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Charters' Impact on Parent Involvement Studied

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Though California's charter schools enjoy more parental involvement than regular public schools, their efforts to require parents to participate may exclude less desirable students, a study concludes.

The report released last week by the Southwest Regional Laboratory, a government-funded research agency, argues that charter schools' use of parental-involvement contracts and other criteria may discourage the schools from enrolling students who are "least desirable to teach."

Though charter schools cannot legally consider race, ethnicity, academic achievement, or ability to pay, an enrollment criterion that requires "supportive and educationally involved parents" may weed out problem students, the report says. "One of the major reasons why charter schools have higher levels of parent involvement may be that the more school-participation-oriented families select themselves into the charter-school enrollment."

The study is based on surveys of charter schools in California, including 23 schools that require parents to sign contracts promising some level of involvement.

Charter schools with parent contracts had about the same level of parent involvement as charter schools that did not use them, the study found. Charter schools generally had higher levels of parental involvement than regular public schools.

The study says the parental contracts tend to give charter schools the upper hand in dealings with parents, with most allowing for the expulsion or transfer of students if parents fail to meet the terms for participation.

Colorado Charters

Meanwhile, a separate study of Colorado charter schools concludes that the innovation is off to a good start in that state.

"The schools are plowing new ground in a myriad of areas, even if the instructional delivery in many of the schools is not entirely revolutionary," concludes the report by the Colorado Children's Campaign.

The report calls for changes in the state's law, such as eliminating the cap of 50 charters and barring school districts from charging fees to process charter applications.

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