Colorado continues to make progress on reaching its Race to the Top goals but has a few things to work on, according to an evaluation released Friday by the U.S. Department of Education.
The state received $17.9 million in late 2011 as part of a round of R2T “consolation” grants.
The four goals in Colorado’s application were increasing state capacity to implement reform goals, helping schools and districts transition to new standards, implementing the new educator evaluation system and integrating STEM knowledge in all content areas.
The DOE evaluation said, “In Year 2, Colorado continued to develop and successfully implement most aspects of its Race to the Top plan.” The evaluation specifically cited improved project management by the state Department of Education, expanded communications by CDE, development of a state sample curriculum and assistance to districts on educator evaluation.
On the negative side, the evaluation concluded that “Colorado continued to grapple” with helping districts choose and weight various measurements of educator evaluation, “also struggled with” helping districts review different kinds of assessments and “had difficulty” making districts aware of available STEM resources.
Jill Hawley, Colorado associate commissioner, said felt the DOE report was “a pretty accurate assessment” of how the state is implementing the grant.
Read the DOE’s full Colorado report for December 2012-December 2013 here.
Colorado’s educator effectiveness system requires that half of the evaluations be based on student academic growth. That growth is measured not just with data provided by statewide tests but by growth information from multiple kinds of tests. A key part of CDE’s effort has been to help districts evaluate and choose what tests to use.
The evaluation system is still being rolled out. All districts were required to use state-compliant systems in the just-finished school year, but the results won’t count against possible future loss of non-probationary status by ineffective and partially effective teachers.
Next year, to account for a “data gap” caused by the switch to new tests, districts will have flexibility in how much to weight student growth when evaluating teachers. So the full rollout of the evaluation system launched in 2010 won’t come until the 2015-16 school year.
The state has lost three R2T bids but won two consolation grants, including the $17.9 million award. The state also won a $29.9 million R2T-Early Childhood Learning Challenge consolation grant in late 2012, and that award that was supplemented with an additional $15 million last year.
The federal R2T program made its first awards in 2010 and has given more than $5 billion to 24 states and the District of Columbia. Some $1 billion in grants to 20 states have been given in the early learning program. And more than $500 million has been awarded in R2T-District grants.
In 2012, the St. Vrain Valley district won a $16.6 million district grant. The district is using the money to expand and improve STEM programs.