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Massachusetts Charter Schools

Enrollment Policy and Practice Frequently Asked Questions

(Updated September 2016)

The Enrollment Processes Technical Advisory and the following Enrollment Policy and Practice Frequently Asked Questions provided by Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) should be read carefully and reviewed in its entirety. An answer to one frequently asked question might lead a reader to an inaccurate conclusion when read in isolation from the Department’s guidance and answers to other frequently asked questions. Answers should not be reviewed or relied upon in isolation from the entirety of the Department’s guidance regarding enrollment processes. Please reach out to the Department if you have a question or concern that is not currently found in this FAQ.

Eligibility Criteria

Enrollment Process and Lottery Procedures

  1. Are there restrictions around application deadlines and holding lotteries?
  2. May a network of charter schools use one application for prospective students?
  3. May a charter school with multiple campuses under one charter that serve the same grade levels assign students to specific campuses?
  4. What information must charter schools include or request in an application for admission?
  5. May a charter school retract or rescind offers of admission, unenroll students, or terminate the enrollment of currently attending students?
  6. What information is a charter school prohibited from collecting through an application for admission but may collect after an offer of admission is made and accepted?
  7. May a school administer diagnostic or placement tests to students before they are admitted?
  8. Can a school administer diagnostic or placement tests to students after they are admitted?
  9. Can a school require informational meetings as part of the enrollment process?
  10. Can a school ask for either financial donations or commitments of volunteer time during the enrollment process?
  11. Can a school charge an application fee?
  12. Must a school hold a lottery if the number of applications received is fewer than the number of available seats?
  13. Do previously enrolled students have enrollment preference over other applicants?
  14. How do I know if a student should receive sibling preference?
  15. When should schools obtain proof of residency as part of the enrollment process?
  16. If a student submits an application and provides reasonable proof of residency at the time of the lottery and is placed on the waitlist, does the student need to provide updated proof of residency before an actual offer of admission?

Waitlist

Backfilling

Acceptance of an Offer of Admission and Students Attending

General Inquiries

All


Enrollment Process and Lottery Procedures

14.

Are there restrictions around application deadlines and holding lotteries?

Yes. According to 603 CMR 1.05(3)(c), for the upcoming school year, a charter school cannot have a principal application deadline or hold any enrollment lottery for student admission until after January 1st and must conclude its principal enrollment process no later than March 15th of each year.


15.

May a network of charter schools use one application for prospective students?

Yes, provided that it is clear to applicants that the application form is being used by different charter schools, that those schools hold separate lotteries and admit students separately, and that transfers between those charter schools is prohibited.


16.

May a charter school with multiple campuses under one charter that serve the same grade levels assign students to specific campuses?

Yes. If the charter school operates multiple campuses under a single charter, the school in its enrollment policy may reserve the right to assign students to specific campuses for reasons of geographic proximity, student safety, or program delivery. See 603 CMR 1.05(13). The school's enrollment policy as approved by the Department, however, must clearly articulate this practice, and the application materials provided to applicants must state this clearly in a manner understandable by parents and guardians. Charter schools that operate multiple campuses under a single charter may permit applicants to indicate their campus preferences when seeking admission.


17.

What information must charter schools include or request in an application for admission?

At minimum, the application for admission must contain the applicant's full name (first, middle, last); the applicant's date of birth; city/town of residence; address; telephone number; grade level for which they are seeking admission; home addresses; and telephone numbers. The application for admission must also contain the non-discrimination statement. As part of the application process, schools may also require the applicant's age, sibling status, and reasonable proof of residency. See the discussion of reasonable proof of residency in Q&A No. 2.


18.

May a charter school retract or rescind offers of admission, unenroll students, or terminate the enrollment of currently attending students?

