Susan Miller

Student Achievement - New Leadership Delivering Results for Our K.I.D.S.

We all want to believe our children are being offered the best education possible. For years Jeffco School District has been telling us how well they are doing by comparing Jeffco achievement numbers to other districts and the whole state of Colorado.


But the reality is our children won’t be competing for jobs only in Colorado or only against other Coloradans. They will be competing on a national level. When the District compares Jeffco to the whole state of Colorado, we were given a false sense of security. The real comparison is how Jeffco students compare to students in other states such as Massachusetts or Virginia.


We have a persistent achievement problem in Jeffco schools that is growing worse, and has a serious negative impact on our children’s ability to successfully compete in the global economy after they graduate. 


Colorado Department of Higher Education research suggests “by 2020, almost three-fourths of jobs will require some education beyond high school.(1) Colorado’s 2016 Talent Pipeline Report found that 97 percent of so-called “top jobs”—in-demand jobs that show high growth and pay above a living wage— demand some level of formal postsecondary education or training.(2) In fact, economists estimate that the demand for college-educated adults in Colorado is the fifth highest among all states in the nation. In contrast, the demand for high school-only trained adults in Colorado is the second weakest in the nation.”


My areas of focus are:

  • All 3rd graders need to be able to read at grade level by the end of their 3rd grade year

  • Every graduating student should be able to demonstrate the academic proficiency needed for success in his or her next step after high school.

  • Every student should achieve at least a year’s worth of academic growth, and those that are behind should receive at least two years’ of academic growth, each year so they can catch up for a successful graduation

"While in line the first week of school at a local pizza spot in our neighborhood, I overhear two moms discussing their children’s transition from third to fourth grade.  Both children attend the same school, but their experiences were quite different. One mom was very concerned that her little one was struggling with the material she had to read as a fourth grader. Her mom said her grades had always been strong and there was never an indication that her daughter struggled with reading.  The other mom was also frustrated because her daughter is a strong reader and was ready to begin “reading to learn” in fourth grade.  She was frustrated because her fourth grade teacher was spending most of the class time on children that still needed to learn how to read. These are just two moms talking about a well-respected elementary school in Jeffco.  They are not unique."



College and Career ready – SAT


In 2017, the Jeffco School Board set a goal of raising average SAT scores to 560 in both Math and Reading/writing. 
Since then the average math score has declined from 526 to 522 and the Reading/Writing from 536 to 526, for a composite score of 1048. The average SAT composite score for 2019 University of Colorado’s freshman class is 1248, for Colorado State University it is 1210, and University of Northern Colorado is 1200. Jeffco’s performance means more than 50% of Jeffco’s students have SAT scores below the average scores at the largest universities in Colorado.  It isn’t surprising that the most recent data shows that 27% of Jeffco graduates who attend state colleges and universities must pay for non-credit remedial courses.

3rd Grade Reading

In 2019, 54% (3,261) of Jeffco 3rd graders did not meet state literacy (reading and writing) standards, and 55% (3,321) did not meet state math standards. We’ve seen hardly any improvement since 2015, when 56% of Jeffco 3rd graders did not meet Colorado’s literacy and math standards.


In 6th grade, 48% (3,096) of students did not meet state literacy standards in 2019, and 65% (4,192!) did not meet state math standards. In 2015, 48% of 6th graders didn’t meet state literacy standards, and 58% didn’t meet them in math.


Please keep in mind; we can’t blame poverty for these alarming results.  Approximately 31% of Jeffco students are eligible for the Free and Reduce Lunch program(s).


Learning a Year’s worth of Knowledge Each Year

Colorado measures how much knowledge students gain each year compared to their peers around the state. These are called growth scores and last year the state average growth was 50% and yet in Math Jeffco’s growth was only 47% while literacy growth was 48%.  Both Denver and Aurora have higher academic growth rates than Jeffco. Including Denver and Aurora, in math there are ten metro districts with growth scores higher than Jeffco including Englewood and Sheridan. In literacy, there are eight metro districts with higher growth rates including Westminster.


Research by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and others have found that very few kids who don’t meet state standards in 6th grade will catch up to college and career readiness by the time they graduate.  Many of those who go to college will need to pay for non-credit remedial courses, and have a much lower chance of obtaining a degree within six years.


Graduates who enter the workforce or the military will struggle to pass pre-employment screening or the ASVAB tests. 


Being able to read and write are critical to success, both in school and in the workforce. We must dramatically improve our unacceptably low 3rd grade reading scores. 
This is critical for our children’s future success.