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Charters Grapple with Admission Policies, Question How Public They Should Be

At Achievement Prep, the test scores of low-income African American children rival those at wealthy neighborhood schools. Over at D.C. Prep, middle school graduates routinely go on to top high schools. And at Latin American Montessori Bilingual, the combination of instructional approaches is so attractive to parents that more than 800 names filled the school’s waiting list for pre-kindergarten classes last spring.

Such high-performing public charter schools in the District are in constant demand. But their policies of limiting new enrollment to certain grades and times of the year have been causing their class sizes to dwindle to less than half of their original size by the upper grades.

The enrollment cutoffs — which leave seats at some of the city’s most successful urban schools empty — put the charters in the middle of a debate that has divided advocates across the country.