New report shows mixed academic results for Colorado’s innovation schools

New report shows mixed academic results for Colorado’s innovation schools

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DENVER – The Keystone Policy Center recently published a new reportthat found mixed academic outcomes for students attending innovation schools in Colorado.

“Most of the schools are doing either slightly better or slightly worse than district-managed schools. And there are a few schools, for instance, in Denver that are hitting it out of the park. And then there are a number of schools on average that are not doing very well compared to district-managed schools,” said Van Schoales, Keystone Policy Center senior policy director. “I was surprised that on average, the schools weren’t doing better. The assumption is that when you provide schools with more flexibility that they have the ability to be potentially more successful.”

The report analyzed specific state testing results from Colorado Measures of Academic Standards (CMAS) and Colorado PSAT/SAT outcomes for innovation schools from the 2022-2023 school year.

More than 50,000 students attend about 100 innovation schools across Colorado.

Schoales said the Innovation Schools Act, which was passed in 2008, was an opportunity to create semi-autonomous schools that aren’t charter schools and are also not district-managed.

“We found that for high schools in innovation schools, only about one in 10 kids coming from families qualifying for free and reduced lunch were at proficiency (in math). And we find that the same group of kids in district-managed schools, one in five were proficient in math. So they’re both terrible. But the innovation schools are doing even worse in that case,” Schoales said.

But Schoales said some innovation schools are doing very well overall.

“We do know, anecdotally, that we’ve seen lots of changes in leadership in these schools, and we see that schools that are doing very well — just as is the case in charter schools or district-managed schools or in private schools — have great leaders, a really solid educational program and a commitment on the part of faculty to really meet students needs… And so I think that’s where we see differences between higher performing and lower performing innovation schools,” Schoales said.

Schoales hopes the Colorado Department of Education and local school district leaders use the report to analyze what’s contributing to the successes and challenges of innovation schools.

Earlier this, parents protested at Denver Public Schools Board of Education meetings after the school board dissolved innovation status for a few schools in the district.

New report shows mixed academic results for Colorado’s innovation schools


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