Methodology

To collect our data, we first put together a list of all the charter schools in Arizona. The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, which authorizes the vast majority of the charter schools in the state, provided us its most up-to-date list of open charter schools. For charter schools not authorized by the Board, we used the data provided online by the Arizona Department of Education.
 
We visited the websites of each charter school and examined all available enrollment documents and policies. When these weren’t made available online, we reached out to the schools either through email or by phone to request them. We also searched school websites for student-parent handbooks and reviewed any that were available online for additional information about enrollment policies and practices. Some charter schools used the words enrollment and registration interchangeably, making it difficult to know which documents were requested during the enrollment process and the registration process. We believe this could create confusion among parents and make them believe the documents being requested are part of the enrollment process. Therefore, we coded these schools as if the documents being requested were part of the enrollment process.
 
We were able to gather enrollment data for 471 of the 543 charter schools, or nearly 87 percent, that were open in Arizona as of August 15, 2017. In the schools’ enrollment materials, we searched for information to determine whether the schools:
  1. Discourage the enrollment of students who don’t have strong grades or test scores
  2. Set an enrollment limit on students with special education needs or have questions in their enrollment documents that may suppress the enrollment of these students
  3. Discourage or preclude the enrollment of students with disciplinary records
  4. Have questions in their enrollment documents that may have a chilling effect on non-English speaking parents and students
  5. Discourage or preclude immigrant students from enrolling by requiring them to provide Social Security numbers or other citizenship information
  6. Require students and parents to complete pre-enrollment requirements, such as essays, interviews or school tours
  7. Refuse to enroll students until their parents commit to volunteer at the school or donate money to the school
  8. Require parents to pay impermissible fees that create barriers to enrollment
  9. Present other barriers for enrollment or continued enrollment
First, we reviewed enrollment materials for academic requirements. We categorized schools as having a violation (V) if they denied enrollment to students who didn’t meet certain academic requirements, such as a minimum grade point average. We also categorized schools as having a violation (V) if enrollment was conditioned upon a review of a student’s academic records. We categorized schools as having a possible violation (P) if they stated it may be difficult to accommodate students with low grades or who are deficient in core credits. We categorized schools as having suppressive language (S) if they required students to provide academic documents, such as transcripts and report cards, without a disclaimer that it was for post-enrollment placement purposes.
 
Second, we examined policies relating to students with special education needs. We categorized schools as having a violation (V) if they had a cap on the number of students with special education needs they enrolled. We categorized schools as having suppressive language (S) if they requested special education records, such as 504 plans and Individualized Education Programs, without noting it was for continuation of services.
 
Third, we looked through enrollment applications and policies to see if they contained language related to a student’s disciplinary history. We categorized schools as having a violation (V) if they denied enrollment to students who’ve been suspended, long-term suspended or who’ve attended alternative schools. We also categorized schools as having a violation (V) if enrollment was conditioned upon a review of a student’s discipline records. We categorized schools, except alternative schools, as having suppressive language (S) if they asked about a student’s disciplinary history or records and did not provide a disclaimer that this information would not affect enrollment. According to an Arizona Department of Education spokesperson, alternative schools “may ask those questions [about behavioral history] during the enrollment process to better assist how the school operates.”
 
Fourth, we reviewed enrollment documents to see if they contained any language that could discourage non-English speaking parents and students, such as schools stating they will not accommodate limited English proficient parents and students. We did not find schools that used this type of language. We categorized schools as having suppressive language (S) if their enrollment forms asked generic language questions, such as what language the student speaks at home, without including the Primary Home Language Other Than English (PHLOTE) survey or a similar survey stating this information would be used only to determine whether the students would be assessed for English language proficiency.
 
Fifth, we looked through enrollment applications and lists of required enrollment materials to see whether they required a Social Security number or citizenship information. We made a note of all the schools that asked students to provide Social Security numbers. We categorized schools as having a violation (V) if they asked parents to provide their Social Security numbers or to provide information or documentation related to their children’s citizenship or immigration status. We categorized schools as having a possible violation (P) if they asked parents to provide a photo ID or if they asked when students, if born in another country, entered and started attending school in the U.S. We categorized schools as having suppressive language (S) if they asked for a student’s birth certificate without offering alternatives documents that can be used to prove a student’s age and identity.
 
Sixth, we searched for any pre-enrollment requirements for parents or students. We categorized schools as having a violation (V) if enrollment was conditioned upon requirements such as essays, interviews, tours or school visits.
 
Seventh, we searched for policies requiring parents or family members to volunteer at the school or donate money to the school as a condition for enrollment. We categorized schools as having a violation (V) if they used words such as “expect” or “require” in relation to parent volunteering and donations. When schools asked parents to fill out volunteer commitment forms as part of the enrollment process, we categorized them as having a possible violation (P) because it wasn’t made clear if it was a condition that must be met prior to enrollment.
 
Eighth, we examined enrollment forms and policies to see whether schools charged fees for activities or items that are an integral component of a student’s education. Specifically, we looked for fees tied to essential course materials like textbooks (C), fees tied to enrollment (E), and fees for activities, like field trips, and school supplies (F). We made a note of all the schools that charged such fees and did not offer to waive fees for families who could not pay for them.
 
Ninth, we looked for other barriers for enrollment or continued enrollment. Schools were characterized as having a violation (V) if they advised parents that their children should enroll elsewhere if the “environment” was not “appropriate” for a particular student. We also categorized schools as having a violation (V) if they conditioned continued enrollment on academic performance. We categorized schools as having suppressive language (S) if they stated enrolled students have to meet strict academic requirements, such as take AP classes or get all C’s, to move on to the next grade level. We categorized schools as having a violation (V) if they stated a student will be withdrawn if the student has fewer absences than what Arizona law allows. We categorized schools as having a possible violation (P) if they stated a student may be withdrawn, suspended or lose credit for having fewer absences than what Arizona law allows.
 
We noted when schools did not (N) have a violation. Data was unavailable (U) for 73 schools that do not make their enrollment materials available on the Internet and did not respond to requests for those public records.
 
To see how each charter school in Arizona was coded on the metrics described above for this report, visit www.acluaz.org/SchoolsChoosingStudentsData
 

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