In Denver, Privately Run Public Schools Are Leading Children to Greatness

August 25, 2016—On a sunny Friday morning, I got the opportunity to talk to the leadership behind STRIVE Prep, a chain of charter schools operating in Denver, Colorado.

The organization began as a single school in 2006 and now, it serves nearly 4,000 children in the Denver area. Currently, 97 percent of STRIVE’s students are children of color, whereas about 70 percent of Denver students who attend traditional schools have the same background. At least 42 percent of STRIVE’s students are English learners.

According to their own estimate, 97 percent of STRIVE elementary school students either meet or exceed the expected growth. And at least 97 percent of STRIVE’s first senior class got accepted to 4 year colleges. An accomplishment that follows the school’s mission statement.

Seeing this growth firsthand helped me to understand how private elements bring about the right amount of individual training to the table, helping educators have more freedom to work with students who need to be taught differently. And it’s because charters like STRIVE have this freedom that they are often incredibly successful.

As part of our visit, we also learned about what parents have to say about STRIVE.

In this video, STRIVE CEO Chris Gibbons explains that communities in need in Denver deserve “the very best education.” To parent Tomeka Reeves, the school helps to prepare her child to the tough world of higher education. “That’s what college is all about. You have to know that it’s not going to be easy,” and STRIVE helps her child understand and prepare for that.

But unfortunately for other children who do not have the opportunity to grow like STRIVE’s students, the charter school system is still not as popular as it should be.

Fear of privately run organizations runs amok among teachers unions and other organizations who have a lot to lose if decentralized education gains more ground.

Unfortunately, many of those who oppose the charter system are simply misguided.

In Denver, there are nearly 60 charter schools in operation. Because the state has been so friendly toward the system, its approach to public education has helped to expand quality options, making Denver the most developed model of the charter school system.

In Denver, the school choice movement makes their goal to expand access to choice among families, especially families in need, according to STRIVE’s Gibbons. Because of this opening, children are not just dreaming of a better future—they are working toward it.