UCCS professor authors status report on state's charter schools

By Staff

The number of charter schools continues to grow in Colorado, and the community-based schools have become more ethnically diverse, according to a new study authored by a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs professor.

Dick Carpenter, an associate professor of leadership, research and foundations at the UCCS College of Education, wrote the comprehensive status report. The Colorado Department of Education issued the report on June 2.

In the 64-page study, Carpenter presents data and descriptive information about Colorado's 141 charter schools for the 2007 to 2008 school year. According to the report, charter schools serve some 56,188 Colorado students in cities, suburbs and rural areas.

In an interview with The Denver Post, Carpenter said if all of the state's charter schools were in one district, they would make up the state's fourth-largest school district.

"Most certainly, they are flourishing. They are increasingly attractive to families who are searching for a fit for their child," he told the newspaper.

Parents, teachers or community members typically operate charter schools, which offer students semiautonomous choices for public schools.

Among the study's highlights:

  • Forty-seven percent of charter schools enroll fewer than 300 students, which is down from 58 percent in 2006. Mean enrollment for the schools was 398.
  • The number of charter students enrolled in 2007 and 2008 ranged from six students to 3,341.
  • The largest brick-and-mortar charter school is The Classical Academy with 1,860 students.
  • Sixty percent of charter schools fell outside of the traditional grade-level configuration of elementary, middle or high schools.
  • Of the 133 charters schools that responded to a survey, 66 percent of charters schools (88 in all) used a waiting list or lottery pool for enrollment. The statewide waiting list total was 38,374.
  • Colorado charter schools served 20,930 students from ethnic minority groups, representing 37 percent of the total charter school enrollment.