CRPE has long focused on making school choice work. We have found that parents of children with disabilities face greater barriers to choosing schools for their children.
To understand how families are dealing with these challenges and what supports they need, we studied two “high-choice” cities: New Orleans and Washington, D.C. We interviewed families who were either in the process of choosing schools or who had recently gone through the school choice process. We also conducted a landscape analysis of the special education school choice supports that are available to families.
These briefs provide a summary of the special education landscape in New Orleans and D.C. and offer recommendations for further steps that might be taken to strengthen the cities’ support structures for parents of children with disabilities.
We recommend the following policy changes and investments for each city:
- Parent education and advocacy, including peer-to-peer advocacy groups focused on special education.
- Dramatic changes to the pipeline and training of educators with expertise in high-quality inclusion and specialized supports.
- An increased number of specialized schools and programs, or microschools that may provide temporary placements for students, but where their needs will be met until inclusion programs are more effective citywide.
- A hard look at the school rating system to ensure that it is reflecting how well a school serves students with disabilities.
- Providing parents with more and better information on special education to inform the choice process.
- Giving parents deeper information about a school’s areas of expertise in special education. Parents also told us that they want to know about a school’s reputation with other families.
- Facilitating smooth IEP transfers by ensuring that schools receive IEPs and related documents for a newly enrolled student well before the school year begins.