WaPo: Charters grapple with admission policies, question how public they should be

With 8,500 students on waiting lists for public charter schools in the District last spring, an increase of 18 percent from the previous year, many wonder whether it makes sense to limit the number of students who can access the highest-performing schools.

“At a time when we are pushing for more funding to launch new charter schools, and when so many people are on waiting lists, you want to make sure that charter schools are open to accepting all students that come to them,” said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, who encouraged charter schools this summer to “backfill,” or enroll students as seats become available.

The Harlem-based nonprofit group Democracy Builders estimated in a report this year that New York’s charter schools leave 2,500 seats empty in grades three through eight when students transfer out — a practice that appears to raise test scores in some schools.

With charter schools becoming a larger part of the District’s public school system, enrolling 44 percent of all students, the city has begun discussing the role that the once-experimental start-ups should play now that they have matured. This fall, Jennifer Niles, deputy mayor for education, is convening a task force to look at how traditional and charter schools can work together to address citywide challenges, including how to limit the thousands of students who cycle in and out of public schools each year.

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