You are here

News Release - Colorado’s accountability system resumes with release of final district ratings

December 15, 2016

Colorado’s accountability system resumes with release of final district ratings

Three districts improved enough to removed from Accountability Clock

DENVER – The Colorado Department of Education today announced final accreditation ratings for school districts across the state, including three districts that improved enough to come off the “Accountability Clock.” Ignacio 11 JT, Pueblo City 60 and Sheridan 2 all saw improvements in 2016. 

“We want to congratulate those districts in particular, as well as all the others who have been working extremely hard to increase student achievement,” said Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes. “Today’s announcement is a testament to the focus and determination of the staff, teachers, students and communities of those districts.”

The department’s announcement today signified the renewal of the accountability system designed to let parents and communities know how their districts and schools are doing.  In 2015, the legislature put a hold on accountability as schools and districts adjusted to a new state assessment system. Now with two years of assessment results from the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), district accountability determinations are available again.

The ratings were presented to the Colorado State Board of Education on Thursday and are based on annual District Performance Framework reports, which compile a number of performance indicators for a final rating. Those indicators are:

  • Achievement on statewide assessments in English language arts, math, and science.
  • Growth from year to year on English language arts and math as well as by English language learners on the English language proficiency (ACCESS) test.
  • Secondary schools’ graduation rates, dropout rates, matriculation rates, and college entrance exam scores.

Districts received one of the following accreditation ratings:

  1. Accredited with Distinction
  2. Accredited
  3. Accredited with Improvement Plan
  4. Accredited with Priority Improvement Plan
  5. Accredited with Turnaround Plan
  6. Insufficient State Data

A total of 25 districts received the highest rating of “Distinction” and 99 received the “Accredited” rating. Sixty-seven percent of Colorado’s 184 districts and BOCES received the top two accreditation ratings on the state’s mandated District Performance Framework, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

State Board to discuss Districts on Accountability Clock in 2017

State law requires the State Board of Education to direct action for the local school boards of districts that have received the lowest two ratings, Turnaround or Priority Improvement, for more than five consecutive years. This five-year timeframe is often called the Accountability Clock. Possible actions can include school closure, turning a district-run school into a charter school, working with an external management partner, district reorganization or seeking “innovation status” for a school or network of schools that could provide waivers from certain state and local rules.

A total of five districts, down from eight following the last accountability ratings produced in 2014, received the lowest ratings for six consecutive years and will enter Year 6 on the Accountability Clock on July 1, 2017. Those districts are Adams County 14, Aguilar RE6, Julesburg RE-1, Montezuma Cortez and Westminster 50. Hearings with the State Board of Education to determine the appropriate action will occur between February and June. The State Board of Education must direct action for the local board before June 30.  

Participation Impact

Additionally, the accountability system this year included the descriptor of “Low Participation” for districts with 95 percent or lower participation rates on assessments in two or more content areas, including students formally excused from tests by their parents. This descriptor is not a penalty but rather  intended to alert parents and community members that state assessment results may not be completely representative of the district as a whole. Eighty-four districts received this descriptor. According to a State Board of Education motion, districts cannot be held liable for parental excusals.

However, three districts had their ratings lowered due to low participation (below 95%) by students who did not receive formal excusals by their parents. And 11 districts received the rating of “Insufficient State Data: Low Participation” because too few students tested to either report the data publicly or results were not representative of all students.


The department issued preliminary, or draft, ratings to districts in October, giving them the opportunity to provide additional data or evidence to show a higher rating was warranted.  A total of 41 districts submitted formal requests for reconsideration. The Commissioner approved 25 of those requests and three partial approvals and denied 13 requests for reconsideration. Districts with the lowest two ratings may submit an additional appeal to the State Board of Education within 10 days of final notification from CDE.

Also in October, each school in Colorado received an annual School Performance Framework report that determines their school plan type. The State Board of Education will make the final determination of school plan types in early 2017.

The Education Accountability Act of 2009 created the state education accountability system that requires the annual review of schools and districts. The system is based on the goal that every student should have an opportunity to receive an excellent education and graduate ready to succeed. Successful schools and districts are recognized while those whose students struggle are identified and receive help.

Full information about district accreditation is available here.

Reports including detailed information with the results will be released in early 2017 along with school plan types.