This series will seek to tell the other side of the charter public school story in a way that will bring context to what we believe are truths about charter public schools in general, and specifically about high performing networks, like our own KIPP SoCal. In doing so, we hope you join us in refocusing the narrative on what truly matters: a great public school education for all of our children, regardless of zip code, income, language, or ability.
One of the most pervasive and frequent misconceptions we hear about charter schools is that their performance is tied to "skimming off the top," "cherry-picking' or "pushing students with special needs out." While we can't speak for every charter organization, at KIPP SoCal, the opposite is true. We are completely open in our enrollment. That means that we have no idea what needs or abilities our children have until they are enrolled. Once enrolled, we receive records and revise our programming to meet the needs of our students.
What does 'Open Enrollment' mean?
The application process for KIPP SoCal is a simple, 1-page application that requests only the most basic information we'd need to enter a student into a lottery: student name, parent name, grade, DOB, address, current school, etc. Per District directive and our charter affirmation (excerpt below), we specifically do not ask for any demographic data from students at this stage, solely to ensure there is NO opportunity for us to "cherry-pick" our students. We are 100% compliant as this is a top priority that extends throughout the lottery process (if needed), up and through enrollment.
"...Charter School shall not require a parent/legal guardian/student to provide information regarding a student's disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, legal or economic status, primary language or English learner status, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in section 422.55 of the Penal Code, or any other information that would violate federal or state law, prior to admission, participation in any admssions or attendance lottery, or pre-enrollment event or process, or as a condition of admission or enrollment...
...Charter School shall not request or require submission of a student's IEP, Section 504 Plan, or any other record or related information prior to admission, participation in any admissions or attendance lottery, or pre-enrollment event or process, or as a condition of admission or enrollment...."
Does a school lottery allow Charter Schools to 'hand-pick' students?
If there are more interested students than available seats, the schools are required to hold lotteries, which randomly determine which students will be enrolled. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education revised its long-standing policy requiring charter schools to use a “blind” lottery when they are oversubscribed. Where it is permitted by state law, charters can now use “weighted” lotteries to preference “educationally disadvantaged” students. This change has resulted in charter schools serving an even greater share of disadvantaged children than they already do. For example, 12% of KIPP SoCal's student body is dedicated to special needs education, a greater percentage than the traditional district national average.
What is the criteria that student applicants are evaluated against in order to attend a KIPP SoCal school?
None. Charter schools do not have special eligibility or entrance requirement exams. According to federal law, charter schools must accept all students, including students with disabilities and English Learners (ELs), regardless of previous academic performance. Per our charter, we do not give any type of academic assessment for enrollment. Charter schools are built on the belief that every single child deserves the opportunity to go to a high-quality public school education that puts their needs first, regardless of their zip code, income or ability. It's really that simple.
Truth be told, charter schools don't choose their students. Students and their families choose charter schools as simply another tuition-free, open to all option within the American public school system.
And KIPP SoCal is proud to be a part of that system, working tirelessly to ensure that every child grows up free to create the future they want for themselves and for their families.