Jul 26, 2023 - Education

Denver's most coveted schools are evident on choice waitlists

Data: Chalkbeat; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

More than 2,500 students in Denver did not get accepted at the top school of their choice for the upcoming academic year, leaving families scrambling.

Why it matters: Colorado's school choice model gives families the ability to pick any school — even outside their districts — if they don't want to attend their assigned neighborhood institution.

  • But the most coveted schools, often those perceived as the best, boast lengthy waitlists.

State of play: 19 Denver schools — about 10% of the total — waitlisted at least half of the students who applied, according to a new Axios analysis of data from our education reporting partners at Chalkbeat.

  • Smaller and specialized schools, such as Montessori academies and STEM facilities, saw some of the largest waitlists compared to those admitted.
  • Middle schools and kindergartens were the hardest to gain admission.

Yes, but: Waitlists in the district are shrinking as enrollment decreases, Chalkbeat reports.

  • 76 schools saw waitlists shrink from last year, compared to 33 that grew. Another 18 schools did not submit data for comparison.

The intrigue: The trend is most visible at East High School, where the waitlist for incoming ninth graders fell to just 28 students, an 87% decrease compared to five years ago.

  • The decrease comes as the prominent school suffers from negative publicity after three shootings at or near the campus led to two student deaths and a broader crisis regarding how to protect students.

Between the lines: East's feeder middle school and the district's largest, McAuliffe International, accepted all applicants after the first round of selections, despite having the second-longest waitlist for incoming sixth graders five years ago at 183.

How it works: Families rank up to 12 schools on applications at the start of the calendar year for the fall term.

  • If there are more applicants than seats at a school, the district conducts a lottery. Those not accepted are put on the waitlist.
  • The second round of choice applications is open through Aug. 31.

What they're saying: Laurie Premer, the district’s enrollment director, said shorter waitlists are a result of declining student numbers and families that are satisfied with their assigned neighborhood school.

Search your school's data with our partners at Chalkbeat


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