Create a different student makeup provision for Mayoral Academies. Under current law, charter schools in RI must enroll a student body that has at least as high a combined percentage of students with low incomes, limited English proficiency, and disabilities as the host district. This provision does not mesh well with the Mayoral Academy concept, because the schools by definition enroll students from multiple districts, including distressed urban districts. Comparing their enrollment to that of the “host” district, then, makes little sense. Instead, Mayoral Academies should be required (and allowed) to construct their lotteries in order to achieve a mix of distressed urban and other students as a condition of retaining the exemptions and hold harmless provisions described in the following two bullets.
So, what should the Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy be shooting for?
Here's the breakdown of the sending districts free and reduced lunch eligibility from the NCES Common Core in 2010-2011:
- Providence: 82%
- Cranston: 37%
- North Providence: 33%
- Warwick: 31%
The average of the four was 46%. The overall rate for the aggregate student population was 57%. For reference, Vartan Gregorian's (College Hill neighborhood) FRL rate was 46%; Classical's (magnet high) was 60%. Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy was 63%, too, so this is all perfectly in line with the way the designers of the mayoral academy concept have chosen to implement it.
Right now it is not looking likely that AFPMA will attract the mix of students intended by the mayoral academy's vision of diverse regional schools. We'll see. It isn't exactly easy to create a mixed income school in Providence. Paul Cuffee and Times2 charter schools in Providence were 76% low-income, Highlander's was 78%, and middle and upper class parents apply to them. It might have helped to schedule a single meeting in one of the participating suburban communities.