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Revisiting The Issue Of Charter Schools And Special Education Students


Good blog. Two thoughts. 1. You write: "There is little incentive to cater to lower-performing student populations." I wonder. In places where test GROWTH is the coin of the realm, instead of absolute scores, aren't low-performing students precisely the ones to target? In fact, isn't there an MIT paper which makes precisely this point vis a vis Boston. The kids who make the biggest gains are the lowest-arrivers. A school leader who wants the largest aggregate gains would therefore want to attract low-performers, no? 2. In my observation at reasonably high-performing high-poverty charters, limited labor (teacher time after school, tutors, etc) is almost exclusively devoted to LOW performers. In 2 ways. First, a strong kid in relative terms never gets type of help that would get her to, say, Cornell instead of State...i.e., math teacher is helping a struggler to learn basic algebra, less time to help you (or push you with AP Calc), so you score a 2 instead of a 4. Second, there are few electives or after-school clubs targeted to advanced students. Nobody to run them like in traditional schools. Teacher time again towards helping lower kids. 3. You write: "The whole idea of school choice is that a “marketplace” of sorts will arise." That's fair but not necessarily the whole idea of charters per se. As you know, reasons like permitting innovation, escaping well-intentioned but harmful regulation (precisely some SPED situations), decision-making closer to the classroom, are others. A fourth reason was Bill Clinton's support for charters precisely as a middle ground to *forestalling* other types of school choice. That question was called again in the 2008 primary, and presumably will surface in 2016 as well.

I really can't imagine a marketplace evolving in which parents seek out schools that specialize in low performing students. Parents do not want to believe their children are low performing, and that is why choice will not work.

As a retired teacher of the deaf who attended a two year Master's Degree program in Education of the Deaf at Gallaudet University, I have several concerns regarding whether or not charters enroll a comparable proportion of special needs students as do regular public schools. To those with limited to no background in teaching students with special needs, it may seem self-evident that teaching these students does not require any particular training. I have seen ads for charter schools recruiting special ed teachers with limited requirements for course work or experience. Nothing could be further from the truth. Federal law guarantees that each student with special needs be provided with a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment (which, for some students, such as many profoundly deaf students, means a special school). Are charters willing and able to provide the additional personnel and equipment that special needs students require (speech/language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, social workers, etc.)? As more and more money is siphoned off from public schools to charter schools, the resources for those students and teachers remaining in the public schools collapse. Education professionals know how to design appropriate curricular materials for students in all their variety. The public needs to step up to the plate and provide the resources that these students deserve. That needs to happen in a public system that is accountable to the public, and not in a charter system that operates without transparency.

Respectfully, any report that does not even attempt match students by type of disability (LD, EMH, Autism, OHI, etc) cannot be taken seriously. I trust something like this a lot more:

I agree with Ajay's comment. You need to show more skepticism towards these reports that are produced by clearly biased parties. It is obvious that charters can use their "insider" knowledge of each student to selectively attrite students who are not making the grade. That can account for their lower special education referral rate: instead of providing kids with more support they throw them out. Again we do not know for sure how widespread this practice is among NYC charter schools but to pretend that this report, produced by the charter sector itself, does anything to shed light on the question is ridiculous. In fact the NYC Independent Budget Office just came out with a report showing some opposite trends


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