The growth and location of Denver charter schools, explained in 3 charts

Students at University Prep Elementary's flagship school in Denver. (Photo by Eric Gorski, University Prep is a public charter school serving students K-5th grade. (Photo by Eric Gorski, Chalkbeat Colorado)
Students at University Prep Elementary's flagship school in Denver. University Prep is a public charter school serving students K-5th grade. (Photo by Eric Gorski, Chalkbeat Colorado)

Over the past five years, the number of Denver students attending district-run schools has decreased while the number of students in charter schools has grown.

Disagreement over the role of charters in the district marked the heated Nov. 5 school board election. Ahead of the new board members being sworn in Dec. 4, here’s a look at the number and location of charter schools in Denver.

It comes courtesy of three charts provided recently to the school board. The charts show not only the growth of autonomous schools, such as charter schools and district-run schools with “innovation status,” but also the distribution of autonomous schools around the city.

This mixture of school types in Denver Public Schools has been known as the “portfolio model” — or in the district’s phrasing, the Denver “family of schools.”

Credit: Denver Public Schools

Some charter schools post among the highest test scores in Denver, and supporters say the flexibility that charters have from state and district rules allows the independently run schools to innovate.

But critics, including the Denver teachers union, oppose charters for siphoning students and funding from district-run schools. The three school board candidates who won expressed skepticism about charters and vowed not to open any more.

Credit: Denver Public Schools

Some parts of the city have more charter schools than others. For instance, 40% of public schools in far northeast Denver are charters. But in southeast Denver, only 17% of schools are charters.

Credit: Denver Public Schools

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Melanie Asmar on November 22, 2019. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

Melanie Asmar covers Denver Public Schools. Asmar previously worked as a reporter for Westword newspaper in Denver and for a daily newspaper in her native New Hampshire. She joined Chalkbeat Colorado in 2015.

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