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About Us: Colorado School Grades provides school performance information that helps parents choose the best schools for their students.

About Us

Colorado School Grades is presented by a coalition of 18 community organizations that believe all children deserve access to a high-performing school. Our mission is to provide community members, parents, students, and educators with school performance information that is both accessible and easy-to-understand. Our hope is that this website will help families and students make more informed decisions about the school they choose based in some part on academic information. We also created this site to inspire and equip community members, parents, students, and educators with the information and resources they need to effectively engage in local school improvement efforts.

Summary of Methodology

While most other rating systems are based solely on academic achievement, or one snapshot in time of student performance, Colorado School Grades believes in the importance of using student academic growth to calculate overall school performance. For this reason, Colorado School Grades worked with the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the University of Colorado at Denver and R-Squared Research, LLC to calculate the grades using the exact same variables and weights as the Colorado Department of Education’s School Performance Framework. The input data for calculating the overall grades includes:

For Elementary and Middle Schools For High Schools
Key Performance Indicator Weighting Key Performance Indicator Weighting
Academic Achievement 25% Academic Achievement 15%
Academic Growth 50% Academic Growth 35%
Academic Growth Gaps 25% Academic Growth Gaps 15%
College and Career Readiness 35%

The key difference between Colorado School Grades and the Colorado Department of Education’s School Performance Framework are the categories and the cut scores that are used to determine placement in a category. The chart below reports the Colorado Department of Education four categories and the distribution of schools in those categories. It is important to note that in the Colorado Department of Education’s model, the distribution of schools in the top two categories has significantly increased over the last couple of years as compared to the original distribution.

Colorado Department of Education School Performance Framework
(highest to lowest)
Category Original (2010) Distribution Current (2012) Distribution
Performance 40.0-100 30.0-100
Improvement 15.0-39.9 10.0-29.9
Priority Improvement 5.0-14.9 2.5-9.9
Turnaround 4.9 and below 2.4 and below

While Colorado has been a pioneer in developing an academic growth model and school performance framework, Colorado School Grades believes that these statutorily defined categories do not provide parents and community members with an accurate or intuitive portrayal of their school’s performance. When parents and community members do not understand how well their schools are performing, it is challenging to engage them in school improvement efforts. It is also difficult for parents to select schools based on academic performance and growth. Therefore, only the savviest parents are able to navigate choice in this complicated system.

For these reasons, Colorado School Grades replaces fuzzy categories such as “performance” and “priority improvement” with universally understood letter grades (A-F). Our theory is that community members, parents, students, and educators can much more easily understand grades, which convey a ranking scale in a way that the state’s categories do not.

Additionally, Colorado School Grades does not believe that the state’s curve is rigorous enough. Under the state’s existing system, schools in the 31st percentile and schools in the 99th percentile are both listed in the state’s top category. Therefore, Colorado School Grades assigns letter grades based on more nuanced, rigorous cut scores.

Colorado School Grades Ratings Model
(highest to lowest)
Category Distribution
A (plus) 98.0-100
A 92.0-97.9
A- 90.0-91.9
B (plus) 85.0-89.9
B 70.0-84.9
B- 65.0-69.9
C(plus) 55.0-64.9
C 25.0-54.9
C- 15.0-24.9
D(plus) 13.0-14.9
D 7.0-12.9
D- 5.0-6.9
F 4.9 and below

Read more about the grading methodology in the technical notes from the University of Colorado – Denver and R-Squared Research, LLC. The grading methodology for Alternative Schools is described in these notes from R-Squared Research, LLC.

Learn more about the Colorado Department of Education’s School Performance Framework and Growth Model.