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[Susan notes: Here's a straightforward letter offering a few facts about admission to New York City charter schools.]

Published in Wall Street Journal
05/16/2011

To the editor

In "Scenes From the New York Education Wars" (op-ed, May 10), Joel Klein asserts that Harlem Success Academy "selects its students, mostly poor and minority, by random lottery." Yes, but it is a random lottery among the self-selected. The random lottery is drawn not from among the community at large, but from among those families who make the effort to apply for admission. While this is not an onerous requirement, it does impose a minimal level of commitment and effort that the community's most troubled families would not satisfy—think Mary, the mother portrayed by Mo'Nique in the movie "Precious."



Once chosen by the random lottery, there are further conditions for families to satisfy. When my child was chosen to be offered a seat in a Harlem charter school, the admissions packet we received included a commitment card to be returned by a specified due date, a set of 20 forms to be completed, and an announcement indicating that a parent and the child must attend a mandatory 5-hour enrollment meeting on a specified Saturday in May as a condition for accepting the seat. These requirements are not onerous enough to deter a family that is committed to a child's education, but almost certainly they would screen out a family that is not so committed. So while the charter school students may be "demographically almost identical to those in nearby schools," as Mr. Klein notes, I would expect there to be critical psychographic differences.



To achieve well on standardized tests, charter schools benefit from filtering mechanisms unavailable to nearby district schools.



Daniel K. Cooper


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