The high school was the first of the James Irwin schools, opening in the fall of 2000. The founders held strongly that students at James Irwin Charter High School should receive a rigorous, liberal arts education that would prepare them for any college they would choose and that the school should provide an academic environment for students to learn and develop noble character. Another important goal was the emphasis on the heritage and roots our nation has in Western Civilization. It is essential for the citizens and decision-makers of our nation to have the knowledge and appreciation of our past to help guide us in our future, supported by strong moral foundations by which to make courageous decisions.
In 2002, it became clear that too many students were arriving at the high school with insufficient background knowledge and proficiency in language arts and math. While investigating how charter schools might increase the number of minority students in their population, Jonathan Berg (then the JICHS principal), identified significant longitudinal research about the positive effects of single-sex education. He included this feature in the charter application for James Irwin Charter Middle School. JICMS was planned and approved by the JICS Board as a Core Knowledge school with single-sex classes that uses Effective Teaching Practices (direct instruction) methods. Single-sex classroom education is a distinctive aspect of JICMS and it was the only public school of this kind in Colorado.
James Irwin Charter Elementary School then opened its doors in the fall of 2005. The JICS Board approved it as a Direct Instruction/Core Knowledge school with a faithful Direct Instruction (DI) implementation. DI materials are scripted to ensure the fidelity of the meticulous design and methods. Extensive professional development via training and regular coaching allows teachers to acquire specific teaching skills necessary to the DI approach and to achieve a high level of mastery and teach more in less time. In fact, the DI materials provide a template for the teacher that accelerates their own learning curve in becoming an effective teacher as they apply the same design principles in non-scripted curricula.
As JICES filled up and the waiting lists for students applying there became extensive, it was clear that there was a need for a second elementary school so in the fall of 2013 James Irwin Charter Academy opened its doors. This was the first JI school to be located on a different campus and in a different area of the city. It is a replica of JICES in that it is also a Direct Instruction/Core Knowledge school with a faithful Direct Instruction (DI) implementation.