Yes. A charter school may only do so if the school's enrollment policy and application for admission includes clear language, readily understandable by the parent or guardian that prohibits the submission of false statements and documents. The school's enrollment policy, approved by the Commissioner, may specify for cases of falsified statements or documents, or ineligibility (such as minimum age requirements for kindergarten admission or successfully completing prior grades), that the school will retract or rescind offers of admission, unenroll students, or terminate the enrollment of currently attending students. This must be made available in the parent's native language and the parents must indicate that they understand the policy and potential consequence.


19.

What information is a charter school prohibited from collecting through an application for admission but may collect after an offer of admission is made and accepted?

While schools may ask for the following information after a student accepts an offer of admission, an application for admission may not ask for:

  • A home language survey;
  • A free and reduced price lunch form;
  • Permanent transcripts from any former school(s);
  • A publications permission form;
  • A records release form; or
  • Other student records (e.g., health records and Individualized Education Plan from a previous school).

The Department recommends that charter schools do not collect on their application for admission any personally identifiable student information that relates to protected classes; such as, ethnicity/race, religion, or national origin. Charter schools may not condition enrollment on the submission any of the items listed.


20.

May a school administer diagnostic or placement tests to students before they are admitted?

No. Charter schools may not administer tests to potential applicants or condition enrollment on results from any test of ability or achievement. Schools may perform placement testing after acceptance of an offer of admission in order to best serve the needs of students attending the school.


21.

Can a school administer diagnostic or placement tests to students after they are admitted?

Yes. Once a student accepts an offer of admission, the school may determine through placement testing which grades are best suited for students. If so, the charter school must provide a space in the appropriate grade. If the charter school does not offer that grade, it still must ensure that the student is educated at the appropriate grade level.


22.

Can a school require informational meetings as part of the enrollment process?

No. The charter school regulations, 603 CMR 1.05(3)(a), prohibit charter schools from requiring potential students and their families to attend interviews or informational meetings as a condition of enrollment.


23.

Can a school ask for either financial donations or commitments of volunteer time during the enrollment process?

No. Charter schools are prohibited from asking for donations of money or commitments of time during the enrollment process.


24.

Can a school charge an application fee?

No. Charter schools are prohibited from charging an application fee.


25.

Must a school hold a lottery if the number of applications received is fewer than the number of available seats?

No. There is no need to hold an enrollment lottery if the charter school can admit every student who seeks admission.


26.

Do previously enrolled students have enrollment preference over other applicants?

No. Previously enrolled students who stopped attending the charter school do not have a preference over any other applicants. Students who are already attending the charter school have a right to continue attending, and schools may not require such students to apply for admission to continue attending.


27.

How do I know if a student should receive sibling preference?

Applicants who have a common parent, either biologically or legally through adoption, and have a sibling attending the charter school when an offer of admission is made are entitled to a sibling preference during the enrollment process.

Receive Sibling PreferenceDo Not Receive Sibling Preference
  • Children who live in different households but share a common biological or legal parent
  • Siblings of students who will graduate at the end of the school year in which the lottery is held
  • For Commonwealth charter schools, if a student moves out of the local city or town but continues to attend the charter school, that student's siblings have preference in admission even though they are nonresidents at the time of application
  • Children who live in the same household but do not share a common biological or legal parent
  • Foster children
  • Siblings and children of alumni/ae
  • Siblings of applicants who have been accepted for admission but are not yet attending (including twins)

28.

When should schools obtain proof of residency as part of the enrollment process?

A school must ask for reasonable proof of residency before an offer of admission is made by the school. See 603 CMR 1.05(10). We strongly recommend that the school ask for and receive reasonable proof of residency before the lottery and confirm residency before making an offer of admission. Students become residents the day they move to a city or town. See also Q&A No. 2 for additional information on residency.


29.

If a student submits an application and provides reasonable proof of residency at the time of the lottery and is placed on the waitlist, does the student need to provide updated proof of residency before an actual offer of admission?

Yes. Current residency information is required to receive a residency preference. In order to establish a continued residency preference, a charter school should ask students to update their reasonable proof of residency before making an offer of admission to a student on the waitlist.


 
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