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City Study 2019: Denver- Summary of Findings

This summary highlights major findings about the academic performance of students in public K-12 schools in Denver, Colorado. Performance is measured by one-year learning gains or growth students made from one school year to the next. We benchmark the growth of Denver students against the state average growth and then compare the progress of charter school students with that of similar TPS students within Denver, accounting for student characteristics.

Overall: Students in Denver posted stronger learning gains compared to the state average gains in both reading and math throughout the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 school years.

Sector: In both reading and math, Denver charter school students exhibited stronger gains than the state average in all three growth periods of 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17. District-run traditional public schools (TPS) in Denver showed the same pattern. Denver innovation schools grew similarly to the state average in 2014-15 and outperformed the state in 2015-16 and 2016-17 in reading. In math, Denver innovation schools outpaced the state in 2014-2015 and 2015-16 and were on par with the state average in 2016-17. Within Denver, charter schools exhibited stronger growth in reading in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and greater learning gains in math in 2014-15. No significant difference is found between Denver innovation schools and Denver TPS in either subject in any of the three growth periods.

A deeper dive into Denver student growth for the period ending in Spring 2017 reveals the following findings:

Charter School Type: Denver charter schools affiliated with a charter network, a Charter Management Organization (CMO) or an Education Management Organization (EMO), make greater progress in reading and similar growth in math as compared to the state average. Students attending Denver independent charter schools post stronger learning gains in both reading and math. Within the Denver charter sector, the growth of network-affiliated charters does not differ from that of independent charters in either subject.

Race/Ethnicity: Denver black students overall make stronger growth in both reading and math compared to the state average growth of black students. Breakout analyses by sector show that relative to black students in the state, Denver black students from charter schools post greater learning gains in reading and similar gains in math, while black students attending Denver innovation schools or TPS grow similarly in both subjects. Comparisons of sectors within Denver reveal stronger growth of charter school black students than that of TPS black students in reading.

Denver Hispanic students, overall and particularly those from charter schools and TPS, outperform the state average Hispanic student in both reading and math. The growth of Hispanic students attending Denver innovation schools does not differ significantly from the state average of Hispanic students in either subject. Within Denver, neither charter school Hispanic students nor innovation school Hispanic students grow differently compared to Hispanic student in TPS.

Poverty, ELL, and Special Education: Compared to the state average of students living in poverty, Denver students living in poverty overall make greater learning gains in both reading and math. The pattern particularly holds for students in poverty from Denver charter schools and TPS, while students in poverty in Denver innovation schools perform similarly to the state average of students living in poverty.

English Language Learners (ELLs) in Denver gain more in reading and grow similarly in math compared to the state average of ELLs. Sector breakout shows similar pattern for Denver charter ELLs. Denver innovation school ELLs make similar growth and Denver TPS ELLs post greater gains in both subjects relative to the state average ELL.

Overall, Denver students receiving special education services make greater progress in both reading and math compared to the state average of special education students. In sector breakout analyses, better performance is found in reading for Denver charter and innovation school students with special education designations relative to the average special education student in the state. Denver TPS special education students are on par with the state average special education student in reading. There is no significant difference in math growth between special education students in any of the three sectors in Denver and the average special education student in the state.  

Cross-sector comparisons of students participating in each service program within Denver indicate that charter school special education students exhibit greater learning gains than TPS special education students in reading.

Gender: Female students in Denver overall post stronger growth in both reading and math than female students in the state. Female students attending Denver charter schools and TPS show similar patterns. Female students from Denver innovation schools make greater progress in reading and grow similarly in math relative to the state average female student. Male students in Denver, overall and particularly those in TPS, exhibit stronger growth in both reading and math than male students in the state. Male students enrolled in Denver charter schools and innovation schools make greater learning gains in reading and similar gains in math compared to the state average of male students. Within Denver, growth for either male or female students does not differ significantly by the school sector of attendance. This pattern holds true for both subjects.