Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County has been approved to be a charter public school, opening in Fall 2018. Ascent Classical is replicating highly successful classical schools currently operating in Colorado.
Q: What is a charter public school?
A charter public school is a non-profit, tuition-free, independently operated public school granted greater flexibility in curriculum, staffing, and operations. Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County will be authorized by the Douglas County School Board.
- Receive state “per-pupil revenue” (PPR) and some local mill levy dollars but do not typically receive funding for capital expenses, which must be paid for from operational funding;
- Offer seats to children based on random lottery. Charter schools do not select children;
- Offer a variety of curricula, instructional styles, and sometimes differ in their philosophy toward education. Parents choosing a charter school as an option for their children doesn’t indicate a weakness in district run schools, but a preference for a different approach and focus for their child;
- Serve students with specials needs;
- Allow parents a choice in the education of their children! They are not right for everyone.
Q: When will Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County Open?
Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County has been approved to open in the fall of 2018.
Q: What grades will the school serve?
The school offers grades K-12 and expects to open with grades K-10, adding one grade each year. Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County will offer a half-day kindergarten, consistent with the Core Knowledge program.
Q: Will Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County serve students with special needs?
Yes, the school will serve students with special needs. Direct instruction, the structure and coherence of the Core Knowledge curriculum along with the Riggs phonics program are very effective and the school is likely to be able to support a broader spectrum of special needs. The focus of the school and its Student Services is to provide support and tools to enable all students to be successful in school and life.
Ascent Classical Academy does not ask applicants if they have special needs until they are offered a seat in the school. At that time, the school will evaluate any Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 plans to determine the school’s ability to serve an individual student and ensure they will thrive and be successful. Douglas County Schools will make any determination if the needs of a student exceed the capability of the school. Visit Douglas County Schools for more information on charter schools partnering with the district to serve special needs.
Q: Where will Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County be Located?
The team is working with Douglas County Schools to determine areas of growth and need, as well as considering the locations of families completing Expressions of Interest. A final location will be selected as more data on interest and need is received.
Q: What is classical education?
The underlying philosophy of a good classical school differs from how most other schools are educate today.
Q: What are the core elements of the academic program?
Ascent Classical Academy takes a classical, liberal arts approach to educating young people, as described above. Other key elements of the academic program include:
- Core Knowledge sequence in grades K-8;
- Riggs, an explicit phonics approach to literacy. The school also requires a mastery of spelling and proper grammar as well as good handwriting and cursive;
- Singapore Math;
- Highly engaging, direct, teacher led instruction with increased use of Socratic techniques as students progress through the school;
- Primary source documents used to the maximum extent possible.
Q: Will Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County require teachers to be licensed?
All Ascent Classical Academy teachers will be highly qualified.
Ascent Classical Academy will hire the most highly qualified teachers for our classrooms and seek out content experts.
After involved parents, it’s known that highly effective teachers, using an excellent, proven curriculum in the classroom, have the greatest impact on student success. Ascent Classical Academy seeks staff with expertise in their content area and the best teachers for each position may or may not be licensed teachers.
One of the automatic waivers granted charter schools by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is a waiver from teacher licensure requirements (Colorado Revised Statutes 22-63-201), which most, if not all, charter schools in Colorado have. View a complete report of all waivers granted to charter schools throughout Colorado.
Rather than having licensed teachers, the state of Colorado allows charter schools to hire “highly-qualified” teachers. To earn this designation a teacher must have a college degree or other demonstrated expertise in a content area that person will be teaching. At the 6th grade level and below, a teacher may take a placement test. Details on the “highly-qualified” qualification is found on the CDE website.
This waiver allows Ascent Classical to hire a teacher with a master’s degree in Chemistry to teach science, or a retired college English literature professor to teach high school English. Liberty Common School in Ft Collins, the school that set the all-time ACT record in Colorado, does not have a single “licensed” teacher.
Q: How did Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County get started?
Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County is a joint effort of several Douglas County parents, other parents who have been involved in starting classical schools, and classical school leaders in Colorado. The team is excited and committed to replicating a strong classical charter school in Douglas County.
Q: What is the role of the Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative?
Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County will collaborate with the Barney Charter School Initiative, a win-win for the school and Douglas County.
With assistant from the Barney Charter School team, Ascent Classical Academy is replicating existing, highly successful classical, liberal arts schools in Colorado, such as Ridgeview Classical School, Golden View Classical, and Vanguard Classical (Colorado Springs) Academies.
Rather than starting from ground zero to recreate these schools from scratch, our group initiated a partnership with the Barney Charter School Initiative at Hillsdale College. The Barney Charter School Initiative is a program that is replicating much of Ridgeview Classical School’s model, which is also very similar to Liberty Common and Vanguard Classical Academy. Golden View Classical Academy in Golden, Colorado is a sister Barney Charter School, currently in its second year.
Hillsdale College is a national leader in liberal arts education and has provided help to K-12 schools across the country to create high-quality classical, liberal arts programs.
Mentorship and Experience
While Ascent Classical is working directly with people involved in Ridgeview Classical School, Golden View Classical Academy, and Liberty Common Schools. The Barney Charter School Initiative brings additional mentorship and experience to the table to help ensure our team is replicating a high-quality school. This reduces the risk to Douglas County by providing the Ascent Classical Academy team more guidance and advice to facilitate our implementing a top-notch program and establishing our culture. The school will also have a close relationship with Golden View Classical Academy, that will be available to provide mentoring and other support.
Help Identifying a Great School Leader
In addition to Ascent Classical’s own efforts, Hillsdale helps conduct a nation-wide search and screening for a school leader with the skills and background to run a K-12 classical, liberal arts charter school. The local application team for Ascent Classical Academies will make the selection of school leader.
Teacher Professional Development
Before opening, a team of professors and staff from Hillsdale College will come to Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County for two weeks to conduct initial teacher training. The team from Hillsdale provides training on Core Knowledge, Riggs phonics, Singapore math, classical education philosophy, and other topics critical for success in the classroom. This is in addition to the professional development Ascent Classical Academy staff conducts among itself.
In subsequent years, Hillsdale College will assist Ascent Classical Academy with professional development for its staff at its annual training program in Michigan, with other teachers from across the United States. This allows our teachers to receive high quality training from college-level instructors with experience in the liberal arts and classical education, while also having the opportunity to network and connect with teachers from other classical, liberal arts charter schools.
The professional development and support provided by Hillsdale College is conducted at no cost to Ascent Classical Academy.
Q: What is the relationship between Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County and Ascent Classical Academies?
Ascent Classical Academies is the non-profit management partner of the school and offers services similar to what a district offers an individual district-run school, at a much lower cost. The relationship is performance-based and value-added to the school, meeting best practice guidelines established by the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI) and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). The cost is negotiated annually, similar to the charges the district imposes on all its charter schools. All the services are those charter schools are already responsible for and typically performed by several different vendors. Specific functions and services include:
- Implementation and administration of the Educational Program, inclusive of the acquisition of instructional materials, equipment and supplies;
- Employment of all personnel working at the School and management of all personnel functions, including staff professional development;
- If so directed by the school, securing a facility to be leased or otherwise provided to the Board, operation of the facility, and the installation in the facility of technology integral to the operation of the School. The facility shall comply with, or otherwise be approved with regard to, all state regulations governing the use of the facility as an elementary/middle school, as applicable. Any lease or financial terms related to such a facility will be separately negotiated and documented;
- All aspects of the business administration;
- All aspects of the accounting operation, including general ledger management and financial reporting;
- Food service;
- Marketing and development costs;
- Any other function necessary or expedient for the administration of the School.
The management agreement is approved annually and includes termination provisions either party may execute. The continued availability of a facility is not tied to the management agreement and teachers may chose to work directly for the school should the agreement end.