Application forms for Gulen charter schools ask for detailed information that cannot legally be used in deciding admission
Page created Summer 2010
Consider the case of Truebright Science Academy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a publicly-funded charter school (one of many such examples; see this page for other schools).
First, here are the relevant Pennsylvania statutes on what information can and cannot be used to decide on admission to a public charter school:
§ 711.7. Enrollment.
(a) A charter school or cyber charter school may not deny enrollment or otherwise discriminate in its admission policies or practices on the basis of a child’s disability or the child’s need for special education or supplementary aids or services.
(b) Subject to subsection (a), a charter school or cyber charter school may limit admission to a particular grade level or areas of concentration of the school such as mathematics, science or the arts. A charter school or cyber charter school may establish reasonable criteria to evaluate prospective students which shall be outlined in the school charter.
(c) A charter school or cyber charter school may not discriminate in its admission policies or practices on the basis of intellectual ability. Admission criteria may not include measures of achievement or aptitude.
Now consider what information is asked for on the Truebright application form:
[Note added on Sep 20, 2010: Since this page was originally published in summer 2010, the online application form linked to the Truebright Science Academy website has been changed. The new form no longer asks for information that cannot legally be used in considering applicants. The old form can still be accessed by clicking on this link. We believe that this change was not coincidental. The statements here apply to the form as it was back in summer 2010.]
(Note that all these questions are marked as “required” on the application.)
- Has applicant ever skipped a grade?
- Which grade did student skip (if applicable)?
- Does the student have any learning disabilities? If yes, please explain.
- Does the applicant have an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?
- Please indicate any special health, or educational needs of which we should be aware, and which will help us plan and provide for applicant's educational experience. If none, please state none:
- Please list applicant's honors, awards, or special achievements (in or out of school):
- Please list applicant's talents, interests, hobbies, club memberships, and activities:
- Parent Essay: In three-hundred words or less please explain in the space provided below why you think Truebright Science Academy Charter School is the best option for your daughter/son.
- Student Essay: In five-hundred words or less the student should address why she/he wants to attend Truebright, how Truebright will benefit the student, and how she/he may be able to contribute to Truebright. *
- Please include only the most RECENT report card grades. Note that all grades will be verified. Math, English, Science, History, Computer, Foreign Language, Art, Music, Other Extra-Curricular.
Clearly, answers to all the above questions could be used very effectively to screen for students who are more likely to perform well on state standardized tests, as well as to screen out special education students (see here for more on Gulen schools and special ed). Under the current system, these forms give the school access to this information before a decision is made on admission. This is trusting the school to not use this information to bias the decision, yet the school has a powerful incentive to do so We see no evidence that state charter school boards are verifying that the schools are not abusing of such information.