Eighteen Colorado-based community organizations have come together to develop a $1 million internet-based project that translates multifaceted state rankings of public schools into a simple A to F letter grades.
"Every parent can relate to grades A through F," said Colorado Succeeds president Tim Taylor, a member of the Colorado School Grades coalition.
"We're not changing inputs, just translating in a way that is clear."
The website is bilingual – both in English and Spanish – and launched this week to coincide with the beginning of choice enrollment for many districts in Colorado, and commenced with an advertising campaign that saw 18 billboards erected across the state and multiple radio and television commercials.
The grade breakdown system was developed by the Colorado School Grades coalition, working with the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the University of Colorado Denver's School of Public Affairs.
The current state Department of Education ranking system labels almost two thirds of public schools in the top category of "performance", and Colorado School Grades wanted to see a bit more clarity and distinction in the ways public schools are ranked.
"We thought it would be better to be able to acknowledge who our top performers were," Taylor said.
"Clearly some schools need help too."
Under the coalition's grading calculation, most schools in this band would be given a letter C for average, creating a level of distinction for schools that excel and receive an A or a B.
Academic growth is key for these calculations, making up 75 percent of the final score in elementary and middle schools, and 50 percent in high school grades.
"Transparency is the most important factor — clear, concise and easy-to-understand information," Taylor said. "But the second part is taking action."
Alongside grading schools, the website provides information on how to reach out to teachers, principals, superintendents, board members and legislators to push for school improvement, creating a resource for parents and stakeholders alike.
"If someone's not satisfied with their school's grades, they can see the different opportunities and suggestions on how to get involved to make an improvement," Taylor said.
The coalition consists of the Colorado Children's Campaign, Stand for Children, the Professional Association of Colorado Educators, the Walton Family Foundation and the Adolph Coors Foundation.