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Success Academy drops English language learners preference in admissions

The Success Academy board's agenda for Monday's meeting.

The Success Academy board’s agenda for Monday’s meeting.

By Kay Nguyen and Theresa Avila

 

On Monday, the Success Academy charter network’s board voted to revise its admissions policy to comply better with U.S. Department of Education guidelines.

Under the previous admissions policy, English language learners took part in what was effectively a “lottery inside the lottery,” as the network put it. The new policy does away with the separate lottery.

The vote was the only new business item on the agenda – apart from the approval of the previous meeting’s minutes. Board business took less than five minutes at a meeting attended by about 20 people, most of them board members and staff.

Success Academy schools were some of the first in New York to set aside seats for English language learners in its lottery, but the network started two years ago to receive pushback from the U.S. Department of Education, which prefers that charter schools have no admissions preference or seat set-asides.

The charter network dropped its separate English language learner lottery for the 2013-14 school year after the department threatened to withdraw certain grant funding.

The following spring, the department gave the green light once again for Success Academy to use the “weighted lottery process.”

But in recent weeks, federal officials recanted once more, saying schools should not be allowed to to give such preferences if they want to receive federal grants, according to Success’ chief legal officer, Emily Kim..

A letter has already been sent to parents to notify them of the admissions policy changes.

Eva Moskowitz, network founder and CEO, said the decision runs counter to New York state charter law, which she said encourages the weighted lottery for English language learners.

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