School Achievement in Denver: The Impact of Charter Schools

Charter schools in Denver are outperforming district-operated schools on both student academic growth and proficiency. More importantly, at grade levels with substantial charter school enrollment, the impact on the overall district results is meaningful.

With a small percentage of total student enrollment, the overall impact of charter schools is positive but limited. In 2011, charter schools increased the overall Denver Public Schools (DPS) median growth percentile by 1 point, and the number of proficient students by 0.9 percent. However, in individual grades with high percentages of charter enrollment, the impact is magnified. The largest charter enrollment is currently in sixth grade, where charter schools increased the overall DPS median growth percentile by 4.7 points and the number of proficient students by 1.9 percentage points.

This positive impact of charter schools in Denver is almost entirely due to the achievements of a small number of charter management organizations (CMOs) that have academic performance significantly better than both district-operated schools and single-school charters.