April 1 deadline looms to apply for charter schools
Caribbean Life, Feb. 28-Mar. 5, 2020 35
BY GRANT LANCASTER
As New Yorkers have seen increased test scores
and more personalized school experiences at
charter schools in the city, the number of applicants
for these schools has jumped 26% in the
last fi ve years.
Charter school students make up about 11% of
New York City public school students, with an estimated
126,400 students. Each year, about 33,000
seats open up for new students at 260 charter
schools across the fi ve boroughs.
The fi rst step for getting one of these seats is
Many charter schools have their own application
forms that parents can get from the school’s
website, but some schools use the Common Online
Charter School Application, allowing parents to
apply for multiple schools at the same time.
The deadline for the common application is
April 1. Some charters may have a later deadline,
but in general, any applications submitted later
than April 1 could be denied or result in the students
being immediately waitlisted.
Next, the schools will narrow down a fi eld of
more than 81,000 applicants. Because of the high
demand, some students are sure to get put on a
waitlist. In order to keep the selection system fair,
these schools use a lottery system to decide who
they will accept.
But the lottery system is not completely random
– charter schools are required to give preference
to returning students, siblings of enrolled
students and students that live in the same Community
School District as the school. So students
that apply to a local school have a better chance
of getting in, and once one child in a family is accepted,
others will have an easier time getting a
Some schools also choose to offer enrollment
preference to students that are academically at
risk or come from low-income families, English
language learners, students with disabilities and
children of school staff.
One of the reasons so many people apply for
spots at charter schools is that these students tend
to test better than other public school students,
with charter students testing at about 57% profi -
ciency in English Language Arts and about 63%
in math in 2019, compared to public school students
who had about 45% profi ciency in English
Language Arts and about 46% in math, according
to the New York City Charter School Center.
Another aspect that may attract parents is that
charter schools have the chance to offer special
learning programs or specialized curriculum to
their students. For some students, this might help
them think and learn differently.
Although some of these programs could be considered
experimental, charter schools have a high
success rate, with 113 operating in New York City
for more than 10 years and only 20 closing since
New York charter schools were created in 1998.
The demographics of charter schools looks
different than the demographics of public school
students as a whole, with a greater percentage
of black students at charter schools than in public
schools as a whole, according to the New York
City Department of Education.
While 52% of charter students are black, 25.5%
of the students in public schools as a whole are
black. The percentage of Hispanic students is
about the same, with 39% of charter students and
40.6% in public schools overall. Charter schools
lack a signifi cant percentage of Asian students,
compared to the 16.2% Asian students in public
schools as a whole.
Of charter school students, 80% are economically
disadvantaged, 18% are students with disabilities
and 7% are multilingual learners.
Charter schools are free public schools that operate
off of public money but have a private board,
putting them outside the direct control of the New
York City Department of Education. There are
three groups in New York City that can authorize
these schools, with the largest, the State University
on New York Charter School Institute, supporting
161 of the city’s charter schools.