Sunday, December 7, 2014

Is it Time?

I was just reading NACSA's latest report, On the Road to Better Accountability, and one of the policy recommendations it to allow the state's Charter School Institute (CSI) to independently authorize charter schools without restrictions. Currently CSI can only authorize in districts that don't have exclusive chartering authority.

This state policy restriction was in the original CSI bill. In order to get the legislation approved, the sponsors carved out provisions for certain school districts. Then several years later, the General Assembly neutered the law even further by removing the requirement that districts needed to demonstrate their right to retain exclusive chartering authority every year. Consequently, only eight school districts do not have exclusive chartering authority. This is out of 178 districts in the state.

With more than 20 charter schools successfully operating and being overseen by CSI, I think it is time for legislators to loosen restrictions. CSI has proven that it can hold schools accountable and demand high expectations. Moreover, CSI has intentionally directed its efforts to meeting the legislative-mandated mission to serve at-risk students by having a greater percentage of Alternative Education Campuses (AECs) and schools serving at-risk students.

It IS time to give CSI authority to authorize charter schools without the restriction of only being able to authorize if the local district grants permission.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Charter School Enrollment

It's that time of year when my favorite study is published. The one about how many charter school students are enrolled in school districts across the country. The ninth annual edition of the National Alliance for Public Charter School's A Growing Movement: America's Largest Charter School Communities analyzes charter school growth and saturation rate.

Districts with more than 10% enrollment of charter school students in Colorado are:

22% Weld County 6 (Greeley)
21% Brighton 27J
17% Colorado Springs 11
16% Denver
15% Adams 12
14% Falcon
13% Academy 20
13% Douglas County
11% St Vrain
11% Aurora

Does it seem odd to you that one of the largest school districts in the state is missing from that list? Jefferson County R-1's rate is 9%, below the 10% threshold for the table included in the report. However, it's the same size as Denver, with 16% of the market share. Jeffco has 15 charter schools while DPS has more than 40 now.

Denver Public Schools has 13,653 students enrolled in public charter schools during the 2013-2014 school year, when the report was written. Jeffco had 7,595 in the same period.

It's interesting to see the changes to this list over the years. In 2009, Cheyenne Mountain Academy was at the top of the list, but then Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy's high school, Vanguard Classical moved to the state's Charter School Institute and so they're not even on the list for the Dec. 2014 report. This year Vanguard is back with their local district, which means that next year we'll see the data change.

Adams 12 (Thornton-Northglenn) continues to slip in the ranking. In 2010 it was the top district with the most charter school students enrolled. This was largely due to the largest virtual school in the state, Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA). In 2011 it slipped to third place and this year is in fifth place. It will continue to fall since COVA has lost a significant number of students in recent years when many students transferred to another K12 operated school, Colorado Preparatory Academy created by the Colorado Digital BOCES.