« Bill to Reauthorize D.C. Private School Voucher Program Passes House | Main | Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan to Open Private School for Low-Income Kids »

Charter School Enrollment Policies Fuel Discussion at National Authorizer Meeting

| No comments


Charter schools often get pinged by their critics for not accepting their fair share of students with special needs.

What role authorizers—the groups that approve new charter schools to open—play in making sure schools have fair and open enrollment practices was the topic of lively discussion at a national conference for authorizers here this week— both in the session and on Twitter.

Panelists discussed the importance of having a single enrollment system for all schools in cities with a large proportion of charters, to what extent lotteries actually guarantee equal access, and at what threshold authorizers should start looking into a school's enrollment policies:

Panelists also dug into a relatively new debate in the charter sector on whether schools should be required to backfillBackfilling, or replacing students who leave in the middle of their elementary, middle or high school careers, has traditionally been more of a term used by education researchers. But critics say that by not refilling vacated seats, a school effectively blocks more transient students—including those from homeless or immigrant families— from enrolling, while falsely inflating a school's academic bottom line.

One argument that's been floated for not backfilling is that new students coming into a school in a non-entry grade might knock a school's meticulously crafted culture off kilter.

But Cliff Chuang of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education challenged that idea, saying that if one or a few kids can seriously disrupt a school's culture, it may not be that strong to begin with. He also posited a reason why schools in some areas are more likely to backfill than others:

The more per-pupil funding a charter school receives from the state, the lower its need to backfill. 

Finally, the legality of not backfilling was called into question by the panel's moderator, National Association of Charter School Authorizers' director of knowledge Parker Baxter, who said that not backfilling might also violate several state charter laws.

The panel was put together for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers' annual leadership conference, which took place this week just outside Denver. Over 500 people attended the conference this year, which also marks the 15th year since NACSA's founding.


Don't miss another Charters & Choice post. Sign up here to get news alerts in your email inbox.

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.


Most Viewed on Education Week



Recent Comments