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Dougco Shakes It Up Again By Earning State’s Top Accreditation Rating

There was a time when my former perpetually 5-year-old self was busy writing a lot about Douglas County. The ebb and flow of news and activity has changed that somewhat, though there have been opportunities of late to talk about my Education Policy Center friends chiming in to the courts on the Choice Scholarship Program, and more recently on the tools the district has made available to promote a broader system of informed parental choice.

This week, though, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share some other positive news. After a few years at the second-highest ranking of “Accredited,” Douglas County School District has regained its spot among the ranks of the state’s most highly accredited districts. The Colorado Department of Education’s calculations ascribed the honor to 27 of the state’s 178 school districts, none larger than Dougco.

Given the 60,000-plus student district’s top marks in Colorado for productivity, we shouldn’t be surprised by the recognition. But sadly, some are aghast. As 9 News reported, an angry faction within the district appears unready and unwilling to accept the good news at face value:

Douglas County Parents say the Accredited with Distinction rating is misleading. “We are concerned that the Douglas County School District will use this improved rating to deny our declining academic growth scores, that they will abandon their promise to improve academic achievement, and that they will continue to ignore high levels of parent and stake-holder dissatisfaction.”

[Deputy Commissioner of Education Dr. Keith] Owen says the rating is for Douglas County and for any district is accurate.

“Absolutely objective rating system,” Owen said.

Opponents of the reform board and district spent a fair amount of time in 2012 trying to make hay out of the fact that Dougco had declined in its accreditation rating. Yes, even though the decline was largely the result of a change in how the ratings were calculated and assigned, and it incorporated results from a school year before the reform superintendent took her position.

There also is the issue of Dougco agreeing to authorize the charter for Hope Online Learning Academy, an “alternative education campus” charter school that overwhelmingly serves highly at-risk youth. As the Commissioner of Education explained in a November 11 letter to the school district, to avoid creating “a disincentive for authorizing Alternative Education Campuses,” the law allows the rating to be appropriately adjusted. In order not to penalize the district’s mark, the AEC — in this case, Hope Online — has to “have demonstrated improved performance over time.”

Dougco’s 80.6 score puts them on par with Boulder Valley’s 80.5, the only other district among the 10 largest to earn the Accredited with Distinction rating. The metro area’s Littleton and non-union Academy 20 were two other districts of significant size to bring home the highest mark. Ouray and Steamboat Springs, both located in the mountains, finished with the two highest ratings statewide. Along with Academy 20 and Littleton, they are two of only 11 Colorado districts to reach Accredited with Distinction each of the past five years.

Why do I have a feeling that Dougco is going to be much more in this blog’s immediate future?