Do charter schools have to teach all kids in the community equally? As they find them, as they are? This blog post from Wait, What in Connecticut, looking at the enrollment data of several charter schools, including Achievement First schools, argues no.
Perhaps most disturbing of all is the fact that despite Connecticut’s urban areas having significant numbers of students coming from non-English speaking homes, charter schools have somehow managed to create learning environments in which virtually NONE OF THE STUDENTS who come from non-English speaking households end up in their schools.
As educators and policy makers know, one of the most significant challenges to educational achievement is language barriers particularly a problem when students take their homework (which is written in English) home to non-English speaking households. Greater parental engagement in their children’s education is hard enough, but when the students are learning in a language that is not spoken at home it makes it virtually impossible to generate significant parental involvement.
In Bridgeport 40% of the students go home to a non-English speaking home. That percentage increases to 44.7% in Hartford and in New Haven the percent of students coming from non-English speaking homes is 28.6%
In Connecticut, charter schools are required to ensure equal access to their schools. Efforts must be made to recruit students from all racial and ethnic backgrounds and admission tests can’t be used. In fact, entrance decisions must include a blind lottery system. So that said, compare the percentage of students from non-English speaking homes with the numbers the charter school have reported to the State Department of Education:
School (% students from non-English speaking homes)
Bridgeport Public Schools (40%)
Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy (0.6%)
The Bridge Academy (14.9%)
New Beginnings (0%)
Park City Prep (0%)
HartfordPublic Schools (44.7% )
Achievement First – Hartford (0%)
New HavenPublic Schools (28.6%)
Achievement First – Amistad (0%)
Achievement First – Elm City Prep (0%)
Common Ground School (4.6%)
Highville Charter (0%)
The data is certainly unsettling. If Connecticut’s publically funded charter schools are supposed to be equally accessible to all and up to 4 in 10 students from those areas come from non-English speaking households then it is pretty unbelievable and completely unconscionable that almost no charter school students come from non-English speaking households.This follows along the lines of scholarly reports that have looked at whether charter schools are recreating the conditions of segregation. As the LA Times reported:
The trend toward segregation was especially notable for African American students. Nationally, 70% of black charter students attend schools where at least 90% of students are minorities. That’s double the figure for traditional public schools. The typical black charter-school student attends a campus where nearly three in four students also are black, researchers with the Civil Rights Project at UCLA said Thursday.
The other researchers also focused on economic segregation, looking at private companies that manage schools, in most cases charters. The enrollments at most of these campuses exacerbated income extremes, they concluded. Charters tended to serve higher-income students or lower-income students. Charters also were likely to serve fewer disabled students and fewer English learners.Because nothing says Progressive like Segregationist policies!