Charters’ 100 percent college acceptance claim doesn’t stand up

December 2, 2018 GMT

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Dating back to 1954, the Better Business Bureau used this catchphrase to alert the public to shady business practices.

In the new era of school choice, this catchphrase can be used to alert the public about misleading business practices by charter schools in order to protect our most prized possessions — our children.

Every year, certain charters tout a 100 percent college acceptance rate as their major marketing pitch to lure parents away from traditional public schools. The reality is the public isn’t told that acceptance to a four-year university is actually a graduation requirement at some charter schools.


It states in certain charters’ student/family handbooks that a student may graduate and receive a diploma only if the student is accepted into a four-year university and has completed 125 hours of community service.

Carefully reading lengthy handbooks before considering charters is just as important as reading the fine print before signing contracts.

We must also ask, “Why is corporate America bashing our traditional public schools, yet it doesn’t demand transparency or accountability from charter schools?”

While 100 percent of charter seniors get accepted to college as required, the public has a right to know the percentage of charter students who didn’t make it to their senior year.

Ed Fuller, Pennsylvania State University professor, found in one of his studies of a particular charter network that when considering the number of students starting in the ninth grade as a cohort, the percentage of charter cohort students who graduated and went on to college was, at best, 65 percent.

In other words, 35 percent of ninth-graders at a charter network didn’t make it to graduation.

The charter network discounts these students by claiming a legacy of 100 percent college acceptance rates.

Who are the students who fail to graduate from charters?

According to Fuller, certain charters lose a greater proportion of lower-performing students than higher-performing students, which has a positive impact on their overall state exam scores at school and district levels.

The charter students who are left behind due to “high-stakes graduation requirements” most certainly matter. Their voices should be heard.

A quick Google search provides great detail on the harmful effects of “high-stakes testing” on children. However, charters have expanded massively while the impact of its “high-stakes graduation requirements” on unsuspecting, vulnerable families has not been explored.


Just like the BBB, it is our duty to alert the public.

If charters insist on boasting about 100 percent college acceptance rates, then traditional public schools must insist that our communities be fully informed.

The charters’ press release could read, “Since we require students to get accepted to a four-year university in order to graduate, our seniors have a 100 percent college acceptance rate. However, more than 30 percent of our cohort students in the ninth grade didn’t graduate from our charters. Therefore, we had less than 70 percent of our cohort students graduate and get accepted to college.”

Organizations donating millions to charters and parents making a school choice should have access every year to “cohort student data” instead of only misleading “graduating senior data.”

Written clearly in the charter student/family handbook is the requirement that ensures 100 percent of seniors will get accepted to a four-year university every year. What the public also must know every year is the percentage and type of cohort students who didn’t make it to their senior year.

Lauding charters that lack transparency and discount students while bashing El Paso’s public schools disparages the hard work, relentless dedication and success of Team SISD.

Recently, Socorro Independent School District was the largest district in Texas and one of only three among the 50 largest in the state to earn a Post-Secondary Readiness Distinction Designation by the Texas Education Agency.

With this coveted distinction, TEA confirmed SISD’s Operation College Bound efforts are unmatched by our competitors — even those who require that students get accepted to college in order to graduate.

José Espinoza is the superintendent of Socorro Independent School District.