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

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

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.”