What the Charter Bill Does (Pt. 3): Meeting Students’ Special Needs

This is the third post about what’s actually in the much-discussed New York State charter schools bill (S.7678/A.10928). Read about the raising the cap in Pt. 1 and improving transparency in Pt. 2.

Do charter schools enroll too few students who require special education (SpEd) services? Over at Gotham Schools today, researcher Kim Gittleson breaks down the comparative data from NYC DOE. As she points out, there are indeed disparities in charter vs. district SpEd service rates, but they’re much narrower than those claimed by the unions:

Öwhile charters enroll fewer students with disabilities, the gap is not as large as initially reported by the state teachers union, known as NYSUT. According to Department of Education data, 13 percent of charter school students have an Individualized Education Plan, indicating that they have special needs, compared to 15 percent at traditional public schools. NYSUT reported the numbers as being 9.4 percent at charter schools and 16.4 percent at district schoolsÖ (emphasis added)

This is an important clarification, but there are still obstacles that prevent charter schools from reaching and †teaching students with disabilities as effectively as they could. (Thatóeffectivenessóis how charter schools judge their work; assigning a label to a large number of children is no cause for celebration if it doesn’t facilitate learning.)