About Charter Schools

Charter schools are tuition-free, public schools that have the flexibility to be more innovative and are held accountable for student achievement. Below are more facts about Colorado's charter schools.

  • Charter schools are public schools.
  • Charter schools do not charge tuition.
  • Charter schools use non-discriminatory enrollment practices.
  • There are no "test-in" requirements to attend charter schools.
  • Currently, nearly 72,000 students attend the 170 charter school campuses in Colorado. This amounts to approximately 8.8% of total K-12 public school enrollment in the state.
  • Charter school students must take the CSAP.
  • Charter schools are subject to the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
  • Charter school teachers must be "highly qualified" under NCLB.
  • Charter schools serve a broad range of diverse students, including low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, and students with disabilities or other special needs.
  • Colorado charter schools continue to attract a variety of students and are located in diverse geographical areas across the state.
  • Charter school programs and academic designs are as diverse as the students they enroll. Some charters implement longer school days, while others implement curricula specifically designed for at-risk students, gifted children, pregnant/parenting teens, juvenile offenders, and more.

Statewide data regarding the nearly 72,000 students enrolled in charter schools in 2010-11, demonstrates diversity comparable to statewide data on traditional public schools. Currently:

42.8% of Colorado charter school students are minorities compared to 44.5% of the state's traditional K-12 public school students.

Colorado Charter School Demographics (2009-10):

  • 60.86% are white (not Hispanic)
  • 26.19% are Hispanic
  • 7.75% are Black (not Hispanic)
  • 4.12% are Asian or Pacific Islander
  • 1.08% are American Indian or Alaskan Native

Colorado Traditional Public School Demographics (2009-10):

  • 60.85% are white (not Hispanic)
  • 28.50% are Hispanic
  • 5.80% are Black (not Hispanic)
  • 3.68% are Asian or Pacific Islander
  • 1.17% are American Indian or Alaskan Native

Academic Performance
Evidence of the strong academic performance of charter schools is provided by both federal and state measures of student achievement:

In 2009, Colorado's charter schools outperformed the state's non-charters in the percentage of schools with strong enough academic performance to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Specifically,

  • 85% of charter elementary schools made AYP, compared to 73% of non-charter elementary schools.
  • 81% of charter middle schools made AYP, compared to 49% of non-charter middle schools.
  • 36% of charter high schools made AYP, compared to 34% of non-charter high schools.

Charter School Funding
The academic success achieved by charter schools is especially impressive in light of the financial challenges they face:

  • On average, charter schools in Colorado spend $480 per student from designated per-pupil operating revenue on facilities costs.
  • School districts finance their facilities using property tax, mill levies, and taxpayer-backed bonds. Charter schools generally do not receive a proportionate share of these monies. As a result, money often comes out of the classroom to pay for buildings.

Source: Colorado League of Charter Schools, Focus on the Facts (pdf)

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