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Parents Proposing First Charter School for Underserved Kids in Denver

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In a world … where public education’s belt twists ever tighter …

In a land … where controversy vexes charter schools …

In a future … with an uncertain economy …

Can Denver moms and dads find a school that meets their kids’ needs without paying $20,000 for it?

Our metro-area charter schools offer a constellation of programs. And compared with a traditional public school, a charter’s relatively generous mandate provides a lot of freedom for curriculum design.

Denver charter school kids enjoy state-of-the-art “STEM” schools for science, technology, engineering, and math. Denver has gifted, expeditionary, prep, and girls’ athletic leadership charters. The system spills over with almost any specialty a kid could need.  It’s good public education at the right price.

But there’s a specialty that often goes underserved in our city—learning differences. The Denver public schools teach approximately 9,000 kids with learning differences; 35,450 live in the metro area.Class size can profoundly affect students with learning challenges, but public school classes are large. Average student-to-teacher ratio is trending upward according to the Colorado Department of Education.

According to more than one Denver public school teacher, Special Ed counselors are frequently overwhelmed by high numbers of learning-difference students.

Surprisingly, there’s not a single Colorado charter school dedicated to these kids.

This is where I and a group of like-minded educators and parents come in.

Couldn’t there be a charter school dedicated to kids with learning differences? Couldn’t these students handle rigorous academics if they were in smaller classes with teachers with the expertise to meet their learning needs? Couldn’t we build a charter with curriculum designed to address different styles of learning?

I flash back to twelve years ago, my first year teaching in a private school. I’m sitting in a classroom with two parents. They’re crying yet they tell me they’re overjoyed. Their boy has never been happier in school. So why are they crying? “He’s in seventh grade. Seventh! That means five more years of school! How are we going to pay for it?”

That school was a private school for kids with learning differences. Tuition was $20,000 a year—too high a price, even for such a crucial service.

That is why my small group of colleagues and I want to build a charter school for kids with learning differences. I was one of these kids. My colleagues are the parents of these kids.

And that’s how I came to be meeting with a Denver charter administrator, who listened to my proposal; approved my credentials; told me what a fantastic idea a charter for kids with learning differences was … and offered a lukewarm, “we’ll see” endorsement.

When I first proposed this school, the answer was no. This time we’ve got a convincing case and a qualified go head. When faced with the next obstacle, we’ll think of a work-around. We can no longer ignore these children.

Stay tuned …this blog is the story of our journey. You can follow updates at

 Guest blogger Mark Parmet created the Colorado Exploration Academy in Denver in order to develop a rich environment where students are able to excel in school and life. He has earned two business degrees and worked 12 years as an educator. He understands what kids with learning differences go through, in part, because he too, struggled in school. Email:

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  • comment avatar Paula Acker September 20, 2013

    I have also pondered asking JeffCo schools to open a similar charter. I am a licensed school psychologist with over 25 years experience. I am also the parent of a child with learning differences who attends that school where tuition is now over $25,000 per year. I also have an administrative degree and license. I’d love to be kept informed of your progress and help where I can.

    best of luck,

    • comment avatar Mark Parmet September 22, 2013


      I’d love to talk more. Please feel free to contact me at

  • comment avatar Leah April 28, 2014

    I work at a charter high school and I work with the exact type of kids you’re describing. Most of my students have not been successful in a traditional school environment and need individualized and differentiated instruction. I love being able to work with these students, I would love to offer you a tour so you can see what we do.

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