Ch. 4 - New Options for Serving Special-Needs Students (HFR '08)

December 2008

Due to the special vulnerability of their children and the due process rights built into special education statutes, parents of special-needs children are extreme choosers. They seek—and have the power of law behind them—the precise fit for their children's unique, and often highly complex, needs. By increasing the number and type of options available, charter schools represent an important addition to the public education landscape for these parents. Some charters have used their autonomy to create especially effective programs, which deserve to be viewed as promising new models for public education writ large.

In this chapter, Robin Lake and Joanne Jacobs provide an overview of this emerging field, showing that that charter schools offer options for a large number of families with special-needs students. In fact, some charter schools have developed informal reputations as havens for these students. In many cases, particularly for those students with less severe disabilities, the variety of instructional approaches offered by charter schools can serve as beneficial interventions. Effective inclusion for students with less severe needs seems to be a particular strength of many charter schools, although the success of these efforts has not been widely discussed or even recognized.