Report card: Most county schools are just average

Community organizations grade Colorado schools on A-F scale

According to a report card issued this week by Colorado School Grades, public schools in La Plata County won’t be getting any gold stars this year.

Whereas the Colorado Department of Education places 60 percent of the state’s public schools in the top category, “Performance,” Colorado School Grades, a coalition of 18 community groups, judges schools on a curve using students’ standardized test scores.

The complicated formula it uses to judge schools’ performance was designed by the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the University of Colorado, Denver’s School of Public Affairs.

The curve was not kind to local schools.

Of 16 schools in La Plata County, only two – Miller Middle School and Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary – improved their grades from last year. Miller went from a C to a C+, and Fort Lewis Mesa went from a B- to a B.

Nine did worse, including Durango High School, which went from a C+ to a C, and Ignacio Intermediate, which went from a D to a D-.

Five schools maintained their grades. Ignacio Junior High School still is rated F, Escalante Middle School still graded C+ and Park Elementary still graded C.

Animas Valley Elementary and Bayfield High School, which matched their B’s, are the county’s valedictorians in this year’s grading, along with the improved Fort Lewis Mesa.

In a year that preceded tumultuous changes, Florida Mesa Elementary School saw the steepest decline in achievement, going from a C- to a D-.

In September, the state Education Department named Florida Mesa a “priority improvement school,” a designation reserved for the lowest 15 percent of schools in the state based on the growth of all students. The designation prompted Superintendent Daniel Snowberger to dismiss former Florida Mesa Principal Cindy Smart and replace her with Lauri Kloepfer, who previously served as the district’s executive director of curriculum.

While Florida Mesa’s grade is not encouraging – the school is ranked 939th of the state’s 998 elementary schools for its performance in the 2011-12 academic year – district officials say recent tests go some way toward vindicating Snowberger’s judgment. At a recent meeting of the Durango School District 9-R board, Kloepfer said tests had shown improvements in every class.

Durango School District 9-R spokeswoman Julie Popp declined to comment on the Colorado School Grades report card.

Local charter schools did not outperform their public counterparts, though Animas High School improved its grade from a B- to a B.

Mountain Middle School got a D- in 2012, the first year it has been issued a grade.

Not one school in the county got an A+, A or A- – grades reserved to schools performing in the top 10 percent. The handful of schools that earned B grades are in the upper quartile of schools across the state.

cmcallister@durangoherald.com

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