A year ago, Pueblo was expected to be the state’s greatest challenge, with more than a dozen schools on the state’s accountability watchlist for persistent low performance. A last-minute boost in test scores saved most of the city’s schools — and the district itself — from state intervention. That left the three schools the state board considered Thursday.

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Throughout the spring, the board directed most of the state’s low-performing schools and districts to either develop an innovation plan or contract with a third-party to take over some operations of the schools or districts. In the case of Pueblo, it did both.

The state could have taken more aggressive steps, but didn’t. Officials could have ordered that a charter school take over a failing school, or forced a low-performing district to either split up or merge with a nearby high-performing district

The scope of each state-ordered innovation plan and partnership agreement varies widely between school to school. Pueblo’s management plan is one of the most specific about the authority the management organization has, and had the most input from the state board.

“I feel as though we’ve all learned together,” said state board chairwoman Angelika Schroeder, a Boulder Democrat.  We’ve tried to be true to the intent of the legislation. There’s an element of faith to all of this — the commitments that are being made to us, work that is going to be done by outside vendors that is going to helpful to school districts. But I’m optimistic.”

Schools and districts that met with the state board this year will have either one or two years to show improvement or face more drastic direction from the state.