Joyce Rankin: Failure is not an option |

Joyce Rankin: Failure is not an option

Joyce Rankin/For Steamboat Today

In a local control state such as Colorado, local school boards usually make their own decisions about the allocation of funds and how best to serve students. We saw an example recently in Jefferson County, where the board, being strapped financially, considered closing five schools.

But, in rare cases, the state Board of Education can override local control. The legislature passed statute to ensure Colorado's education system holds schools and districts accountable for meeting state expectations for student performance.

Schools meeting expectations have increased autonomy, whereas those not meeting expectations in achievement, growth and postsecondary workforce readiness are assigned Priority Improvement or Turnaround status. If a district or school remains in these two categories five consecutive years, significant action must be taken by the state Board of Education. The timeline for this is called the Accountability Clock, and it began in 2009 under a state law known as the Education Accountability Act.

For the first time since the Education Accountability Act was created, the state Board of Education may force districts and schools that have failed to improve for five consecutive years to take significant action to boost student learning.

The board has a list of directives it may issue to local school boards in these circumstances. Some are more drastic than others, and the possibilities include closing schools, turning them over to new management, applying for waivers from local and state policies, merging with a nearby high-performing district or turning over some or all operations to a third party.

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Currently, there are 12 schools and five districts in the state that fit to this category. Four schools and one school district are from the 3rd Congressional District, which I represent.

Beginning in March, at our next board meeting, the first school district will have an opportunity to come before the board with plans for improvement. We will also hear from the State Review Panel, an advisory group that has been monitoring the progress of the school, and the commissioner of education.

From these three reports, the state Board of Education will make a final decision about the direction the school or district will take. The evaluation process and state Board of Education pathway for improvement for all districts and schools on the Accountability Clock must be completed by June 30.

While the law was written in 2009, the intent of the law was to allow lower-performing schools an opportunity to dramatically change, providing students a new opportunity toward higher academic performance. The challenge to change is difficult; however, continuing to leave these students behind is not an option.

Joyce Rankin represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District on the state Board of Education. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street.” The Department of Education, where the state Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. She is also a legislative aide at the Capitol for Rep. Bob Rankin.