Thursday, June 13, 2013

CRPE Study Explores Special Education and Charter Schools

The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has received a $450,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to study charter schools and special education.

Nationwide, the question of lower enrollment of special education students in charter schools continues to create lively speculation. Charter school critics argue that charter schools discourage families of students with special needs from enrolling, while proponents assert that these schools are simply less likely to identify students as needing special services, focusing instead on including all students in regular classroom environments. Another possibility is that parents of students with special needs perceive that certain or all charter schools do not or cannot serve students with disabilities. To date, only anecdotal evidence informs this debate.

Led by CRPE Director Robin Lake and Research Director Dr. Betheny Gross, the study will explore pressing research and policy issues:

  • What is the best way to assess the learning and social and emotional outcomes of charter school students with special needs?
  • Are charter schools less likely to identify students as having disabilities?
  • What factors are associated with lower rates of special education enrollment in charter schools?

To address these questions, CRPE has convened a national working group of top researchers in the field of school evaluation, commissioned research on the rates of identification of special education students in both charter and traditional schools, and is conducting case studies and interviews in charter schools. Findings from this twelve-month project will be released quickly to bring needed evidence to an important policy topic. Look for reports beginning in July 2013.