Are Washington Charter Public Schools Serving Students with Disabilities?

Jul 2018


This brief presents data on how special education students in Washington state are being served in charter public schools. Using a local and national context, CRPE researchers explore four common questions about special education in charter schools:

  1. Do charter schools in Washington serve students with disabilities?
  2. Are charter schools in Washington serving students with all types of disabilities?
  3. What level of inclusion are Washington’s charter schools providing for students in special education?
  4. Are students with disabilities being pushed out of Washington’s charter schools?

Early Findings on Special Education in Washington State’s Charter Schools

The data show that Washington’s charter public schools appear to serve students with disabilities at a higher rate than the national charter school average (16.1 percent versus 10.6 percent), and most (eight out of ten) are serving students with disabilities at rates higher than the state average and the district in which they are located. They serve students with a wide range of disabilities, and they serve a majority of those students in a mostly inclusive environment. There is no evidence of pushout or counseling out, and in some schools, special education enrollment increases midyear.

Questions for Further Research

As more data become available, CRPE researchers suggest several questions—about family satisfaction, enrollment loss, district-charter collaboration, funding, and more—to inform future research on how Washington state’s charter schools are serving students with disabilities.