Charter schools are not allowed exclude students who would be accommodated in any other public school. They can't have an admissions process that uses test scores or other measures of academic ability to choose the most advanced students.
They must also accept special needs students, and must provide whatever accommodations those students might need. According to the Education Law Center, "A charter school must admit students regardless of the nature and severity of their disability if they meet the other requirements for enrollment."
Charter schools may, however, create a program that is specifically designed for at-risk students. The risks might be school-related (truancy, academic problems) or social (limited English skills, truancy, academic problems
Otherwise, a charter school must accept applications from students in its district. If it receives more applications than it has room for, acceptance is based on a lottery. The only exception is that a school may give preference to a student if he or she has a sibling already at the school. Once accepted, he or she does not have to reapply in later years.
How they admit
Admissions criteria may not be based on:
Academic or athletic ability
Inability to speak English
A charter school may limit admission to:
A particular grade level
A particular area of study (science, the arts)
What you should ask of schools
The Education Law Center has created a list of questions to ask before you enroll your child in a charter school. Here are some of them.
1. How long has the school been open?
2. What is the school's mission?
3. How many students currently attend the school? How many left after last year? Is enrollment steady, increasing or decreasing?
4. How is the charter school different from the neighborhood school my child would attend?
5. Does the school require parents to volunteer?
6. How many members of the faculty have teaching certificates?
7. What academic courses are offered? What classes in science, art, reading are offered?
8. Are any extracurricular activities available?
9. Does the school have a library? A gym?
10. Do students get their own books? Can they take their books home?