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23,000 Want School Choice

“23,000 parents partake in streamlined Denver school-choice program”
By Karen Augé
Denver Post
February 23, 2012

Last winter, Denver Public Schools unveiled a new school-choice system and asked parents to do a little homework and then select the schools they preferred for their kids.

Nearly 23,000 of them did.

The district Wednesday revealed participation totals for its new, streamlined school-choice system.

Parents won’t know for a few more weeks whether their kids got into their top school choices.

In previous years, parents had to fill out different forms for different schools, and navigate different deadlines and application windows.

Some schools, such as the Denver School of the Arts, still required separate application materials, such as auditions or essays this year. But otherwise, parents filled out a single form indicating up to five school choices, in order of preference. The choice process was available to all students but was especially designed to ease the selection of a kindergarten, middle or high school, said district spokeswoman Kristy Armstrong.

In the weeks and months leading up to the Jan. 31 deadline to turn in that form, parents were bombarded with multilingual information and reminders. The district even hosted an information session for all prospective middle and high school students, and provided bus service to the event from far-northeast Denver.

The effort produced a 94 percent participation rate among incoming sixth- and ninth-graders in far-northeast Denver, according to district estimates.

For the district as a whole, participation among families with students entering kindergarten, sixth or ninth grade — grades that involve moving into new schools — was 82 percent.

The district got help with its education and outreach effort from community groups and the nonprofit Get Smart Schools.

In 2009, a consultant studied DPS’s previous choice process and found it cumbersome and confusing.

From there, the transition to this year’s new system was made possible by bond money and grants, including one from the Walton Family Foundation.

The district expects that families will receive in the mail by the first week of March notification of at which school their child has been accepted. A second round of the school-choice process will begin next month.