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Competency-Based Education and Early Return to In-Person Learning Served WPS Students Well During Pandemic 

Colorado Department of Education school and district performance frameworks for 2022 show that despite the challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, students in Westminster Public Schools (WPS) showed improvement over prior years.

The frameworks are the result of a complex formula that considers student test scores and other data points to assign a performance rating to schools and districts. WPS has long been critical of the state accountability process, pointing out that it doesn’t align with the district’s innovative Competency Based System (CBS). 

Still, even using the state accreditation model, WPS outperformed most districts and maintained its rating of “Accredited with Improvement.”  

WPS was the only district in the metro area to meet state expectations for participation (95% or greater) and show an increase in framework points. The distinction is important because WPS staff, students, and parents worked hard to test as many students as possible during the state’s 2022 spring testing window. Low participation rates typically result in lower ratings for schools and districts, but the penalty was waived this year at the direction of the Colorado Department of Education. 

Of note, WPS defied the odds on how “at risk” students fared during the pandemic. Local and national reports have consistently shown that children of color and poverty suffered the most extensive learning loss during the pandemic. However, WPS, which has a high number of minorities (84.4%) and children receiving Free and Reduced Meals (76.8%), showed an increase in points used to calculate performance frameworks.

“There are several important takeaways from these results,” said Pam Swanson, Superintendent of Westminster Public Schools. “Our Competency Based System (CBS) was critically important in ensuring that our students were held to rigorous standards. In addition, our decision to bring students back to in-person learning as quickly as was safely possible has been validated.”

CBS requires students to show mastery of learning content before moving to the next learning level. CBS works to eliminate social promotion by providing Anytime, Anywhere Learning ensuring that students are ready for the day after graduation.

“Students, parents, and staff went through unprecedented challenges during the pandemic and it is gratifying to see that our decision to get students back in the classroom and take advantage of our Competency Based System helped students continue learning through some very difficult times.”