The mission of the Colorado Department of Education, the governing board of the educational system from the Centennial State, is to ensure that the young residents of Colorado receive schooling which is adequate, both in quality and quantity.
The CDE administers many aspects of education on a state wide level, while leaving some others at the latitude of each of the 178 school districts. This model, called “local control” assumes that local educational communities are better suited to make decisions which concern local aspects, such as the structure of the curriculum, the selection of personnel and the graduation requirements.
Nevertheless, the Colorado General Assembly established the State Board of Education as the governing body of the education system in the Centennial State. The executive branch of this organization is the CDE, charged with outlining and enforcing educational policies at state level. Since 1950, the institution is led by a State Commissioner for Education, who is appointed by the State Board of Education.
Here are some of the most important task of the CDE:
• Supervises school administration activities – accreditation, licensing and school transportation;
• Develops new educational policies;
• Manages the state library system;
• Administers the financial flow in the educational system.
These activities aim to ensure that young Coloradoans will receive high quality education, which will allow them to be competitive on the job market and become productive and gratified citizens. The three pillars of this effort are the high standard of knowledge which is required to be acquired by students, honest assessments of these standards, and the enforcing of accountability measures.
The Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) is one of the assessments used by the CDE to estimate the level of proficiency of students from the 3rd Grade to the 10th Grade. The CSAP is mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act and is designed to quantify the level of acquisition of the information contained in the approved learning materials. From the total of thirteen subject areas that form the Colorado Model Content Standards, three disciplines – Mathematics, Reading, and Writing – are evaluated each year, typically during the Spring Semester, while Science is only tested in the 5th, 8th and 10th Grades. For the numerous Spanish speaking students, a Spanish version of the test is available in the 3rd and 4th Grades. Also, the CSAP Alternative is customized for students with disabilities or those who can’t take the regular CSAP from various other factors.
The students taking the CSAP are graded on a four levels scale: Advanced, Proficient, Partially Proficient, and Unsatisfactory. The results of the students are quantified in an average rating which is assigned to the school which they attend. Schools which receive unsatisfactory ratings are eligible to receive support from CDE in the form of School Improvement Plans. When unsatisfactory ratings are obtained in three consecutive years, the school can be turned into a charter school and become the subject of special regulations. In extreme cases, when low ratings are achieved over several years the CDE can opt to remove the accreditation of the school, which means that particular institution will be closed and students will be moved to other schools from the district.
The CSAP is also significant because it determines if a certain educational institution is eligible to receive funding through Federal programs, under the No Child Left Behind Act.
It is therefore a compelling and influential assessment on every level of the educational activity, which ensures that the Coloradan educational system is ready to cope with the challenges of the ever changing American society.