Denver State's New Largest School District; Falcon 49 Open Enrollment Soars

Yesterday we officially learned how many students showed up to Colorado public schools at the beginning of October. The enrollment figures made a little bit of a splash. Why? The news that for the first time in many years Jefferson County R-1 no longer serves the most students. But just barely:

As expected, the new count put Denver Public Schools in the top spot with 86,043 students, ahead of the 85,983 in Jeffco, which has been the state’s largest district for several years.

Guess that means I have to start getting used to saying that DPS is Colorado’s largest school district — at least for this year. Chalkbeat interestingly points out that Denver didn’t have the largest percentage gain from 2012-13. It was another district I’ve told you about quite a bit.

Innovative Falcon 49 in eastern El Paso County soared from 15,478 (18th largest) to 18,880 (14th largest), quite a one-year leap. Most of that growth is accounted for by a fourfold leap in students who live outside the district limits enrolling into Falcon 49.

A similar but less pronounced trend occurred in Douglas County, where the third-largest district grew by more than 1,500. Not all of that is explained by where people are choosing to live. Compare the number of students open enrolling into the district who live elsewhere with the number of students who live in Dougco but enrolling elsewhere. Last year the district had a net gain of 1,462 through open enrollment. This year the net gain is 1,860.

To what extent that indicates popularity of the reforms isn’t entirely clear. But it is an interesting data point.

Another noteworthy fact highlighted in the story is the declining number of students enrolled in full-time online programs. I have little doubt that little fact will appear in upcoming legislative debates. Why the reversal? I don’t know. But if it’s a natural development because parents are satisfied with the results, then that’s healthy. If something else is going on, I’d like to know about it, too.

As the Chalkbeat story points out, this news ties into another legislative issue that’s destined to emerge this year. I’m talking about a proposed shift (finally!) from an October count to an Average Daily Membership formula — one of the first points in my Education Policy Center friends’ Digital Learning Policy Road Map for Colorado.

We’d like to see that change happen. For now we can be content to learn that a new study shows charter schools are not pushing out students after they receive the funding for them, at least not any more than other public schools at large.

Still, Average Daily Membership just makes more sense from the standpoint of equity and incentives. It would be nice to see Democrats and Republicans come together around that issue, if nothing else this election year.