Most charter schools are failing to take their fair share of students who require special education services
You can always count on Connecticut resident, fellow blogger and public education advocate, Jonathan Kantrowitz, to explore the important issues with a sophisticated, fact-based approach.
In a new blog post entitled, “Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools,” Jonathan Kantrowitz examines data coming out of New York City about the failure of charter schools to take and keep students who need special education services.
This study, from the Center on Reinventing Public Education, uses NYC data to analyze the factors driving the gap in special education enrollment between charter and traditional public schools. Among the findings:
- Students with disabilities are less likely to apply to charter schools in kindergarten than are regular enrollment students. This is the primary driver of the gap in special education enrollments.
- The gap grows as students progress through elementary grades, largely because charter schools are less likely than district schools to place students in special education—and less likely to keep them there.
- The gap also grows as students transfer between charter and district schools. Between kindergarten and third grade, greater proportions of regular education students enter charter schools, compared to students with special needs.
- There is great mobility among special education students, whether they attend a charter or traditional public school. Close to a third of students in special education leave their school by the fourth year of attendance, whether they are enrolled in charters or traditional public schools.
Given the complex factors revealed by the study, the report cautions against simplistic policy solutions like quotas and enrollment targets. Instead, policy attention might be more usefully spent identifying and replicating effective academic or behavioral interventions that allow schools to declassify students with mild disabilities, and investigating why parents of students with special needs are not choosing charters early on.
You can read his full blog post here: http://educationresearchreport.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-gap-special-education-and-new-york.html
What is clear is that many charter schools want to claim the mantle of being public schools, but the majority fail to take their fair share of students who need special education services, just as they fail to take their fair share of students who need extra help when it comes to learning the English language.
There are undoubtedly charter schools that understand the fundamental role of public schools and do make a real effort to provide educational opportunities to the full range of students, but those charter schools are outliers compared to the vast majority of their colleagues.
As another New York City study found;
“…[NYC] charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of special education students than do district schools. But more importantly, charter schools do not enroll the same kind of special ed students as the district schools. While special education enrollment in charters grew over the last year, the special ed students who attend charters have much lower levels of disability than their special ed counterparts at neighboring district schools.
Practically none of the 57 charters we reviewed enroll “self-contained” students, the highest category of need, who must be taught in separate classrooms with one teacher for every 6 or 12 students. Very few enroll “collaborative team teaching” students, who are educated in mixed classrooms with two teachers, one a specialist. These two higher-need categories of special education students by and large attend district schools. Students who require the less-intensive “related services,” such as speech or physical therapy, are by far the most prevalent special education type in the charters. ”
Similar observations have been made in Connecticut.
Even at the most basic level, most Connecticut Charter Schools consistently fail to educate their fair share of students who need special education services
Here is the latest available data on students needing special education services in selected district schools in Connecticut versus selected charter schools in Connecticut
|District/School 2010-2011||% Special Education|
|Hartford Public Schools||12.5%|
|AF – Hartford Academy||7.7%|
|New Haven Public Schools||10.8%|
|AF – Amistad||5.4%|
|AF – Elm City*||4.0%|
|Bridgeport Public Schools||12.1%|
|Park City Prep||8.4%|
(*) 2010-2011 report not on file, data is 2009-2010
While charter school funding is the fastest growing area of Governor Malloy’s education budget, the evidence is clear that Connecticut’s charter schools are consistently failing to provide educational opportunities to special education students and students who need extra help with the English language.