Charter public schools are independently run, nonsectarian schools of choice. Anyone can attend. There are no admission standards, and as public schools, they are free for all students.
Though all charter school students are admitted by lottery, critics claim that charters select their students and fail to enroll troubled, disabled or academically struggling students, and as a result have better than average student outcomes. There is no evidence to support this claim.
Since opening in 1995, City on a Hill Charter Public High School in Boston has worked hard, but been challenged to reach the families it was created to serve — families of all students in the City of Boston. We have put ads in local newspapers, sent packets of fliers in multiple languages to places of worship and posted fliers in libraries and post offices. We met with youth coordinators of community organizations, and partnered with non-profits that work with middle-schoolers.
City on a Hill has held an all-charter school fair, but attendance was always low. Additionally, the statewide Charter School Association created parent liaisons to coordinate outreach programs to inform families about charter public schools. These efforts increased applications, but only marginally.
Without access to the names of BPS 8th graders, there was no centralized way to reach the families of Boston’s 3,000 rising 9th graders preparing to enter high school. Primarily, families were steered from one Boston Public School to another, not knowing of other options available to them. In the district, families are informed of their options through the annual BPS high school fair. Charter public schools are excluded from this fair, even when offering to cover any nominal costs.
Additionally, district middle schools hold their own information sessions, inviting BPS high schools to present to 8th graders. When City on a Hill reached out to these middle schools, response was mixed.
Last year, a law was passed that ensured that districts would release the contact information of all 8th grade families, making certain that addresses would be given to a third-party organization that would send charter school mailings out to families — in their native languages, no less! Finally, true educational choice was made available to Boston families.
For the past 10 years, City on a Hill has had more than 500 applications for its 100 annual open seats. With its newfound access to all 8th grade families in Boston, we received 844 applications for 100 9th grade seats in the 2011 lottery, illustrating the need — and demand — for high quality high school seats in Boston. City on a Hill hopes to fulfill some of this need by replicating, opening more high schools in the Boston area. We want to say “thank you” to the Legislature for passing a law enabling us to reach all families in Boston, and opening the door to true educational choice in Massachusetts. Well done.
Erica Brown, City on a Hill, Executive Director and
Paul Hays, City on a Hill, Principal