The Charter School Institute (CSI), established by law in 2004, embarked on a mission to serve as a model authorizer and redefine the landscape of charter school authorization. Tasked with being both an alternative and a pacesetter, CSI’s journey has been one of innovation, excellence, and leadership in the field of education.

Fostering Autonomy and Accountability

Every child should have access to high-quality public school choices. Accordingly, we seek to foster a portfolio of high-quality charter public school options that offer diverse educational models to meet the needs of every child. CSI schools offer 16 unique educational models, including project-based, Early College, and Montessori.

We believe in the transformative power of educational autonomy, facilitated through a balanced approach to accountability. CSI offers its schools the flexibility to choose the models and methods that best meet the unique needs of their communities. In return, CSI holds its schools accountable to clear expectations for performance.

Parents at AXIS International Academy in Fort Collins have praised the school’s language immersion model, noting, “[AXIS] was the perfect fit. The model was exactly what we were looking for…It’s been great!” 

Similarly, a parent from Ross Montessori highlighted the transformative effect of the school’s Montessori method on his children, saying, “The Montessori method, which is at the heart of Ross Montessori School’s approach to education, has been instrumental in my children’s development…It has nurtured their curiosity, encouraged them to explore, and instilled in them a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom. The importance of having a charter school like Ross Montessori School in our community cannot be overstated. Charter schools offer an alternative to traditional public schools, often providing innovative and personalized learning environments. They play a crucial role in offering quality education to all children, regardless of their socio-economic background.”


Adhering to National Standards for Quality

CSI’s role as a model authorizer is grounded in our adherence to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA)’s principles and standards. These guidelines, embraced by the Colorado State Board of Education, guide our efforts in maintaining high standards, upholding school autonomy, and protecting the interests of students and the public. This national framework shapes our approach to charter school oversight, ensuring consistency, fairness, and excellence in our work.

Every year, several CSI staff and board members attend the National Association of Charter School Authorizers conference. Our staff looks forward to the opportunity to learn from and network with other charter authorizers and leaders from around the country! Not only do CSI staff attend the conference as learners, but a few members also gave presentations to share their knowledge, resources, and experiences.

Championing Excellence in Charter School Performance

CSI is firmly committed to maintaining very high standards for schools in academics, finances, and organizational performance. Our evaluation process is detailed and thorough, and it follows Colorado’s School Performance Framework (SPF) closely. By adding extra measurements to our evaluation, we make sure we get a complete picture of how well each charter school is doing.

CSI’s performance framework aligns with the state framework but goes a step further by adding the “Performance with Distinction” rating, highlighting the highest-performing schools in the state.

The “Performance with Distinction” accolades awarded to thirteen of our schools for the 2022-23 school year exemplify our pursuit of excellence across varied educational models and communities.

These schools rank in the top 25% of all schools in Colorado with reportable academic data and have demonstrated strong financial and organizational performance as well. The schools that received this rating are located in different areas of the state, utilize unique educational models, and serve distinct communities. These schools include:

In a recent Durango Herald article, “Animas High School wins ‘Performance with Distinction’ award”, Animas High School’s Head of School, Rebecca Ruland, stated, “The Performance with Distinction rating is a reflection of the hard work of our outstanding students, faculty, staff and board paired with the ongoing support we continue to receive from our families and community partners” 

Protecting Interests and Promoting Improvement

CSI’s dedication extends beyond educational outcomes to encompass the well-being and interests of students and the public. Through compliance monitoring, policy reviews, and targeted training programs, we ensure our schools operate as transparent, accountable, and community-focused entities. This multifaceted role underscores our commitment to not just oversee, but also to guide and support our schools in their quest for excellence.

As we reflect on our journey and look ahead, the Charter School Institute remains committed to its pioneering role. By continuously sharing best practices, engaging in meaningful collaborations, and striving for a balanced approach to autonomy and accountability, we aim to inspire and lead by example in the charter school community. Our mission is clear: to elevate the standards of charter school authorizing and education, ensuring that every child has access to high-quality, innovative, and accountable schooling options.

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