CHARTER MEMBERS

WHEN TWO DPS TEACHERS DECIDED TO OPEN A NEW SCHOOL, THEY DISCOVERED THEY HAD A LOT TO LEARN.

The charter law was meant to challenge conventional thinking, to shake up the educational establishment. "Education in the United States has sunk to a disastrous level," Danks says. "I would have thought the district wouldn't see charter schools as a threat but maybe something that could develop innovative ways to reach children that could be adopted."

She recalls a student from one of her sixth-grade classes last year. The boy, a black child from north Denver with a troubled family background, was exceptionally bright and performed well on tests, but he was also painfully shy and had difficulty speaking in front of people.

One day, as she was trying to get control of her class--disrupted by a few unruly students who should have been sent out of the room but for DPS rules that forbid teacher discipline--she saw the boy quietly trying to study.

"I wondered how far he could go, if I just had time to work with him," she says. "Like many others, he was quiet, polite, intelligent and enthusiastic, with a mother who was desperate for him to do well.

"But he was getting less than half of what I would have liked to give him.

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