Boosting odds for disadvantaged youth, charter schools begin weighted lottery system in Nevada

As demand soars for student seats in Nevada charter schools, officials are trying new tactics to ensure schools are inclusive of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 8:50 PM PST
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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- In an effort to bring more socioeconomic diversity into charter school classrooms, state education leaders said several charter schools across Nevada will be using a weighted lottery system this spring for registration for next school year.

Coral Academy’s soon-to-be-debuted Cadence campus is just one example of a charter school using a weighted lottery system.

They’ll select students on Tuesday, March 1, for filling seats on this campus. Coral Academy’s Cadence campus aims to bring in nearly 2,000 students for next school year. However, as demand soars for charter schools in the Silver State, according to leaders of the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority, waitlists grow.

“I think parents really want to have an opportunity to choose what is best for their student,” said Melissa Mackedon, board chair on the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority. “The pandemic really highlighted inequities in education, frankly.”

With charters using the weighted lottery systems, certain lottery applicants will be given more of a chance than others to get picked, and Mackedon said we’ll see far more of these systems this year, than in years’ past.

“[Let’s say] everyone had one lottery ticket, if you will, right? The way these weighted lotteries work ... is if a student qualifies for free or reduced lunch, they get an additional number of tickets,” said Mackedon. “I’ve seen Coral Academy is gonna be using four tickets. Pinecrest in northern Nevada is gonna be using a five-ticket ratio. So it just kind of increases their odds.”

Only the schools whose populations don’t reflect the socioeconomic makeup of the community will be urged to host this type of lottery, board leaders told FOX5.

“We want schools to make sure that students who have historically underperformed and have been deemed at-risk have maximum access to these high-quality schools that we’re authorizing,” said Mackedon.

Charter schools in Nevada have long received criticism for catering to students from more affluent backgrounds, creating inequities, since charters often offer high-quality education.

“We recognize that this was a flaw, we recognize that this was a criticism of charter schools, and a fair criticism!” said Mackedon.

The new weighted lottery system is part of the strategy of the Charter School Authority, said Mackedon.

“We want to make sure that the student in those seats represent Nevada demographics at large,” she said.

Over the course of the next two weeks, several charter schools will fill their seats for next school year. Other charters expected to use the weighted lottery system include Pinecrest, Somerset and Founders. Coral Academy’s Cadence campus was the first system to be approved by the state.