Pre-Enrollment Interview and Essay Requirements
Arizona charter schools may not require students or their parents to complete pre-enrollment activities, such as essays, interviews or school tours. Nor can charter schools use students’ performance on interviews or essays, or the student’s decision not to complete requested pre-enrollment activities, to determine which students to enroll. Doing so undermines the principle that charter schools must be open to all students, not only a select few, and it violates state law that mandates charter schools admit all students who wish to enroll (A.R.S. § 15-184(A)).
Even when charter schools request essays or interviews but state that these materials will not be used to determine enrollment outcomes, it gives the appearance of selectivity, which may suppress the enrollment of students from less-privileged backgrounds or students who lack confidence in their abilities. Such policies may violate additional state and federal civil rights laws if they have a disparate impact on protected groups of students, such as students with disabilities, English language learners or low academic performers.
At least 88 Arizona charter schools require essays or interviews as part of the enrollment process and do not state that a student’s performance on these activities will not impact their admission. Additionally, 20 schools require students and/or parents to complete a school tour, visit or meeting as a condition of enrollment. And 26 schools require parents and/or students to attend a mandatory orientation or registration event.
Academy With Community Partners (Mesa): “Enrollment includes completion of the application and an interview with the administrator, the student, and parent/guardian. You are to bring a copy of your transcript to the interview.”
Berean Academy (Sierra Vista): “Scholars starting in grades 7-12 are required to meet with the principle [sic] before enrolling. These scholars should bring a copy of their transcript (or current grades for middle school).”
Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy (Flagstaff): Students must write a one-page essay as part of their enrollment application. “Once the application has been submitted, applicants will be required to schedule an informational tour of the FALA Campus. Finally, when the applicant moves to the top of the list they will schedule an interview with the Dean of Academy, Deidre Crawley.”
New School for the Arts (Tempe): All students must submit an essay explaining “the importance of your art(s) to your development as a scholar.” All high school students must attend portfolio/auditions and registration. Also, new students must present two letters of recommendation from unrelated adults who can speak to the students’ academic or artistic abilities and character, before the application will be considered complete.
New World Educational Center (Phoenix): An interview with the parent or guardian and the student will be scheduled with a school administrator. The school will notify the parent or guardian if the student has been accepted or rejected no later than two school days after the interview. If accepted, the parent must fill out an enrollment packet and return it to the school.
Satori Charter School (Tucson): As part of the enrollment process, parents and students must meet with a school administrator, and students must schedule a time to visit several classes. Also, parents, students and a teacher must fill out a survey and write responses to questions about the student.
Vista Grove Preparatory Academy (Mesa): Enrollment of new students “is conditional upon a student/parent interview by an administrator” and completion of a student file that includes a student enrollment form, birth certificate copy and unofficial transcripts.
• Schools should not ask for pre-enrollment interviews or essays, even on a voluntary basis.
• Schools should make clear that tours, orientations, and registration events are optional and not a condition that must be met prior to enrollment.