SchoolWorks recently began working with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to coordinate the work of its State Review Panel. The State Review Panel (SRP) is a body of Colorado-based education experts charged with evaluating the progress of schools and districts approaching the end of their time on the state’s five-year accountability clock. The SRP makes recommendations to the Commissioner and the State Board of Education regarding potential actions for these schools and districts. Such actions may include awarding a school Innovation Status, converting a school to a charter, takeover by a management agency, closure, or, in the case of districts, reorganization.
Ultimately, the State Review Panel aims to ensure that all students have access to a high quality education. The specific criteria that panelists use to evaluate a school or district’s progress, and ultimately inform their recommendations, are outlined in the Colorado Education Accountability Act of 2009. The criteria include determining whether:
- Leadership is adequate to implement change;
- Infrastructure is adequate to support school improvement;
- There is readiness and capacity of district, institute, or school personnel to plan effectively and lead appropriate actions;
- There is readiness and capacity to engage productively with the assistance provided by an external partner;
- There is a likelihood of positive returns on state investments of assistance and support to improve the performance in the current management and staffing; and
- It is necessary that the district, institute, or school remain in operation.
SchoolWorks is managing all aspects of the SRP’s work. More specifically, SchoolWorks is coordinating formal document reviews for 20 schools and districts, site visits for an additional 38 schools and districts, and the development of recommendations for each selected school and district based on these evidence collection activities. To accomplish these tasks, SchoolWorks has recruited potential SRP panelists, revised or created tools for the various components of their work, and provided training for selected panelists.
SchoolWorks is working to ensure that the State Review Panel component of the accountability process in Colorado remains transparent, consistent and fair. In addition to giving panelists direction as they evaluate schools and districts, the supports and structures SchoolWorks has put in place will allow schools to conduct self-evaluations aligned with the six critical factors listed above, leading to adjustments that can ultimately improve student achievement.