Newark Update: Universal Enrollment Collaboration among Traditionals and Charters is a Go

Newark Public Schools announced a new initiative earlier this week: traditional public schools and charter schools will collaborate on a universal enrollment plan. 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.

Today the Star-Ledger reports that 70% of Newark’s charter schools have signed on to the universal enrollment plan.  Superintendent Cami Anderson said, “we’re thrilled on behalf of all the families of Newark.

One of the talking points of anti-charter school zealots is that charters “cream off” top-performing students and, thus, appear more successful than non-charters. Here’s Diane Ravitch, one of the primary zeolots:
* Many of the “high-performing” charter schools succeed by skimming off the best students, even in poor districts. The more they draw away the best students, the worse it is for the regular public schools, who are left with the weakest students.
* Many charter schools succeed by excluding or limiting the number of students they accept who have disabilities or who are English language learners. They are also free to push out low-scoring students and send them back to the local public school. This improves their results, but it leaves the regular public schools with disproportionate numbers of the most challenging students.
The collaboration in Newark  is open to every student, regardless of academic proficiency, disability, English language fluency. There’s no “skimming” or competition, simply a  large and troubled school district marshaling all resources to best serve kids. 

At best, the new initiative will discredit unfounded accusations and tone down some of the rhetoric. At worst, at least in Newark, more kids will have choices among all public schools, traditional or charter.

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