Special Report
Education

Colorado

January 04, 2005 3 min read
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Standards and Accountability: Colorado has clear and specific standards for English, mathematics, and science in all grade spans, but it has such standards only at the middle school level for social studies/history.

The state gives tests aligned with its content standards in elementary, middle, and high school for English and math. But it provides a science test aligned to state standards in middle school only, and it offers no standards-based test in history/social studies.

Students in Colorado are tested in a variety of ways. State assessments use multiple-choice, short-answer, and extended-response questions for all grade spans.

As part of its accountability system, Colorado publishes school report cards and assigns state-based ratings to schools.

Schools consistently rated low-performing or failing face reconstitution as charter schools.

The state accountability system does not provide assistance for all consistently low-performing or failing schools, including non-Title I schools, and it does not reward high-performing or improving schools.

Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Colorado does a respectable job of ensuring that its high school teachers are well versed in the subjects they plan to teach.

All high school teachers must have majors in their content areas and pass subject-knowledge tests before they enter the classroom.

Like many other states, however, Colorado lacks similar efforts to ensure that all middle school teachers have strong backgrounds in their subjects.

Colorado requires all its teacher-candidates to complete 800 hours of field experience with students in a classroom setting. That translates to about 13 weeks of student teaching, with another 400 hours for other field experiences.

The state does not use performance assessments, such as local team evaluations or classroom observations, to evaluate the performance of teachers already in the classroom, but it is now considering such requirements.

In addition, the state requires, but does not pay for, mentoring for all beginning teachers, as well as all those in their first year with a school district.

While Colorado has begun to identify its low-performing teacher education programs, the data that will be used to publicly rate those programs are in a relatively early stage.

School Climate: Colorado earns the second-highest grade of all states and the District of Columbia in the school climate section.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 4th and 8th graders in Colorado are more likely than their peers in other states to attend schools where a school official reports that a lack of parent involvement is not a problem or is a minor problem.

The state provides families with school choice through a statewide system of open enrollment and a charter school law rated as moderately strong by the Center for Education Reform.

School report cards include information on class size, and state legislation strongly encourages the use of state money for class-size reduction.

Colorado loses points, though, because data from the federal 2000 Schools and Staffing Survey show that the average class size in its elementary schools, 23.2 students, is among the highest in the nation.

Furthermore, Colorado does not have a system to monitor the condition of its school facilities.

Equity: Colorado ranks 37th on the wealth-neutrality score, which measures inequalities in state and local funding that stem from differences in local property wealth. The state’s score is positive, meaning that, on average, wealthy districts in the state have more revenue than do property-poor districts.

The state ranks 20th on the McLoone Index, which compares the total amount of education spending on students in districts below the median with the amount that would be needed to ensure all districts spent at least at the median. Colorado has a coefficient of variation of 11.1, indicating moderate disparities in funding across districts in the state.

Spending: Colorado ranks 28th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia on the spending index, a comparative measure that describes both the percent of students at or above the national average in funding and how far the rest fall below that average.

About 40 percent of students in the state are in districts spending at least the national average.

The state ranks 40th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in education spending per student, at $7,041 in the 2001-02 school year.

Colorado also spends less than the national average of total taxable resources on education, at 3.2 percent, and also had a below-average annual rate of increase from 1992 to 2002.

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