HOPE Online Schools in Colorado to Remain Open

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

The Colorado State Board of Education has decided to allow HOPE Online Learning Academy Co-op, a charter school network based in Douglas County, to continue its operation of five online learning centers in Aurora Public Schools despite the objections that have been made by the APS School Board concerning the performance of the schools.

The decision came as the result of a unanimous vote that overturned the previous decision made on the matter by the APS school board that would have put an end to the 11-year relationship the district had with HOPE and its five local learning centers.

A contract between HOPE and APS administrators must be formed within the next 30 days, increasing the relationship the district has with the network for an additional three years, according to the board’s decision.

The vote came as the result of an appeal filed by HOPE last month, which currently operates 11 learning centers throughout the state.  During its monthly meeting in the beginning of June, the APS school board had voted to discontinue its contract with HOPE, arguing that there is not enough accountability, the State Review Panel had given the network low marks, the schools were producing low test scores, and the turnaround status is not high, writes Quincy Snowdon for The Aurora Sentinel.  

Lisa Escárcega, the former chief accountability and research officer at APS, said that the district had not been impressed with the lack of development going on at HOPE, which currently enrolls a majority of low-income, Spanish-speaking students.

“We predict the elementary and middle school of HOPE Online will move into year six of turnaround (status) … we cannot see how this can be in the best interest of parents or students,” she said.

However, HOPE administrators maintain that progress is in fact being made in the schools.  In all, over 100 current HOPE students, parents, and staff members attended the board meeting to show their support and push for a change to the previous decision made by the board.

Colorado Department of Education data shows that students in the schools have shown an increase in their scores on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) test, although TCAP scores continue to remain flat or below the state average.

The charter network currently enrolls around 400 students in APS, with around 72% being English language learners that state board members said would benefit from remaining in the school, which offers students the ability to follow an online curriculum while also working in-person with teachers.

“I cannot in good conscience close the door to this option for these students,” said Board Member Pam Mazanec, a Republican who represents the state’s 4th Congressional District.

According to the network’s website, HOPE looks to bring high-quality curricula that meets or exceeds Colorado Academic Standards and federal Common Core standards with individualized online curriculum offering students the ability to learn at their own pace, from anywhere.  In addition, licensed teachers provide students with one-on-one mentorship and monitor the progress of all students.