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10 tips on local education

No. 1. In 1990, Colorado passed the Public Schools of Choice Act, allowing students to attend public schools outside their neighborhood, or even outside the district in which they live. Details on the law and each school district — there are 10 such districts in the Pikes Peak region — can be found at the state Department of Education's website, cde.state.co.us.

2. That school-choice law applies to charter schools, of which El Paso County hosts about two dozen. They offer a range of emphases, from Core Knowledge curriculum to creative arts, but all must complete a state accreditation review. You can find details on how each school performs through the same CDE site.

3. Private schools around here can be pricey, but most offer financial assistance, and many either provide transportation or help coordinate carpooling options. For a list, check out the second half of the listings in our November 2012 Education Guide (tinyurl.com/CSprivateschools2012).

4. With nearly 30,000 students, Colorado Springs School District 11 (d11.org) is the area's largest. It's also the most central. And while it teems with programs, it's also had to close some schools — most recently, this spring — as people have chosen to live in newer developments closer to the city's edges.

5. The smallest district is Manitou Springs School District 14 (mssd14.org), at approximately 1,500 students. It's been lauded for emphasizing creativity in learning, as well as for its students' strong scores on state tests.

6. Speaking of strong scores, three area districts are among the 19 in Colorado that CDE recognizes as being "Accredited with Distinction," the highest rating possible. They are Academy School District 20 (asd20.org), Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 (cmsd.k12.co.us), and Lewis-Palmer School District 38(lewispalmer.org). In fact, each of those three districts has earned that distinction annually since at least 2010.

7. From an education-reform perspective, an interesting local district is Harrison School District 2 (hsd2.org), where former superintendent Mike Miles introduced a pay-for-performance plan (among other things) for teachers and other school personnel. Miles left to run Dallas Independent School District last year, but most of his reforms remain intact.

8. Moving on to higher education, Colorado College (coloradocollege.edu) is small but mighty. Counting approximately 2,000 kids, and employing a "block" plan that immerses them in a single class for 3½ weeks at a time, it earned a No. 28 liberal-arts ranking from U.S. News and World Report in 2012. It also regularly attracts famous writers, speakers and thinkers; over the past year, they've included author Margaret Atwood and travel guru Rick Steves.

9. The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (uccs.edu) has been growing like crazy in recent years, now serving about 10,000 students (though most of them commute). The latest big news from the school: With the lease of city-owned Memorial Health System to University of Colorado Health, UCH has agreed to put up $3 million annually toward a medical-school branch on campus. Rotations could start in 2016.

10. The Air Force Academy (usafa.af.mil) is open only to U.S. citizens older than 17 but younger than 23, unmarried with no dependents. On the other end of the spectrum is Pikes Peak Community College (ppcc.edu), which takes in not only students for two-year degree and occupational programs, but also those interested in continuing ed. And in between are numerous other institutions, many of which are for-profit: See tinyurl.com/CScolleges2012 for more.

  • 10 tips on local education

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