Officials at Westminster Public Schools breathed a sigh of relief Aug. 24, learning that their test scores had improved enough to have increased their state rating. “We’ve been working very hard, …
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Officials at Westminster Public Schools breathed a sigh of relief Aug. 24, learning that their test scores had improved enough to have increased their state rating.
“We’ve been working very hard, and the school district has done quite well on the High Stakes Assessment in Colorado,” said Superintendent Dr. Pam Swanson. “We are no longer on the accountability clock, we have risen above that. We are awfully proud of our staff and students.”
Since Westminster Public School district adopted a competency-based education system in 2009, they have received the lowest rating from the Colorado Department of Education and have been threatened with state sanctions if their scores did not improve.
The district was placed on an “accountability clock,” and faced having their district be taken over by a charter program, outside management or consolidation with another district as part of the sanctions imposed.
School officials received word from the state August 23 that the district had improved enough to be taken off the accountability clock, and had been upgraded to an “improvement” status with the CDE.
According to Swanson, the school’s model of competency-based education can’t be effectively judged by the traditional testing models of CDE, and changing their rating amounted to jumping through hoops to satisfy the state standards.
“The accountability system in Colorado is very traditional, and it doesn’t really show where our kids are. In spite of that, we still have upward progress in the metro area,” said Swanson. “This is one of the proudest moments academically in our district’s history.”
Swanson said the difference in WPS and the competency-based education system, is that students are not judged only by their grade level.
“We may have a fourth grader reading at a fifth-grade level, but doing math at a third-grade level. We don’t wait a year to move them up,” said Swanson. “We are one of the largest districts in the country to have implemented a competency-based system.”
Chief Education Officer for WPS Dr. Oliver Grenham, said the state has made it difficult to meet their criteria, including changing tests several years ago, which make it difficult to judge the growth of students.
“The one thing about our growth is that it’s not just some students who grow, it’s all of them,” said Grenham. “Special education students have grown over time, as well as English language learners. Our trajectory is a continuous upward line. We’re showing definite progress, but the state accountability system is at odd words with our system. We have continued to implement our model while working on the state requirement.”
WPS officials see the new assessment as a win that will continue to make a difference in the growth of their students, and celebrated the announcement with a celebration at Westminster High school, with student performances, music and refreshments.
“Last year I issued a performance challenge to all of our staff, and we knew this would be our year,” said Swanson. “It was like going to a Broncos game with all the lights and music and excitement. We will continue to push forward, and I believe now that we have the right momentum. If the rules at the state stay the same we’ll continue to see this line go up again next year. It would be nice to get to the top of the mountain in spite of the barriers.”
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