Region’s school scores vary in state reports

Brief by Central Staff

Education – February 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) recently released the 2004- 2005 school accountability reports, which now evaluate schools in two categories: Academic Performance and Academic Growth. Performance scores are: Excellent, High, Average, Low, and Unacceptable. Growth scores are: Significant Improvement, Improvement, Stable, Decline, Significant Decline.

Heading for school reports
Heading for school reports

Regional schools weighed in from Low to High, with special congratulations appropriate for the Crestone Charter School, which improved at every level: grades 1- 5 are now deemed Average, Significant Improvement; grades 6 – 8 High, Significant Improvement, and grades 9- 12 Excellent, Significant Improvement. Excellent is a very rare rating indeed in our region, and Significant Improvement at every level is unheard of.

Lake County’s schools, on the other hand, were all rated Low, but Stable. Superintendent Bette Bullock sounded upbeat, though. “Low is OK, but not acceptable,” she told the Herald Democrat, and went on to say, “We will move up next year, I am absolutely convinced of that.”

Leadville’s schools clearly have some problems, but the number of safety and discipline incidents in the middle school did drop from 533 to 510 last year, which is better — but nothing to celebrate.

The Salida Middle School, which also has a dubious record of disciplinary incidents, had 66 incidents. Salida’s middle school enrollment is 360 to Lake County’s 361. Other schools total safety and discipline reports included: 4 for Harry L. McGinnis Middle School in Buena Vista, which had an enrollment of 246; and 26 for Custer County Middle School, enrollment 130. Both schools were rated Average, Stable.

On the bright side, none of these schools (including Lake County’s) reported incidents with deadly weapons this year, and reports of drug, alcohol and tobacco use were minimal, as were incidents categorized as fights/assaults. Most of the disciplinary problems came under the category of other, which according to the CDE website covers: willful disobedience, persistent rudeness or disruptions, harassing or menacing fellow students, destruction of property, robbery, and any felonious acts.

Clearly Lake County Middle School has a problem, but the Salida Middle School racked up 518 infractions in 2002- 2003, so perhaps it can be reversed.

Changing directions can be tricky, though, since schools within the same district often perform very differently. And that makes evaluating district budgets, employee pay, and school policies problematical.

When asked about average salaries for teachers and administrators in Lake County, Superintendent Bullock told the Herald that both were too low. And that may be true. Colorado’s state average for teachers was $43,949 in 2004- 05 and for administrators it was $75,136, whereas Lake County’s was $30,885 for teachers and $66,979 for administrators.

But even though Lake County’s figures are low for the state, their average teacher and administrator salaries are middle- of- the- road for our region. Salida High School ranked High, but average teacher pay in Salida was $30,495, and average administrator pay was $51,161. South Park High School earned a High rating, with average teacher salary at $32,806; and average administrator salary at $57,100. On the other hand, Buena Vista High School and Gunnison High also earned High ratings, and had higher average teacher and administrator pay than Lake County.

The high schools in Moffat, Saguache, and Canon City were all rated Average, with Moffat teacher pay at $33,559, and Mountain Valley High’s (Saguache’s) at a mere $28,489, while Canon City High School’s average teacher salary was $45,398. Moffat’s average administrator’s salary was $61,147; Mountain Valley High School’s average was $50,330; and Canon City High’s was $70, 894.

It should be noted that all of the aforementioned schools earned higher evaluations than any of Lake County’s schools. So clearly salaries have very little to do with CDE ratings.

But it’s only fair to mention that such comparisons are not entirely fair, since districts vary greatly in how many administrators they employ, and how experienced teachers are, and how many teachers there are per student, and what degrees those teachers have. All of that information is included in the CDE’s accountability reports, however, along with how much districts spend per pupil, which may well be more important than how much they spend on administrators.

But compared to some of its rural neighbors, Lake County is also high in that category, spending $9,774 per capita, while Buena Vista spends $8,964; and Salida $8,196. So increased spending is clearly not the solution that school boards and educational lobbyists usually claim. But unfortunately, it isn’t clear what is.

Detailed accountability reports are available for all public schools on the Colorado Department of Education’s website.