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News release - State Board directs improvements for two school districts

March 9, 2017

State board directs improvements for two school districts

Management partner approved for Montezuma-Cortez, and partial closure of an online school approved for Julesburg

DENVER –  The Colorado State Board of Education at its March regular meeting directed pathways for significant academic improvements at two school districts with chronically low performance.

The accountability hearings today marked the first time since the passage of Colorado’s 2009 Accountability Act that the state board has been required to direct improvements for districts that have received low ratings for more than five years.

Montezuma-Cortez School District in southwest Colorado and Julesburg School District in the northeast corner of the state were the first of five districts to come before the board as required by the accountability law. An additional 11 schools in eight different districts also will be required to come before the board by June 30.

Management partner approved for Montezuma-Cortez

The board supported the proposal developed collaboratively by Montezuma-Cortez School District and CDE staff to work with a management partner to increase outcomes for students. The University of Virginia will serve as the district’s management partner, helping school and district leaders increase the effectiveness of their efforts to drive up student achievement.

“It’s clear that the administrators and board members at Montezuma-Cortez have thought very deeply about what is needed to turn things around for students in their community,” said Board Chairwoman Angelika Schroeder. “They’ve accepted responsibility for current performance, and taken a hard look at their data and the support teachers need to elevate their instruction.”

Partial closure of Julesburg's Destination Career Academy approved

The board also supported the proposals developed by Julesburg School District and CDE staff to close the middle school grades of the district’s low-performing online school, Destination Career Academy.  The online school will continue to serve high school students, who are performing at a higher rate than the middle school students. The district has agreed to a communications plan to ensure that the middle school students at Destination Career Academy are provided with information about other higher-performing online, neighborhood or charter school options for the 2017-18 school year.  

A final, written directive for each school district will be developed and approved by the board later this spring.

Education Commissioner Katy Anthes reminded the board that although they are focusing on the state’s chronically low performing school districts for the next few months, many schools and districts have already made great strides in improving outcomes for students.  

In 2010 when the new accountability ratings were announced for the first time, 24 districts received Priority Improvement or Turnaround ratings. Today, only five of those districts have remained in those bottom tiers. And in 2010, 204 schools were identified for Priority or Turnaround school plans. Of those 204, only 12 have consistently received the lowest ratings.

Milken educators recognized

Jennie Schmalz a third-grade teacher and literacy coach from Elkhart Elementary in Aurora Public Schools  and Felicia Casto the interventionist and math coach at Rim Rock Elementary in District 51 were recognized today by the state board as the 2016 Colorado Milken Educator Award winners.

This is the first time the prestigious Milken Educator Award recognized two educators in Colorado in the same year. Schmalz and Casto each received an unrestricted monetary award of $25,000 each in surprise school assemblies for their outstanding work with their students. Educators were considered for the award without their knowledge by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by CDE.

Legislative matters

The board voted to oppose House Bill 17-1160 unless an amendment is added that requires students who are English language learners to take tests in English after one year of schooling, including kindergarten.


The Board heard a summary of the final draft of the state’s plan of how it intends to implement the federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. Feedback from the public will continue to be collected until Monday, March 13. The board is expected to vote on the final state plan in April.


Additionally, the board took the following actions on rules: