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Charter Schools, Special Education Students, And Test-Based Accountability


The article makes a number of excellent points (charters serve far fewer special ed students, especially in urban areas and especially students with more severe disabilities; and using proficiency rates is a very flawed way to assess schools impacting poor schools, charter and public alike), but I'm not sure it comes to the right conclusion that we should focus on growth model estimates. Certainly, if used in a non-high stakes manner and done using samples of students (rather than testing every student every year), growth model estimates could provide valuable information about whether particular approaches are effective. The current reality is that testing takes on entirely way too much prominence and the results are routinely corrupted and misinterpreted - by policymakers, district administrators, the media, and others. There is little evidence that shifting to growth model estimates will change this as much as researchers might want them to. The first priority should be to start removing high-stakes and de-emphasizing testing. The other reason simply shifting to growth model estimates is misguided is because we don't need such measures to know that the biggest issue in US ed is equity - not just of schools, but in general. One of the biggest issues with charters is that they're a major distraction from pursuing equity. In fact, many charter proponents proudly say resources don't matter; that we spend too much on ed. I don't think it's a coincidence that inequity has grown at the same time that charter schools continue to serve more students.

As a special education teacher, I've only worked in public settings thus far. I've recently accepted an offer to work at a prominent charter school network in the Southeast. This will be my first year, and while there are less students with IEPs (pre-existing) in the school, that does not discount the fact that several students enter charter schools reading 2 or more grade levels behind. The longer days, weeks, month and school year attribute to student success. See, the issue is, that districts at policy level are refusal to require additional time and work to see the population succeed. Several charters are sacrificing personal time in an attempt to close this achievement gap. It's working.

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