Caprock Academy: How does this Western Colorado charter school stack up?

September 9, 2016

Caprock Academy: How does this Western Colorado charter school stack up?

Caprock Academy was founded in Grand Junction, Colorado in 2007. A charter school associated with the Mesa County Valley School District 51 (MCVSD51), the largest school district in Western Colorado and one of Mesa County’s largest employers, Caprock Academy is known for its rigorous, classical curricula. Caprock is the only charter school in MCVSD51, and is associated with the State Charter School Institute of Colorado.

Character education is an important facet of Caprock’s mission, and has served as a magnet for parents and students looking for an educational alternative which focuses on creating good citizens as well as imparting knowledge. Its website states:

In addition to becoming culturally literate, we believe that our students ought to be good human beings. Intelligence and learning by themselves do not necessitate goodness. Therefore, we encourage our students to be honest, respectful, and persevering, to cooperate with others, be responsible, and display citizenship and courage in their daily lives. The mission of our school is to hold everyone to high academic and ethical standards. We know that inspiring the minds and characters of our students neither is an easy task nor is it guaranteed to succeed.

During Caprock’s first years, it served only Kindergarten through eighth grade. One grade level was added per year until it had classrooms serving high school students through the twelfth grade. At the time of its opening, Caprock Academy was operating out of a set of modular buildings, but in 2011 a new facility with a capacity of 800 was constructed. At present, Caprock’s student enrollment grew is 755, with a 16:1 student to teacher ratio.

Rigorous curriculum and relatively small class sizes, however, may not be sufficient for Caprock to maintain its charter or its desirable reputation. Student performance, ultimately, is the key to the success of any charter school. According to data provided by the Colorado Department of Education ‘School View’ website, Caprock’s students are strong in literacy. In 2014, the latest year for available data, Caprock scored overall 75.71 % in reading proficiency. MCVSD51 scored lower at 70.30 %, and the State of Colorado was lower still at 69.00 %.

During the same data year, Caprock Academy also exceeded district and state performance in writing proficiency with 61.9 %, compared to MCVSD51 at 55.51% and the State of Colorado overall at 54.4% proficiency. Math proficiency was mixed for Caprock, which in 2014 scored 52.38%, exceeding the district performance of 51.57%, but falling short of state performance, which was 56.39%.

Caprock, as a public school, requires no tuition, but there is a waiting list and parents must apply for their children to be accepted to the school. The school’s minority population is 18%, which largely reflects the population of Grand Junction. Special Education support is offered by Resource teachers for those students with cognitive disabilities and other learning challenges.

The preceding data sheds some light on the effectiveness of Caprock Academy’s rigorous classical model, but according to one Caprock parent, this one-of-a-kind school in Grand Junction, has much more to offer than academics.

Natasha Watts, a small-business owner, wife and mother of two boys, ages 9 and 12, appreciates the structure and discipline intrinsic to Caprock’s learning, she says, “The school my older son attended prior to Caprock lacked balance. I like the classical learning model, cursive in third-grade, and the balance provided by music, P.E. and science.  Parent engagement is a must, and the teachers and administrators are always available and I can track my son’s grades and whether or not they’re getting and completing assignments through the online teacher/parent communication system.”

Caprock students receive continuous Latin and Spanish instruction, from Kindergarten through twelfth-grade. According to Natasha Watts, learning Latin has given her sons a deeper understanding of language, and the historical and literary value in the books they read. Watts describes her son’s homework this way, “I find some of their assignments to be challenging for me. Their homework is hard, and most nights they have at least two hours of work to complete. But it has sparked a desire in me to continue learning for myself.”

This dedicated mother also believes Caprock Academy will help prepare her sons for a complex and challenging world. She say, “I know some parents have the reservation about such a highly structured and demanding school that we should ‘let kids be kids,’ but I believe Caprock is providing stepping stones that will build my kids up to deal with the world.”

Natasha Watts is one of a growing population of parents opting for the charter school alternative for their students. School districts throughout Colorado are introducing new charter schools as an option each year. Charters are generally tuition-free, and are considered a high quality alternative public school option. Their popularity is based on flexibility, high expectations, and parent engagement. Natasha Watts confirms this with, “I like the controlled setting, the discipline, the quiet halls and polite students. You don’t get that in the regular schools, and my sons are becoming serious learners, and respectful citizens.”

by  9/9/15

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