Newark Traditional Schools "Embrace" Charters Through Universal Enrollment Plan

 “It’s a remarkable thing [Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson] is proposing,” said Ross Danis, CEO of Newark Trust for Education, an advocacy group. “It’s a level of collaboration in the service of children that we haven’t seen anywhere in the country. For a district to say ‘Instead of resisting charters and complaining about them, let’s embrace them’ is remarkable.”

That’s from the Star-Ledger, which is reporting that Newark Public Schools has managed to pull off a move that has evaded other large urban districts:  the district and most of the neighborhood charter schools will work collaboratively to create a universal enrollment plan for city students. Parents fill out one school application and list, in order of preference, eight traditional and/or charter schools. The district oversees distribution and runs lotteries when applicants exceed slots available.

One of the city’s premier charter schools, Robert Treat Academy, will sit out the first year and not sign the memorandum of understanding.  However, it appears that, after months of meetings, most of the others are game. Ryan Hill, who runs the TEAM charters in Newark (which are expanding to Camden),  commented, “the parents and kids are the real winners, and that’s what matters.”

It’s a remarkable initiative. The big winners, as Hill notes, are the kids and parents, who now don’t have to fill out multiple applications and sit through the agony of charter school lotteries.  But the collaboration also addresses one of the more damaging accusations against charter schools, that they “cream off” high-performing kids with motivated families and, thus, artificially magnify actual student growth.

Sometimes that's true. And sometimes that accusation is merely a convenient tool for those who see charters as a threat to traditional public education.

The Newark initiative erases that distortion of achievement; there’s no longer any special effort for parents to enroll children in charters. I suppose one could argue that only more-informed parents would list charters as top choices, but that’s a pretty big stretch.

From the Ledger: “Mashea Ashton, CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund, said the plan’s principles match a contract 17 of the city’s 21 charters have signed outlining support for equity, transparency, and commitment to high quality. She said by joining this effort, ‘we can collectively ensure that every student in every ward has access to a high quality public education. This is making sure the charters are a part of the solution.’”

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