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

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

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

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