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January 23, 2012
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Are Aspen schools making the grade?

ASPEN - A new television campaign that opens with the line "Colorado has a problem ... some of our schools aren't making the grade" might have parents wondering how our local schools stack up.

And that's the idea behind Colorado School Grades, which urges a visit to the organization's website to see how individual schools rank compared with other schools by giving them letter grades. But the grades might be deceiving; as far as Aspen Superintendent John Maloy knows, they are not sanctioned by the Colorado Department of Education.

"It's interesting because I had never heard of this organization or these rankings," he said Friday. "Usually we get a heads-up that something's out there, and I consider myself well read on these types of things, but I have not heard anything about it."

For the record, Aspen's schools received grades ranging from an "A" for Aspen High School (ranked 20 out of 364 high schools) to a "C" for Aspen Community School (ranked 955 out of 1467 elementary and middle schools). But Maloy said he cannot take the grades at face value just yet.

"I don't have a clear understanding of how the stats were pulled and the grades determined," he said. "With the (Department of Education), we know that you're comparing apples to apples and that the data is being gathered and utilized across the state in similar ways."

The website, which is presented by a coalition of 18 "community organizations," says the mission of Colorado School Grades is "to provide community members, parents, students, and educators with school performance information that is both accessible and easy-to-understand."

According to its website, Colorado School Grades worked with the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the University of Colorado at Denver to calculate the grades based on Department of Education data.

But Maloy expressed concern about the rankings and the science behind translating statistics into letter grades.

"No one ever asked us about being involved, but my understanding is that somehow they've taken the state rankings and converted them to letter grades," he said. "This has come up before, and it's been quickly defeated by schools, teachers associations, administrators associations - they've all said, 'No way - don't do that to our kids, to our schools, to our educators.'"

In fact, Maloy's guess is that Colorado School Grades is probably focused on promoting charter schools and school choice. The television commercial seems to imply the same.

"We've only got one chance at a great education," a student says in the commercial.

"Every child deserves a high-performing school," the narrator continues.

Since Aspen is such a small community - with just one public school at each level, one charter school and one private school - Maloy doesn't necessarily think the Colorado School Grades rankings are as important as Department of Education statistics.

"We will look into this a bit more, but I am guessing the important information for us will continue to come from the state."

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Jan 23, 2012 07:54AM Published Jan 23, 2012 01:58AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.