But while the number of students attending charter schools has skyrocketed in the last decade – 1.8 million students now attend charters – the percentage of students with disabilities attending such schools continues to be below the national average, according to a new report by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University.
According to the report, National Charter School Study 2013, students with disabilities make up 8% of the student body in charters studied vs. the national average of 13%. Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, issued a report on the issue also found that students with disabilities are underrepresented in charter schools.
At question is whether students with disabilities are able to receive the free appropriate public education in charter schools they are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The CREDO report addresses this by looking at both the enrollment numbers of students with disabilities and the performance of students with disabilities in charter schools compared to their like-peers in traditional public schools.
After an analysis of the math and reading performance of students with disabilities, which CREDO acknowledges as being “extremely challenging” when comparing growth of students, the report concludes that students with disabilities in charter schools outperformed their peers in traditional public schools in math – equivalent to 14 days of extra learning, while reading results were similar between the two types of schools.
CEC has long called for increased technical assistance to better support charter schools and those entities operating charter schools in enrolling, identifying, and serving students with disabilities. While many federal proposals have taken steps to ensure better inclusion of students with disabilities, this continues to be an implementation challenge for charter schools. Read more about students with disabilities and charter schools here.
Below, tell us how students with disabilities are being served in charter schools in your community – especially where things are working well so that we can spread good practice!