Places such as California, where the law allows some preferences, are more likely to have this problem than the District. The city’s charter law and demographics would give Pacific Collegiate a much more diverse student body.
That still leaves selective practices such as the seven-page form, including essay questions, that applicants must fill out for the Gateway High School charter in San Francisco or the lottery-exempt status as “founding parents” offered by some Los Angeles charters to applicants who promise money and volunteer time, as revealed by the L.A. Weekly newspaper.
Todd Ziebarth, vice president for state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said vague state laws let charter authorizers, such as universities or state or local school boards, occasionally wink at loopholes. To stop that, 12 Newark charters have signed a compact barring any burdensome requirements, such as attending information meetings or filling out long forms, before the lottery period.
There is a subtler issue. What if parents and students are discouraged by the higher standards that make the best charters worth attending? The KIPP schools, part of a charter network with longer hours and proven achievement gains, require that students, parents and teachers sign contracts affirming their responsibilities, such as promptness and good behavior. Some readers have told me that they assume that students who violate those rules are expelled. The truth is that such contracts have been used by teachers to set guidelines in regular schools since long before KIPP began. Violators may be mildly disciplined but not expelled.
I know that because I have investigated KIPP for 10 years and written a book about it. Some parents don’t have the time or inclination to ask a lot of questions. I can see why they might get the wrong impression or just think their child is not up to so much work.