A state panel is considering an unprecedented move to hand over the management of an entire school district to an outside private group.
“We haven't seen this happen in Colorado, where we've had an entity manage a whole district," said Brenda Bautsch, accountability specialist with the Colorado Department of Education. "It has happened in other state and there are those entities out there that do that.”
A Colorado Department of Education panel will meet Wednesday to discuss whether Adams 14 School District needs to hire an outside group to bring it up to par with state standards. The move comes after years of underperformance by the district.
“We know student needs are not being met, we know students deserve better and we want to ensure all students, no matter where they live, have access to high-quality school options,” Bautsch said.
Adams 14, which serves about 7,000 students in 11 schools, has reported low attendance rates and low test scores for years.
According to state test results from this past year, only one is five fifth-graders are reading and writing at grade level and only one in 10 are at grade-level for math.
The district has been on a state watch list for eight years and last year it implemented a new improvement plan, but a state panel said not enough has improved.
“The district received new rating in August," Bautsch said. "Based on tests in spring, the district did not show enough improvement, so state asked district and school board to come back and have a continued conversations with state board about other actions the district can take to improve its performance."
The district has already brought in one outside group, called Beyond Textbooks, to help set school curriculum and to train teachers.
“They focus on instructional support, they provide curriculum framework, scope and sequences for teachers, but not enough to move the district off the accountability clock,” Bautsch said.
In October, a report was released that blamed the school board for the lack of progress.
“There is lack of evidence indicating that district leadership has the capacity to act as a change agent to drive dramatic achievement gains," it reads. "District leadership continues to have high turnover, and there is limited evidence to indicate that the current leadership team has created a sense of urgency or that they have developed a strategic plan to lead change that will result in improved student outcomes."
Now, district leadership is considering handing all of the power over to a new group to improve the district’s performance.
The state panel gave parents and the public a chance to comment on what they would like to see done to improve the district. Wednesday’s meeting will also have a public comment period for people to weigh in.
The state is likely to recommend the changes and in that case, it will be up to the district to decide how to move forward.
If the district doesn’t change or comply with the recommendations by the panel, the state does have some options. The CDE can pull the accreditation of the district, it can order some schools to be transformed into charter schools, it could pursue a reorganization plan and change the district boundaries or it could even close some schools.
The bottom line, though, is that something has got to change for the betterment of students.
The panel is meeting Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the fate of the district.