Report: Colorado education fares OK, rates well next to other states


WE’RE OK: Colorado is doing OK in its efforts to improve public education.

By Ben DeGrow |

Colorado education policies and low-income student performance continue to rate well when graded on the curve, according to a conservative organization’s annual report.

Yet the latest edition of ALEC’s Report Card on American Education identifies opportunities for the state to improve and excel.

The October release marked the 19th edition of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s analysis. The latest report, co-authored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Matthew Ladner and Dave Myslinski, grades states according to whether they have adopted a series of K-12 reform policies and also ranks states on absolute terms based on test scores for students eligible for the free and reduced lunch program.

Colorado showed statistically significant improvement on three of the four landmark national tests of the National Assessment of Educational Progress during the past decade, a period that allows for broad and consistent comparisons. NAEP tests are administered every two years to representative samples of students in every state.

In the short term, fourth-graders gained ground in both math and reading from 2011 to 2013. On the other hand, eighth-graders recorded no visible progress in either subject over the same two-year period. Indiana, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia registered the largest overall improvement in NAEP achievement.

Yet in ALEC’s overall performance rankings, Colorado education topped D.C. (22nd) and Tennessee (24th), and finished only one spot behind fourth-rated Indiana. A trio of northeastern states — Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont — took the top three places. The report’s authors strictly compared the combined performance of low-income students on the four 2013 NAEP tests, to avoid unfairly punishing states for the academic challenges associated with higher student poverty rates.

Even with the measured progress of recent years, significant shares of Colorado’s fourth-grade students are not reaching even baseline levels of performance. On the 2013 NAEP, 42 percent failed to demonstrate basic levels of reading achievement, with 24 percent similarly falling short in math.

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