On June 12, Map Co-founder & Co-director Rachel Babcock spoke in front of the Massachusetts State Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education in support of a weighted lotteries bill. In charter school enrollment, weighted lotteries “weigh” in favor of educationally disadvantaged students — learners with disabilities, English language learners, migrant or immigrant students, homeless youth, and economically disadvantaged youth. This legislation would help public charters like Map enroll more high need students. “At Map Academy, our sole purpose is to recruit, enroll, retain, and graduate the highest of highest need students, many of whom don’t have any other options except our school,” Rachel told the committee. “It’s difficult to see students truly in need of Map’s unique program walk away after not winning a seat in a lottery … A weighted lottery would help ensure that Map Academy — and all other charter public schools — can serve the students we intend to serve.”
Read her testimony in full below:
Good afternoon, Chairs and members of the Committee. My name is Rachel Babcock. I am the co-founder and co-director of Map Academy, an alternative charter public school in Plymouth. I was last here in 2019, and I am here again today to testify in support of H.550: An Act Relative to Increasing Access for Vulnerable Students, filed by Leader Peisch.
Before I embarked on the journey to open Map Academy, I was a teacher, instructional coach and Coordinator of Alternative Programs for Plymouth Public Schools. My commitment as an educator – and that of Map Academy – is to serve some of the most marginalized, high-risk students in our region.
As an alternative charter school, we serve students with complex lives and complicated school histories, students who need and deserve an opportunity to attend a school designed to help them thrive. At Map Academy, our sole purpose is to recruit, enroll, retain and graduate the highest of highest need students, many of whom don’t have any other options except our school.
Uniquely, our charter allows us to grant diplomas up to age 24. We intentionally recruit older students who have previously dropped out or are on the verge of doing so. We often see students who are 18 or older – students who haven’t been in a classroom in several years but are motivated to return and graduate. Many of these older students are living on their own, perhaps raising their own children, too many are homeless, and many have aged out of – or been disconnected from – support systems and benefits. Some are court-involved or receiving – or in need of – mental health and/or substance use treatment. Most are working many hours a week to support themselves and often their families. They often aren’t actively looking for school options because they’ve lost hope that they can find a school that will work for them.
At Map, over 80% of our students are classified as students with high needs, as compared with 46% in our local sending district. And even so, we aim to reach even more students with significant needs. While we engage in targeted, personalized recruiting, it’s also true that other students find their way to us – students who may be looking for an alternative but have many options and would thrive in a variety of settings. While we would like to be able to serve every student who wants to attend Map Academy, our enrollment is limited, and we cannot. It’s difficult to see students truly in need of Map’s unique program walk away after not winning a seat in a lottery. We know they have nowhere else to go, and most won’t be back. A weighted lottery would help ensure that Map Academy – and all other charter public schools – can serve the students we intend to serve.
I hope you will consider amending the law to allow charter public schools an option to offer enrollment preferences to high need students, including those who are over-age, from low income backgrounds, students with special needs, English learners, and students who have unenrolled from high school. At Map Academy, we serve the most high risk of high risk students and a weighted lottery is crucial to ensure those students have priority. We’ve been working in support of this bill for several sessions, and I ask that this session you please consider moving the weighted lottery bill forward into law.