This month, the Colorado Succeeds team and partners had the opportunity to visit Compass Academy, a public charter middle school in Denver Public Schools, serving students from sixth to eighth grade.
Opened in 2015, Compass has increased two levels on the School Performance Framework—from red to green—over the last few years, despite the significant impacts of COVID-19 pandemic. This change is primarily due to marked improvement in students’ academic growth, a key factor in school performance ratings.
The Compass Academy model integrates academics with social-emotional curriculum in a bilingual context. The school serves students furthest from opportunity—90% of their students are economically disadvantaged—and do it exceedingly well.
Compass serves learners and families in a model [bilingual, wraparound support services] the community needs. We are encouraging students to take pride in their bilingual skills, and developing autonomous learners who know themselves, their strengths, and how to advocate for what they need.Marcia Fulton, Executive Director, Compass Academy
Most enrollment in this public charter is from word of mouth from current students and families. School leaders try to meet with fifth graders in neighboring schools to talk about Compass and encourage families to consider choicing into the school, but have learned that their most successful enrollment conversion is from current families talking to their networks about Compass.
Schools like Compass Academy are a reminder of the importance of school choice – ensuring all students have access to meaningful curriculum and programs, regardless of location or school district. Within Denver Public Schools – which has an open enrollment school choice process – families have the opportunity to select the school model that works best for their child.
The level of support Compass provides its students is incredible. They are committed to putting students’ needs first and have built a school culture that wholeheartedly reflects this commitment.Michele Warren, Board Member, Colorado Succeeds
What can we learn from Compass’ unique success?
- Re-center students in conversations about education. Centering student interest, voice, and need in conversations about education, rather than adult’s concerns, will ensure learner success and wellbeing.
- Support families in understanding the school choice options available to them. Every learner deserves access to a school that best fits them and their family.
- Continue to fight for more education funding in the state. If schools had the resources to meet student need, whether they’re multilingual learners, students receiving special education support services, or interested in career-exploration opportunities beyond their school’s current offerings.