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News Release - CDE Publishes Improvement Plans For All Districts and Schools Under New Accountability Act

May 26, 2011

News Release

Colorado Department of Education Publishes Improvement Plans For All Districts and Schools Under New Accountability Act

News Release

Commissioner of Education Robert K. Hammond today announced the publication of improvement plans for all districts and schools in the state under the first implementation cycle of the Education Accountability Act of 2009.

To access a district or school improvement plan, visit the performance tab of SchoolView:

“By engaging in a continuous improvement cycle to manage performance, districts and schools can improve their effectiveness and outcomes for students,” said Commissioner Hammond. “We strongly encourage parents and community members statewide to explore these plans and learn more. Every school is unique and has its own story to tell.”

The Education Accountability Act requires each Colorado district and school to develop or update an improvement plan each year. In developing these improvement plans, districts and schools must analyze student academic data to reflect on their performance strengths and challenges, and identify the root causes of these issues. Districts and schools also must develop strategies for addressing low performance and then describe how implementing these strategies will address the identified issues during the course of the next school year.

Plans were submitted to the Department for publication on April 15, 2011. CDE reviewed and approved district turnaround plans, and provided support as requested in the development of all other plan types. The published plans may reflect revisions districts and schools have made to their plans following official submission to CDE each year on April 15. As planning is an ongoing process, these documents reflect a “point in time” submission.

To date, 179 district plans have been published and 1476 school plans have been published. School districts with 1000 or fewer students had the option of submitting one district-level plan that addressed their challenges and improvement strategies at both the district and school level, or submitting separate district- and school-level plans.

Plan Components
The Education Accountability Act of 2009 requires the following components in all plans:

  • Trends: Positive and negative trends in the levels of attainment by the district or school on the performance indicators.
  • Root Causes: Root causes for each identified student academic performance challenge for the district or school that must be addressed to raise the levels of attainment on the performance indicators.
  • Targets: Ambitious but attainable targets that the district or school will attain on the four key statewide performance indicators (academic achievement, academic growth, academic growth gaps and postsecondary and workforce readiness).
  • Strategies: Specific, research-based major improvement strategies that are appropriate in scope, intensity and type to address the district’s or school’s root causes of areas of low performance.
  • Resources: Identification of local, state and federal resources that the district or school will use to implement the identified major improvement strategies.
  • Interim Measures and Implementation Benchmarks: Interim measures and implementation benchmarks to assess whether the identified strategies are having the desired performance results and whether or not the strategies are being carried out as planned.

In addition, districts and schools on turnaround plans (the lowest-performing 5 percent of districts and schools) must also include at least one of the following approaches among their improvement strategies:

  • Turnaround Partner: Employ a lead turnaround partner that is immersed in all aspects of developing and collaboratively executing the plan, and that serves as a liaison to other school partners.
  • District/School Management: Reorganize the oversight and management structure of the district or school such that the new structure provides greater, more effective support.
  • Innovation School: Recognize the district’s school as an innovation school or cluster it with other schools that have similar governance management structure to form an innovation school zone pursuant to the Innovation Schools Act.
  • School Management Contract: Hire a public or private entity to manage the district’s school pursuant to a contract with the local school board or the Charter School Institute.
  • Charter Conversion: For schools without a charter, convert the district’s school to a charter school.
  • Restructure Charter: For schools with a charter, renegotiate or significantly restructure the district’s school charter contract.
  • Other Strategy of Comparable or Greater Effect: Includes those interventions required for low-performing schools under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Unified Improvement Plan Template
The Colorado Department of Education created the Unified Improvement Plan (UIP) template to streamline planning efforts. The UIP template incorporates multiple state and federal improvement planning and accountability requirements into a single improvement plan, and provides a roadmap to assist districts and schools in addressing the above components.

“Prior to the Unified Improvement Plan, districts that were identified as in need of improvement under the various state or federal accountability provisions (for example, state accreditation or federal Title programs or both) were required to submit an improvement plan for each program area where they fell short of expectations,” said Patrick Chapman, Executive Director of Federal Programs Administration. “With the Unified Improvement Plan, districts need only submit a single comprehensive plan, which meets multiple state and federal requirements.”

In the 2010-2011 school year, districts and schools on priority improvement or turnaround plans, as well as any districts requiring state review due to High Priority Dropout designation or federal No Child Left Behind improvement designations, were required to use the Unified Improvement Plan template. All other districts and schools were highly encouraged to use the template for 2010-11, and will be required to use the template in 2011-2012.

Improvement Planning Support
This spring, the Colorado Department of Education reviewed and provided feedback to district and school priority improvement and turnaround plans. In addition, a State Review Panel of Colorado education experts reviewed turnaround plans to provide recommendations to the Commissioner regarding a district or school’s overall capacity to improve.

Between late June and September, the Department will offer a series of differentiated training opportunities to support improvement planning. District and school leaders are encouraged to attend any session that meets their needs.

For more information, including training dates and locations, visit

The Education Accountability Act of 2009
The Education Accountability Act of 2009 was signed into law by Governor Ritter on May 21, 2009. Its purpose is to align conflicting accountability systems and create a common understanding of school, district and state performance using the Colorado Growth Model as its cornerstone. The Education Accountability Act holds the state, districts and schools accountable on a set of consistent, objective measures and reports performance in a manner that highlights progress towards the goals of the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids Act of 2008 (CAP4K): ensure that all students graduate high school ready for postsecondary education and workforce success.

As a part of the Education Accountability Act, in November 2010, the Colorado Department of Education accredited districts with one of five ratings: accredited with distinction, accredited, accredited with improvement plan, accredited with priority improvement plan or accredited with turnaround plan. In December 2010, the Colorado State Board of Education assigned schools to one of four plan types: performance plan, improvement plan, priority improvement plan or turnaround plan.

The basis for district accreditation and school plan type assignments were the district and school performance framework reports. The performance frameworks measure attainment on the four key performance indicators identified in the Education Accountability Act as the measures of educational success: academic achievement, academic growth, academic growth gaps and postsecondary and workforce readiness. State-identified measures and metrics for each of these performance indicators are combined to arrive at an overall evaluation of a district’s or a school’s performance. For districts, the overall evaluation leads to their accreditation. For schools, the overall evaluation leads to the identification of the type of plan schools will implement.

The Education Accountability Act then requires districts and schools to develop and implement an improvement plan based on their assigned district accreditation rating or school plan type assignment.

This accountability cycle of performance reporting, district accreditation, school plan type assignment, and district and school improvement planning is an annual process. The next cycle begins again August 15, 2011, when districts and schools will receive their preliminary 2010-11 district and school performance framework reports.

For more information on school plan type assignments, visit:

For more information on district accreditation, visit:

To access a district or school performance framework report, visit the performance tab of SchoolView:

To access additional district or school performance data, visit the SchoolView Data Center:

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