Ensuring Unbiased Admissions Process for Public and Charter School Districts
Charter schools and public schools have recently been under scrutiny to ensure that their admissions process is legitimately allowing students of all backgrounds and situations a fair shot at enrollment within their districts. Setting the rules for a fair enrollment process can be very simple task, but enforcing those rules and providing transparency can be a challenge with paper processes. Without leveraging technology, school lottery processes can be subject to questioning from parents and school protocol monitoring committees. So the question to be answered is: How does a school district or charter school ensure that their admissions process is securely unbiased?
- Unfair admissions processes are very common.
According to the L.A. Times, “253 California charter schools are currently flagged for discriminatory admissions practices in a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Advocates.” The factors that have been measured in order to identify these districts include bias against English language learners, mandates for parents, auditions and academic performance. State law in California requires that charter schools take in all students, therefore deterring any child from a charter school education is unlawful on any grounds. While states have different laws pertaining to how public and charter schools must implement their enrollment process, each district or charter must fairly impose those laws and act in accordance with their own state’s laws.
2. What happens when a school system foregoes a rigorously regulated admissions process?
Nepotism and favoritism are running rampant in school systems neglecting to technologically ensure the fairness of their admissions process. In New Orleans, where residence is not a factor in deciding the placement of any student, only 7 public schools have opted out of the common admissions process which ensures equality for prospective students. Using a singular online registration form, the two New Orleans school systems have been able to fairly divide proportionate amounts of gifted (avg. 7% per school), special education (11%), economically disadvantaged (85%) and white students (7%) (Source: Louisiana Department of Education). Only seven schools have neglected to utilize the common application, and three of these schools have vastly disproportionate statistics, accepting mainly white and gifted students and only 21-61% economically disadvantaged students and 4-8% of special education. These three schools have been accused of cherry picking through applications by imposing an admissions process with a “unique set of requirements so complicated that parents have to make spreadsheets to keep track of the steps”, which includes hand-delivering an physical application during school business hours (Times-Picayune, 2016).
3. How can the right technology help this situation?
Parents and students deserve transparency when it comes to applying for schools. School systems deserve a lottery process that graces both staff and students with respect and equality. This prevents their methods from being criticized and the community from reproaching the school’s reputation. Efficient school choice software solutions allow a school district to tailor the enrollment process in accordance with state and local laws as well as school policy. With a digital lottery process in place, potential students should have the ability to apply for admission online, with the opportunity to rank their choice buildings within one district. This is the closest anyone should be able to come to tilting the scales in this process, and when everyone is able to do it – it’s fair. Once the rules of this technological admissions process are put in place by the district, the algorithms can impartially determine a “weight” for each student, based on factors such as free and reduced lunch needs or the presence of siblings in a particular school, and assign them proportionately into the correct school buildings. This prevents parents from claiming favoritism and prevents any negative allegations for the school district. Humans will always act out of self-interest, but technology can achieve the objectivism necessary to ensure unbiased admissions processes.