MSD joins other state districts, wants ‘negative factor’ tossed

MEEKER I The Meeker School District RE-1 (MSD) Board of Education approved a resolution March 4 calling on the Colorado General Assembly and the governor to remove the negative factor in school financing.
The negative factor was implemented to reduce education spending during Colorado’s recent recession. Now that the recession has waned, MSD is joining the growing chorus to dump the negative factor.
The Senate Education Committee listened to superintendents from around Colorado at a 6.5 hour hearing March 1 on school finance House Bill (HB) 14-1292. The most common desire expressed by the superintendents was the need to reduce the $1 billion negative factor as much as possible, but a close second was to stop imposing new or expanded requirements for districts.
A news article in Chalkbeat stated that HB 14-1292 would reduce the state’s $1 billion negative factor by just $100 million. Also in the bill is new funding that would give districts $110 million to help pay for implementing recent laws and state programs, $40 million for construction funding and $13 million for charter school facilities.
Many school districts are wondering why the austerity measures imposed by the negative factor are continuing, especially since state employment numbers reached pre-2008 levels of 24 million last year. With the improving economy, Colorado ended FY 2013 with about $8.6 billion in general fund revenue, a surplus of $1.1 billion and an education fund in excess of $1.6 billion. The education fund would continue to grow based on extra revenue predicted for 2014.
Good news came during Tuesday’s MSD meeting from Superintendent Mark Meyer, who said Gov. Hickenlooper approved the funds recommended by the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) for Meeker and two other rural school districts. The measure is separate from HB 14-1292 and would provide $476,366 of relief for MSD’s $591,280 negative factor in FY 2013-14. This measure still leaves a total MSD budget shortfall of about $724,000, of which $114,914 is a result of the negative factor.
Athletic director Brett Steinacher updated the MSD board about the status of the high school track. A Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant application was submitted March 5 by the Meeker Foundation. GOCO invests Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. The current proposal would be to resurface the track itself to last another 20 years. The Eastern Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Park District (ERBM) has committed $400,000 to the project.
Tuesday’s MSD meeting heard mid-year reports from the principals and reports from the District Advisory Committee (DAC) and the District Leadership Team (DLT). The principals described the results of mid-year evaluations using a new model for teachers developed by the state. The DLT presented the status in implementing the MSD Strategic Plan approved last spring. The DAC has recommended that MSD seek more private sponsorship of athletics. They also recommend that if budget cuts are needed, cuts in transportation should come before personnel.
The MSD board approved a budget work session to address recommendations from the DAC and plan for the next fiscal year
The DLT discussed implementation of the MSD 2013-2016 Strategic Plan, adopted in May. The plan has a description of specific steps with targeted completion dates. One of the key goals is to implement the Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) for teaching. The CAS this is a basic list of expected concepts by subject and grade level. The plan can be viewed at the MSD website ( under the “Our District” tab. Appendices in the plan carry input from teachers, support staff, the board and others with specific programming recommendations.
MSD teachers and administrators are struggling to sort a changing climate of teacher and administrative evaluation and student testing requirements.
With last month’s Education Committee vote against a bill calling for an end to common core standards, common core standards will begin to be implemented next year. At a minimum, changes in student testing will be required.
In preparation for the DAC meeting last week, the DAC asked administrators to evaluate the amount of class time used for student testing. According to information provided to the DAC, the district uses a computer-based system called Measuring Academic Progress (MAP) three times a year for four hours in grades 2-12. This is in addition to about a day or day and a half for required Colorado standard tests (TCAP) in grades 3-10 and about a day or day and a half for different assessment tests and one college entrance test (the ACT) for juniors.
In addition to student testing, principals and teachers are required to be evaluated each year based on Senate Bill (SB) 10-191, which passed last year. The evaluations are based half on professional practice observed by an evaluation team and half on student academic measured by student testing. The “expected” student testing standards are determined by a combination of tests at the student’s grade level. The state teacher/administrator evaluation program began implementation in MSD during the 2013-14, but will not be fully in place until 2014-15.
A bill to delay the student testing portion of the teacher evaluation was introduced last week by State Sen. Mike Johnston. As the original sponsor of SB 10-191, the introduction by Johnston improves the likelihood for this bill to pass.
The new bill would delay the student growth portion of teacher evaluations until after the TCAP system is replaced by the new CMAS student testing system next year.
The Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) is a multi-state Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test based on the common core standards.
MSD uses the Colorado State Model Evaluation System (CSMES) for evaluating teachers and administrators based on a rubric. A rubric is a set of criteria and standards used to assess or communicate performance.