slowing growth

Charter and online schools report the largest increase in students in Colorado

Ryan Kilburn checks his schedule before leaving a bank of lockers at Overland Trail Middle School on August 17, 2017, in Brighton, Colorado. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post)

Colorado’s student population grew again in the fall of 2017, but by the smallest numbers since 1989. The biggest increases were in charter and online schools, according to data released by the state.

A total of 910,280 public school students from preschool through 12th grade were counted in the annual student count day in October, up from 905,019 last year.

Racially, the biggest student increases were among Hispanic students who now represent 33.7 percent of all Colorado public school students.

Statewide the number of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch decreased by more than 1,700 to 379,458 students. The number of students who are learning English as a second language also decreased.

Among district enrollments, the Charter School Institute, which opened two new schools this year, logged the biggest growth, adding 1,128 students, a 6.9 percent increase from 2016. The Charter School Institute is a network of charter schools authorized by the state but located throughout Colorado.

Students enrolled in online schools also grew substantially. This school year, 19,876 Colorado students are enrolled in an online school, a 1.5 percent increase from 2016.

Several school districts surrounding the metro area saw drops in enrollment. Aurora Public Schools had the largest drop with 40,920 students in 2017 down from 41,797 in 2016 — a decrease of 877 students or 2.1 percent. Officials in Aurora have blamed rising housing costs that are driving out many families and instead attracting younger millenials who don’t have children.

Officials in districts dealing with lower student enrollments have also cited a decrease in the birth rate through the recession years as a reason for fewer students, especially in the early grades.

Districts with biggest increases:

Charter School Institute 1,128 6.9%
Cherry Creek School District 842 1.5%
Las Animas School District 544 46%
School District 27J 768 4.5%
Denver Public Schools 662 0.7%
Falcon 4 614 2.9%

Districts with biggest decreases:

Aurora Public Schools 877 2.1%
Colorado Springs 11 484 1.7%
Pueblo City 60 389 2.2%
Jeffco Public Schools 235 0.3%
Westminster Public Schools 197 2%

enrollment woes

More students applied to Renewal high schools this year, but that won’t necessarily jolt sagging enrollment

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
August Martin High School is part of New York City's Renewal turnaround program.

High schools in New York City’s controversial turnaround program saw 1,100 more applications this year, a jump city officials touted as evidence the long-floundering schools are rising in popularity.

But overall, 3,305 students received an offer to attend a Renewal high school this year — up just 26 students from the previous year.

Education department officials said the 9 percent rise in applications over last year shows that the 20 high schools in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s expensive and controversial Renewal program are successfully turning a corner and attracting new students. The stakes are high for Renewal schools: City officials have closed or merged schools that have struggled with low enrollment.

But the rise in applications doesn’t necessarily mean those schools will have a flood of new students next year.

One reason for the gap between applications and actual offers is that more students are applying to a larger number of schools. Students can list up to 12 schools on their high school applications, and this year the city saw a 4 percentage point increase in the proportion of students who listed all 12 options. That means students are applying to more schools generally, not just ones in the Renewal program.

Another reason more applications might not yield big enrollment jumps is that students could be ranking Renewal schools lower on their list of choices, making it less likely they will receive an offer to attend.

“If someone ranks a Renewal school 11th,” said Teachers College professor Aaron Pallas, “is that really a reflection of the change in demand for that school?”

There are different ways students can receive initial offers. They can be matched with a school on their list of 12 choices. Or, if they don’t receive a match, they can be assigned to their default “zoned” neighborhood school.

About 140 more students received offers as a result of ranking them among their 12 preferred choices this year, which a department spokesman said is evidence of increased interest in Renewal high schools. But fewer students were assigned to Renewal schools after failing to receive an offer based on their list of 12 choices, which is why only 26 additional students overall were matched at Renewal high schools this year. (An official also noted that two Renewal high schools are closing, which also caused fewer offers to be issued.)

The spokesman added that the number of offers by itself is not a perfect predictor of next year’s enrollment, since students who were not matched to any schools during the initial round of applications can now apply again. (It’s also possible that some students who arrive to the city after admissions process ends could be sent to a Renewal school.)

Still, at some Renewal schools, the jump in applications has been significant, which Pallas said could suggest some schools are successfully changing their image. At Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology in the Bronx, for instance, the school received 945 applications this year — a 47 percent increase.

And at Longwood Preparatory Academy, which saw a 16 percent bump in applications, Principal Asya Johnson said the school has worked hard to market itself to families. The school changed its name, launched a new career and technical program in digital media, plastered local bodegas with fliers, and beefed up its social media presence. For the first time this year, school officials invited middle school guidance counselors across the Bronx for brunch and a tour.

“We have been doing a lot of recruitment,” she said. “We are constantly advertising ourselves.”

Below, you can find a list of each Renewal high school and a breakdown of how many applications they received this year compared with last year. (The list also includes “Rise” schools, which are being phased out of the turnaround program.)

The New Chancellor

Tell us: What should the new chancellor, Richard Carranza, know about New York City schools?

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
A student at P.S. 69 Journey Prep in the Bronx paints a picture. The school uses a Reggio Emilia approach and is in the city's Showcase Schools program.

In a few short weeks, Richard Carranza will take over the nation’s largest school system as chancellor of New York City’s public schools.

Carranza, who has never before worked east of the Mississippi, will have to get up to speed quickly on a new city with unfamiliar challenges. The best people to guide him in this endeavor: New Yorkers who understand the city in its complexity.

So we want to hear from you: What does Carranza need to know about the city, its schools, and you to help him as he gets started April 2. Please fill out the survey below; we’ll collect your responses and share them with our readers and Carranza himself.

The deadline is March 23.