Innovative Enrollment Initiative Gives Students Real Choice
NCSF CEO Mashea Ashton writes on The Huffington Post:
If we're serious about reforming public education in our nation, we have to ensure all our kids have access to high-quality schools. Newark, New Jersey, is launching an innovative new universal enrollment program this week aimed at achieving that goal as well as promoting equity and transparency, but federal regulations may stand in the way of full implementation. The federal government needs to loosen the reins and let cities and school districts do what's best for their students.
Newark's universal enrollment program, part of the district superintendent's One Newark initiative, is representative of a promising trend emerging in a handful of school districts across the United States. Under universal enrollment, parents will simply fill out a single application to rank their top public district or charter school choices. This streamlined process will ease the burden for parents who will no longer need to go door to door to find out the options, timelines and enrollment requirements of their local schools.
The program, which went live Jan. 6, is a groundbreaking collaboration between the Newark public school district and the city's robust charter school sector. As of now, more than three quarters -- 16 of the city's 21 public charter schools -- are on board to participate. They should be commended for their willingness to step up and be part of the solution for better schools in Newark.
Public charter schools are often accused of "cherry picking" their students, avoiding special needs or high-risk students. A universal enrollment system will alleviate those concerns. Parents can list their top eight public district or charter school choices in order of preference, and the district will place students according to availability. Newark's universal enrollment initiative is bolder than others in its efforts to best serve students with the greatest needs. The system will give greater preference to students with special education needs, students who are eligible for free lunch, and students who want to attend a school in the community where they live.