DENVER — The popular magazine known for ranking all-things Colorado is out with its ranking of schools in the Denver Area, and for Douglas County Schools, it was another report card full of A’s.
Rock Canyon, Mountain Vista and Highlands High Schools all made 5280’s list of top high schools, the latest in a line of surveys to show Douglas County Schools at or near the top in the state and nation.
But for teachers and students at these three top ranked schools, there was a catch –5280 didn’t list the Douglas County schools in the printed publication sent to thousands of homes, stores and businesses. Instead, the magazine quietly updated its online version to include the three schools, adding this apologetic footnote:
“Due to an oversight, the Douglas County School District was not included in our rankings in the print edition this year. Three DCSD schools more than met the criteria for inclusion on our list of Denver metro’s top public high schools and join the list here. We regret the omission.”
“It is one of those eye-roll moments,” said John Carson, a school board member whose daughter attends a Douglas County High School. “But we will be gracious and give 5280 the benefit of the doubt.”
For DougCo backers, the “omission” was more than a little suspicious. Unions and other left-of-center critics of the district have endeavored mightily to argue the district is moving in the wrong direction, even though test scores have increased across subject areas since the new board and superintendent have been in place.
When the publication hit newsstands with no mention of Douglas County, critics of the board took to anti-DougCo social media sites to slam the district.
“This is more proof that things are not going in the right direction for the students.” one well-known anti-reform activist crowed on the site “Involved Douglas County Teachers.”
While 5280 issued a clarification, most of the anti-DougCo operatives who seized on the original 5280 story have not.
This isn’t the first time 5280 has made an uncomfortable news appearance in the last month. Conservatives hammered the magazine when a top writer and editor who had been extensively covering Governor John Hickenlooper for years left the publication to take a senior political post with Hickenlooper.
“We’ve always used the standard six-county metro as the focus for our rankings. For the last few years, however, we’ve described that area in the article as schools ‘in a one-county radius around Denver, plus Boulder,’” 5280 Editor-in-Chief Daniel Brogan told TCO in an email. “This year, we transitioned the schools package from the editor who had done it for several years to two other editors. The editor who compiled the statistics looked at last year’s definition and applied it a little too literally (Douglas County does not, in fact, touch Denver County).”
“It was an honest mistake, but we should have caught it,” Brogan added. “As soon as we realized what had happened, we posted an apology on our website, along with listings for the three Douglas County schools that made the grade.”
Brogan said the correction will be also printed in the magazine’s October issue.
“Bottom line: We’re embarrassed by the omission and there was no hidden agenda behind it,” said Brogan.
Brogan also dismissed suggestions that Potter had anything to do with the development of the school rankings.
“[Max Potter] wasn’t involved in the schools package,” said Brogan.