Superintendent voices concerns with state board

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The road to achievement has not been an easy one for Mapleton Public School educators and students.

Prior to Charlotte Ciancio’s tenure as the school district superintendent, Mapleton struggled with low graduation rates and state test scores.

Mapleton has since made positive strides in both areas after revamping its education models and implementing infrastructure improvements across the district.

However, Ciancio said, she is troubled that the district is still falling behind on state accreditation standards.

“Mapleton’s consistent progress, in light of the compounding challenges, is noteworthy,” Ciancio said in an email. “The fact that the formula continues to place Mapleton at risk with state accreditation on priority improvement highlights the need to revisit and revise the system.”  

Ciancio voiced her concerns during a Nov. 15 Colorado State Board of Education meeting, where she noted that Mapleton is making significant strides while dealing with growing poverty rates and increasing numbers of English As a Second Language students.

“Colorado’s accreditation system does not recognize risk and degree of difficulty that impacts the work,” Ciancio said in a presentation to board members. “Perfect scores appear to go to school districts with the least amount of risk and the fewest elements of difficulty. There is no mechanism to account for the degree of difficulty and risk other school districts encounter on a daily basis.”

She said the percentage of children eligible for free and reduced lunch in the district more than doubled over the past 10 years, from 38 percent to more than 76 percent, while the number of children learning English as a second language rose from 20 to 50 percent over the past several years.

Despite these factors, Ciancio, said the school district has seen an increase in American College Test (ACT) scores, college admission, college attendance and standardized test scores across every subject and grade level.

“As a state, we are using an accreditation system that merely pretends to hold schools and districts accountable for the learning of all kids,” Ciancio said. “Honestly, I believe that what we’re really doing is crippling systems and sorting kids in poverty, creating further inequities with negative labels, lack of resources and compliance burdens.”

Board of Education member Jane Goff said she appreciated Ciancio’s concerns but said the state accreditation standards are based on a set of criteria, including achievement levels of students, and specific measures and targets set by school districts for English-language learners and high school graduation rates.

“The entire board identifies with the challenges that all school districts face,” Goff said. “It is frustrating; I will not say that it is not. It’s really a part of society and a part of our context that needs some attention, probably on a broader scale than what the accountability system involves.”