“No Velvet Ropes” Shines a Light on NYC District Schools’ Admission Processes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
4/17/2014

Contact: Jon Reinish 202-999-0461; jreinish@skdknick.com

NEW STUDY FROM NYC CHARTER SCHOOL CENTER SHOWS PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS PROVIDE A MORE ACCESSIBLE, HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION THAN MANY TRADITIONAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS

“No Velvet Ropes” Shines a Light on NYC District Schools’ Admission Processes from Formally Selective Policies
to Economically Restrictive Enrollment Zones

(New York, NY) - Charter schools increase access to top-tier education options for the lowest-income families in New York, The New York City Charter School Center released in an exclusive report today. No Velvet Ropes: How NYC Charter Schools Make Opportunity Accessible, examines ease of access to NYC’s public schools across New York City - and finds that charter schools provide one of the most accessible and high-quality public school options for parents, especially in the city’s highest-need neighborhoods. Debunking the allegation that charters are “elite” while traditional public schools “take all comers,” the research shows that traditional public schools are oftentimes far more difficult to gain access to than public charter schools. A link to the full report can be accessed here.

“Between formally selective admissions policies and the economically segregating effect of the private housing market in New York City, many district public schools are effectively off-limits to hundreds of thousands of families—as if surrounded by invisible velvet ropes,” said Michael Regnier, Director of Policy and Research at the Charter Center. “Public charter schools play a critical role in the city’s public school system as they operate mostly in low-income neighborhoods, providing not just access, but access to effective schools with the good academic outcomes that all parents seek for their children.”

Research highlights include:

  • Approximately one third (32%) of the city’s middle and high school seats are filled by students who applied through a biased admissions process. These schools enroll a disproportionately low number of students who are Black, Hispanic, or from low-income families.
  • Most traditional district elementary schools admit students based on geographic “zones,” but school zones reflect the same dramatic inequalities of access as the housing market itself, and residents of affluent neighborhoods treat public school assignment as part of their private housing investment. Many other elementary schools and programs are designated for Gifted & Talented students, as judged by test scores.
  • Charter schools enroll students by random lottery, without regard to academic record. Most charter schools operate in one of three lower-income areas of New York City: Harlem, Central Brooklyn, and the South Bronx. In these areas, charter elementary schools were twice as likely as district schools to earn an “A” in Student Progress, an indication of students making academic gains over time, on the 2012-13 NYC Progress Report (34% vs. 17%).
  • Charter schools also offer accessible opportunity in middle school and high school, when students are more likely to commute from their local neighborhoods. Charter middle and high schools citywide were more likely to earn an “A” in Student Progress than every type of district school, excluding those that are the most selective, which admit students strictly based on test performance.

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Press Release