Bronx Charter School Busted for Stacking the Deck

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Even though legally charter schools must admit by lottery, the Academic Leadership school in the Bronx has been weeding out weak applicants, reports Gotham Schools.

Four parents who tried to enroll their children at Academic Leadership, an elementary school, this year or last year said that school employees tested their children before deciding whether or not to accept them. "They took my son to a class to watch him in the class and see if everything was okay. He was in the class an hour," said Khalilur Munshi, describing his experience with the school this winter ... An employee told him that the second grade had open slots and no waiting list, and then his son was taken to sit in on the class, Munshi said. When his son returned, a staff member told Munshi that there actually was a waiting list and that school officials would let him know if a spot opened up.

To further bolster Munshi's claim, several former and current school employees told Gotham Schools that Norma Figueroa-Hurwitz, the school's founder, insists upon such tests in order to identify the most advanced kids with the most motivated parents. Parents were also told to bring report cards in for their kids if they were wait-listed. This, in turn, stacks the deck in terms of future test scores and achievements.

Figueroa-Hurwitz's husband and co-founder, Ted Hurwitz, denied that students were tested, but Gotham Schools uncovered a whole bunch of inconsistencies between how Academic Leadership handles the annual charter lottery and the way other schools do. This strikes at a key complaint that critics of the charter schools in New York City often make — that the institutions either deliberately or accidentally skim strong students with more dedicated parents off the top of the applicant pool. The Department of Education said that the city is beginning to examine “a number of issues” at Academic Leadership.

Despite state law, Bronx charter school tests students for entry [Gotham Schools]