Summit School District improves accreditation status. But work remains, district leaders say

Summit Middle School is pictured on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. CMAS test scores from the 2021-2022 school year revealed a massive disparity between test performance of Summit Middle School English Language Learners and non-English Language Learners.
Tripp Fay/For Summit Daily News

After unsatisfying test scores from the 2021-2022 school year caused a slight drop in the Summit School District’s accreditation status, the district has restored its standing following a new review from the Colorado Department of Education.

The announcement came during a Dec. 15 Summit School District Board of Education meeting. According to Ross Morgan, Summit’s data and assessment coordinator, the district was recently allowed to submit additional data from students in kindergarten, first and second grade to the education department which helped bump the district from accredited with an improvement plan to accredited.

“This puts us back literally in the green of where we’ve been historically,” Morgan said. “That does deserve a round of applause primarily for our teachers who have been working so hard and who really deserve this kind of acknowledgment.”



It had been over 10 years since the district was put on an improvement plan for its accreditation. While the change away from the improvement plan is seen as a win for the district leaders, Morgan said it will likely have little impact on how the district handles its status.

Not being on an improvement plan, the district can complete plans that measure student achievement every other year instead of annually.



Despite the leeway, Morgan said the district is still expected to complete those plans annually. And it still leaves a need to focus on “opportunity gaps between various groups of students within our district,” he said.

“We have come celebrations but we also have some hard work still to do,” Morgan said. “It reinforces that we’re moving in the right direction, but we can’t stop.”

The change in accreditation came after the district sent a letter in October to the education department signed by all board members as well as Superintendent Tony Byrd asking for a reconsideration.

“Summit School District respectfully disagrees with the Colorado Department of Education’s determination,” the letter reads. It goes on to say the past school year’s data was originally used in the department’s decision making “does not include the positive work happening in kindergarten through second grade.”

According to Morgan, the district submitted a slew of data from the 2021-2022 school year for kindergarten, first and second graders that included national assessments, reading, writing and math scores — most of which had a 95% participation rate.

The data was broken into two categories — achievement and growth — and labeled using education department metrics. Achievement data represents a snapshot comparison of how the district is performing against a state or national standard while growth represents the progress over past years in those same areas.

When looking at achievement data, the education department found the district met expectations in several areas. That includes results for some tests in math for first and second graders as well as tests in English language arts for kindergarten and first graders. The only test results for all grades were considered to be approaching but not meeting expectations was for iReady, an online assessment for reading and math.

But growth data showed results for some of those tests were on a positive track. For example, kindergarten students were considered to be meeting growth expectations of iReady tests.

While the data’s ability to restore the district’s accreditation status came as a relief to school board members, many say it should not be distracted from the improvements that need to be made to test scores from older grades.

Those results, which caused the district to drop 11 percentage points in its performance rating from the education department — from 66% to 55% — were called “unacceptable,” “a gut punch,” and “terrible” by administrators, according to past reporting.

“The reason we moved (in accreditation) was because we included the lower grades,” said board director Julie Shapiro. “So if we’re only looking at our older grades, three and up, then that suggests there’s still a problem.”

According to test data from spring 2022, the state average of all student meetings or exceeding expectations in math was 31.5%, 3.5 percentage points higher than the Summit district. For English language arts, the state average was 43.2%, 2.2 percentage points higher than Summit.

The data also showed a discrepancy in test scores between students fluent in English and those learning English. About 40% of the district’s students are Hispanic, and data shows that those learning English scored much lower than non-learners.

For example, Summit Middle School students not learning English fell within the 78th percentile mark in comparison to all other students throughout the state of Colorado for their scores on CMAS — a state-mandated language arts test. English-learning students, however, fell within the 2nd percentile.

This means only 2% of students throughout Colorado performed worse than Summit Middle School’s English-learning students.

According to Morgan, the district did not break down its kindergarten through second grade scores by demographic as it did with data from later grades because the education department did not ask it to.

Johanna Kugler, board secretary, said she’s glad to see better test results for younger students and added, “I really don’t want us to lose focus on those younger students but also our third grade and older kiddos who didn’t perform well and who we can see we see we are struggling with.”

As school board members reiterated the need to shore up gaps, Byrd said the results from earlier grades deserved a “shoutout to teachers, all of our teachers.

“Our work is improving, and while we’re not there, that’s an important thing for everyone to know,” Byrd said. “We’ll be on that road moving forward to get better and better.”