Strive Preparatory Schools, a charter school system in Denver, is achieving significant results with a diverse group of children.
Strive Prep, which opened its first school in 2006, is now home to 11 schools and over 3,500 students. 97 percent of their students are people of color and 87 percent are low income. 42 percent are English learners and 12 percent are students with special needs. With a majority-minority and low income population, they are achieving results that surpass many of the public school systems in America.
Between 2007 and 2013, a Strive Prep school led all Denver Public Schools in academic growth at the middle school level. 92 percent of their first senior class was accepted to a four year college.
Strive’s philosophy is community oriented. Chris Gibbons, Founder and CEO of Strive, says “College preparation is a means to an end where scholars are equipped to earn a four-year college degree, come back to their community and lead and transform their own neighborhood in the ways that they imagine and the ways that they seek and believe are possible.”
The city of Denver is home to a robust school choice system. According to the Brookings Institution, Denver Public Schools is the best large district in the country for School Choice. There has been unprecedented bipartisanship among Republicans and Democrats in the state and many of the stakeholders have come together to put the needs of their population first.
It would be difficult to imagine a charter school group like Strive being successful in an environment where there is the typical partisan rancor over education. In many cities across the country, the school choice conversation immediately turns into war between political parties, parents and teachers unions. In Denver, stakeholders were determined to come together to find solutions for children. As a result of that, the environment was created for schools like Strive Prep to thrive.
The results of the Ohio Charter School system is mixed, with the combination of partisan squabbles and some low performing schools stunting growth in the sector. Cleveland is an exception, with an unorthodox mix of a Democratic mayor and a public school district CEO working together with public and charter schools to enhance the quality of education in the city.
Cleveland has seen growth in education as a result of their ambitious “Cleveland Plan”. Test scores are improving and enrollment in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District went up for the first time in two decades. There is more work to be done, however, with far too many schools in the district still failing and not enough charter schools to meet the need. Residents will decide if work will continue on the robust project when they go to the polls this November to vote on renewing a school levy.
There is some friction in Cleveland between the school district and the teacher’s union, who has threatened to go on strike and has taken a vote of “no confidence” against pro-reform CEO Eric Gordon. However, for the most part community stakeholders in Cleveland, like Denver, are working together to fix education. The hope is to have the same results that Strive Prep and others have been able to deliver for its residents.