December 2014 Study Explains Factors Behind Denver’s Application-Based Education System

Schoolgirl rising her hand at geography lesson

The Denver Public School System is a bit different from nearly every other elementary and high school public education system in the country; rather than having kids assigned to certain schools based on geographic location, Denver parents are able to choose from a list of public schools in the city and request their top choices for which location they’d like to send their kids.

According to Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver’s school system has been in place for four years, and even though the program has been changed slightly since its beginning, it appears to be incredibly successful — largely because Denver’s education system is strong enough that at least 60% of all Denver parents note that they’d feel comfortable sending their children to one of many different locations throughout the city.

This percentage is incredibly impressive, especially when compared to other cities that have implemented similar application processes for public schools: only 47% of parents in Cleveland, and 40% in Philadelphia, would feel comfortable relocating their child to another campus in the city.

These findings, provided by a report conducted by the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington (released at the beginning of December 2014), certainly look favorably upon the city of Denver, both in regards to the city leaders who handle education issues, and to the city’s entire education system itself.

But the data shows that there is one major issue in the system that still prevents many parents from sending their children to their first-choice schools: transportation.

Those familiar yellow school buses that began transporting kids to and from school back in 1939 are still some of the safest and most cost-effective methods of bringing kids to school. But in a system where one school’s student population is spread across an entire city, these buses quickly become the least effective methods available.

Unfortunately, this means that parents are often forced to find other transportation methods for their kids, or else send their children to closer schools where bus transportation is offered. The CRPE study shows that about 64% of all Denver parents drive their kids to school every day, and that the average trip for children attending school outside of their home neighborhood is about 15 minutes one way.

Most significantly, the study also showed that the second most common barrier when choosing a school was the inability to find reasonable transportation (the first barrier being that parents weren’t sure if a particular school was a good fit for their children).

While the study makes it clear that Denver’s school system has plenty of room for improvement, it’s also clear that Denver, in comparison to educational systems in other major cities, has managed to gain the trust of parents — and having that trust is a very rare, but very important, factor for creating better educational opportunities.

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