked last (below school safety and school discipline policies) with 22 percent of administrators polled and 42 percent of teachers labeling it as a very important factor in terms of educational success.

As far as school responses to misbehavior by students, most – 76 percent – of survey respondents favored in-school suspension, the least severe of disciplinary options, including law enforcement referral, zero tolerance policies, out-of- school suspensions and expulsion.

Thornton Middle School popped up on a top 20 list for most student expulsions nationwide. According to the database, the school reported that 35.2 percent of the school’s 725 students have been expelled. When contacted by Education Week, a spokesman for Adams 12 expressed “substantial questions about the validity of data the districts submitted to the U.S. Department of Education,” according to the report. However, Adams 12 staff had not formally sought changes from the Education Department as early December.

The Quality Counts report is a collaboration between the Education Week newsroom and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.

For the fifth year in a row, Maryland earned honors as the top-ranked state in the overall rankings, posting the nation’s highest overall grade, the only B+ awarded. South Dakota earned the worst grade, a D+.

Colorado State Highlights 2013 Quality Counts by EdNews

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.