Intelligence and integrity
“That’s just not true,” said Carolyn Jannsen, advancement director at Peak to Peak, a public school with grades kindergarten through 12. “We are a public school, part of the Boulder Valley School District, There is no tuition, and there are no academic achievement tests or requirements.
“The only thing that we ask is that the families who enroll their children in our school be very focused on getting that child to the college of their dreams.”
Those dreams come in all sizes and shapes at Peak to Peak — from students who excel in math and science to those who have more “liberal” arts in mind and even students who will do better in a smaller campus environment that has fairly rigorous graduation requirements.
“We have some students for whom graduating from our school is a major accomplishment,” Jannsen said. But, “we had 100 percent of our students get to the college of their choice last year. Those schools range from West Point (U.S. Military Academy) to Front Range (Community College).”
Peak to Peak was the dream of local parents who wanted a smaller school that was dedicated to college preparatory course work, and the original founders went through some fairly stiff resistance to the charter-school concept to accomplish this mission. Finally in fall 2000, the school was opened to about 200 high school students in what had been a day-care center in eastern Lafayette, the result of last-minute real-estate searches and applications to the Lafayette City Council.
It did not take Peak to Peak long to succeed.
The school’s board quickly built an initial building serving 1,000 students, and although those bonds were rate speculative, the building came in at cost and on time. Meanwhile, the school quickly attained top ratings for academic achievement and was well on its way to building out to a full K-12 with a top-notch academic infrastructure and plans for sports and arts facilities that are now largely completed.
Today the school houses almost 1,500 students, but initial enrollment occurs through a lottery run by the Boulder Valley district. Families with currently enrolled Peak to Peak students are given extra consideration in that lottery, but interest in enrolling new students is very high.
“We often have several hundred applications for kindergarten students, and we only have openings for 50,” Jannsen said. While openings occur throughout the grades, few students leave the school once they’re enrolled.
That’s not surprising, considering the following:
• The North Central Association has accredited Peak to Peak as one of its K-12 schools, which provides an external mark of quality and highlights the school’s devotion to continuous improvement.
• Peak to Peak’s high school is a Newsweek Top 100 School, ranking 29th among 1,100 top public high schools in the nation — the only Colorado school with a top 100 ranking.
• U.S. News & World Report named Peak to Peak’s high school a Gold Medal School, ranking it 76th out of 21,000 schools.
• The Washington Post High School Challenge Index ranked Peak to Peak 50th out of more than 1,900 public high schools.
• In 2009 and 2010, Peak to Peak was named a Colorado State School of Character by the Foundation for Character Development. Peak to Peak was a 2009 National Schools of Character Finalist and 2010 Profile in Character Award winner from the Character Education Partnership.
• Peak to Peak’s ACT scores averaged 25 in 2011, compared with a 23 average in the Boulder Valley district and 19.9 statewide. In 2010, graduating seniors were awarded nearly $10 million in scholarships, averaging $80,000 per student.
Peak to Peak also has seen continued improvement in sports, including a state championship in girls’ soccer, as well as its music and arts programs. In the Boulder Valley district, students also have the choice to participate at other schools in sports Peak to Peak doesn’t support, such as football, wrestling and lacrosse.
Still, the school is first dedicated to academics — and to building character along with intellect, said Jannsen, whose two children also have attended the school.
“We get to know the kids very well and care for that student as they advance through grades,” she said. “Our focus on college begins in middle school, as it is an important hurdle for families.
“But our biggest concern is helping kids use their intelligence with integrity. We’re focused on counseling and providing lessons in life skills and life lessons, because that’s what makes the difference once these kids get into college.”