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Study shows Denver charters have lower achievement gaps than other schools

By   /   March 24, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

An education equality index released this week points out the achievement gap between low-income and more well-to-do students in Denver and its bedroom community Aurora was wider than the gap in more than 90 percent of other major cities.

But the index also highlighted seven Denver schools in which most students come from low-income families that had small achievement gaps. Six of those are public charter schools, including three Denver School of Science and Technology schools: KIPP Denver Collegiate High School, KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy and University Preparatory School.

KSPA photo/by Evan Semon

SUNSHINE SUCCESS: KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy was one of Denver’s achievement gap success stories.

Kimberlee Sia, executive director of KIPP’s Colorado schools, told Chalkbeat Colorado that KIPP schools try to identify achievement gaps at an early age and determine strategies for helping those children catch up to their peers.

“While they may have come to us two or three grade levels behind, because of the rigor of instruction, it helps contribute to closing the gaps,” Sia said.

Similar stories of charter success emerged from other major cities where school choice is an option.

“The findings from the Education Equality Index clearly illustrate the large achievement gaps plaguing our K-12 education system. Nevertheless, many schools are making significant strides in providing high-quality opportunities to all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background, and charter public schools are leading the way,” Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said in a statement.

While Denver has among the 10 worst achievement gaps among the 100 largest U.S. cities surveyed, the city has also shown some of the most improvement between 2011 and 2014: Denver narrowed the gap by 31 percent during that period, ranking it second best in the nation.

In most major cities, the gap either stagnated or grew.

“Regardless of zip code or family income, every child deserves a quality education. And yet we know that not every child gets one,” said Jon Rybka, program officer at the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. “The Education Equality Index gives us the opportunity to challenge this inequality by looking at the most successful schools and finding ways to replicate what is working. By doing this, we can give more students an equal opportunity to succeed.”

The index was developed by the nonprofits groups Education Cities and GreatSchools and funded by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.


Johnny Kampis is National Watchdog Reporter for Watchdog.org. Johnny previously worked in the newspaper industry and as a freelance writer, and has been published in The New York Times, Time.com, FoxNews.com and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A former semi-professional poker player, he is writing a book documenting the poker scene at the 2016 World Series of Poker, a decade after the peak of the poker boom. Johnny is also a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors.