A new landscape: Accountability, choice and educator effectiveness

Until roughly 25 years ago, the most important institution for educational accountability was the locally elected school board. State and federal accountability systems described in this chapter either did not exist or existed only as rudimentary and unobtrusive programs. Similarly, most of the choice options described in this chapter did not exist. In large measure, the accountability systems and the choice options that have been imposed on local school districts by the state and federal government were adopted based on the perception, whether right or wrong, that local school boards had failed to make local school systems highly effective.

However, it remains true, even with all the changes over the past 25 years, that local school boards remain the focus of accountability in every school district. Local taxpayers look to the school board if school finances are not handled appropriately. Parents look to the school board on matters of student safety, teacher quality, student achievement and any other matter pertaining to the district or their child. This chapter is designed to provide a better understanding of a school board’s role in accountability and student achievement by providing an overview of:

  • Federal and state accountability requirements
  • School choice options in Colorado
  • Teacher employment and evaluation laws
  • School safety requirements

State Accountability Requirements

The development of academic standards in Colorado was launched when the Colorado General Assembly adopted the Colorado Education Reform Act of 1993. [C.R.S. § 22-7-401 et seq.] The legislature declared, “This system of standards-based education will serve as an anchor for educational reform, promote authentic assessment of student learning, reinforce accountability and encourage equity.”

Academic standards are statements of what students should know and be able to do at the end of a grade level or grade span. Standards are not the same as the curriculum, which is the plan or sequence of instructional units employed to teach students. Colorado uses “performance levels” to refer to how well students are doing on the academic standards.

In 2008, the state legislature passed the Preschool to Postsecondary Alignment Act, also referred to as CAP4K (Colorado’s Achievement Plan for Kids). CAP4K took standards-based education to the next level by requiring the State Board of Education and the Colorado Commission of Higher Education (CCHE) to create a seamless system of public education standards, expectations and assessments. This alignment is intended to ensure that a student who achieves the required level of proficiency on state academic standards as the student progresses through the K-12 education system will achieve postsecondary and workforce readiness when the student graduates from high school.