Scott Gilpin works in advertising, so he’s used to dealing with people in the promotions business. He’s just not used to seeing them operating a local public school.
Gilpin lives in Denver, where he grew up, graduated from high school and now has two children enrolled in the public school system. Recently, when he decided to get more involved in Denver school politics, he discovered that the most rapidly growing form of school in his community were charter schools. So he determined to check one out.
When he toured his first charter, a school in the Strive Preparatory network, he couldn’t help but take note of the school’s staffing structure, which could have supported a mid-sized promotional campaign: his guide was the chief of external affairs for the network, and the school boasted a senior director of development and an associate director of recruitment, too.
Gilpin—who sent his children to the local public school they were zoned for, as his parents had done—wondered, “What kind of local public school needs to recruit its students?”
As Gilpin would learn, lots of new Denver schools are that “kind of school.”
Across the city, Denver has opened 27 charter schools in the last five years, and plans to start up six more in the 2016-17 school year – effectively doubling the number of charter schools in the city in less than six years, according to a recent report from the Center for Popular Democracy, a left-leaning research and advocacy organization in Washington, DC. Yet this rush to expand charters is hardly justified by the performance of the ones already in operation.
According to CPD, based on the school performance framework Denver uses to evaluate its own schools, “Forty percent of Denver charter schools are performing below expectations.” And of those schools, 38 percent are performing significantly below expectations.