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STRIVE Prep pioneers program for students with disabilities - Leads Rocky Mountain Region

March 09, 2020

STRIVE Prep is a leader in serving students with disabilities in the city and now we’re on our way to pioneering one of the most comprehensive and robust programs for students with disabilities in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region. 

We are excited to be awarded a generous $1.43 million, three-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which will allow us to improve existing continuum of services for students with disabilities and build on a clear kindergarten to age 21 path for students with significant cognitive disabilities, creating a future for them that otherwise may have seemed unattainable.

“Students with significant cognitive disabilities are often overlooked and don’t develop the post-secondary employment and life skills needed to be independent,” said Senior Director of Student Services Marianne Sammons. “By expanding our programming to offer special education services through the age of 21, they’ll be able to become more productive members of society and live more meaningful lives which also changes the reality for their families.” 

As part of the grant, STRIVE Prep will focus on two of its schools in southwest Denver, STRIVE Prep - SMART high school and STRIVE Prep - Federal middle school. STRIVE Prep - SMART will focus on preparing all students with disabilities for college and career readiness through effective co-teaching models and the 18-21 age program. At STRIVE Prep - Federal, the focus will be on improving current co-teaching to better close the achievement gap experienced by students with disabilities. Both schools will benefit through strengthened co-teaching practices, increased collaboration between Special Ed and General Ed teachers, and additional skills training and resources needed to support students with disabilities.

STRIVE Prep is joining nine other charter management organizations (CMO) from across the country in the foundation’s new program, Charter Students with Disabilities Pilot Community Initiative. The cohort will work together to improve the systems, experiences, and outcomes for middle and high school students with disabilities. Being part of the cohort means STRIVE Prep will be supported in implementing best practices through continuous improvement, data-driven decisions and engaged leadership. 

“The grant funding allows us an opportunity to be innovative and creative within a framework,” said Sammons. “We’ll have access to strong data and expert input, allowing us to be nimble with program development and make changes to better support students. There is an opportunity for us to scale the program across the network and be an example for other schools within the school district.”

The focus of the foundation’s pilot program is to support students of color and low income students who also have disabilities. Because of STRIVE Prep’s student demographics and existing foundation for serving students with disabilities, STRIVE Prep is an ideal choice to participate in the pilot program. Additional information about the program can be found online

“STRIVE Prep has long been proud to be a leader among special education services in the charter sector,” said CEO and Founder Chris Gibbons. “This pilot initiative provides the opportunity for our team to take this work to the next level and ensure that high quality educational outcomes for students with disabilities becomes the norm, not the exception.”

Fast Facts:

  • STRIVE Prep serves 15% of students with disabilities, which is 4% higher than the district average. It is also the only charter operator in the city who exceeds the average number of students we serve with severe disabilities. 
  • STRIVE Prep currently serves 97% students of color, 89% students on free and reduced lunch, and 53% students who are considered high poverty. 
  • Only 20% of students with disabilities nationally score at proficient levels on state assessments, and on average, fewer than 70% earn a high school diploma within four years. (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
  • STRIVE Prep is the only CMO from Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Region participating in the initiative 


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