Struggling Cesar Chavez Academy faces closure due to academic performance

DENVER – The recently-constructed 39,000-square foot building in an older Denver neighborhood no longer stands out. Gentrification has taken its grip, and now Cesar Chavez Academy looks just like almost every other development going up around the school at breakneck speeds.

But this is not why it’s in danger. The charter school in Denver’s West Highland neighborhood is also struggling to stand out in an ever-stricter educational environment as Common Core State Standards increase.

Denver Public Schools uses a color-coded system to track a school’s academic performance and the K-8 school has been “in the red” for a year after students failed to meet standards during PARCC testing. If the school continues down this path, DPS may not renew the school’s charter, which will force the school to close.

Founded in 2009 and with a predominately Latino student population of more than 380, Cesar Chavez Academy is increasingly becoming less of a neighborhood school and more of a regional institution. Gentrification has forced many Cesar Chavez families to move out of the neighborhood. But many still choose to keep their students enrolled.

Mary Ann Mahoney, the principal at Cesar Chavez Academy, told Denver7 the school was on its way to the top of DPS’s rating system, but a recent shift in testing mythology killed the school’s upward momentum. Mahoney said teachers weren’t prepared for the change.

“PARCC requires a different level of thinking,” said Mahoney.

However, Mahoney said the school is making strides in turning things around. She has recently hired a consultant to help teachers with the rigors of PARCC’s curriculum design and it’s already having an impact. But it all may be too little too late for Cesar Chavez Academy, and school officials are preparing for the worst.

While the school’s future hangs in the balance, Cesar Chavez Academy reached out to Rocky Mountain Prep with a possible plan to have the Denver-area charter school network take over. Mahoney said this plan would ensure an easy transition for students since both charters share similar educational philosophies.

A final decision has not been made. If things go well, the school may continue to operate, if not, closure will be its last remaining option.


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