Resources & Research

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Challenges for Charter School with Special Education: Issues of Concern for Charter School Authorizers and Service Providers

Charter schools, as one type of school choice, have been attracting a growing number of students since first inception in Minnesota in 1991. Although charter schools are a fledgling reform, they are already a significant part of the federal and state efforts to improve schools and have a growing number of students. Like traditional public schools, charter schools accept all students equally.

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Charter public schools are often criticized for serving fewer students with disabilities than traditional public schools. Opponents often assume that this is due to charters denying access to difficult-to-serve students; however, very few studies examine the factors that contribute to differences in enrollment.

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Special Education in Charter Schools: What We've Learned and What We Still Need to Know

According to national averages, charter schools serve fewer students with special needs, leaving them open to charges that they are exclusionary. Charter leaders counter that when special education enrollment rates are lower, it is often because charter schools are less likely to identify a child as needing special education services and more likely to address the child’s learning or behavior so that she or he can participate fully in the regular classroom environment.

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Equity at Scale: How Public Charter School Networks Can Innovate and Improve Services for Students with Disabilities

This brief offers public charter school networks ways to affect and strengthen the special education offerings for students enrolled in networked public charter schools.
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Comparing Student Attrition Rates at Charter Schools and Nearby Traditional Public Schools

This report on New York City emphasizes that:

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The Facts on Charter Schools and Students with Disabilities

Overview from NICHCY:

"Charter schools are fairly new in public education, and they’ve generated a lot of interest and inquiry. For many families and educators, charter schools offer more options for how students will be educated. For others, charter schools are confusing—Why, for example, are some charter schools not open for enrollment to students who live nearby? And what about students with disabilities? May they go to charter schools? If so, is special education available in charter schools?

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Struggling with special education, charter schools join together

Connecting charter schools with similar special education needs is the chief goal of the New York City Charter School Center’s Special Education Collaborative, which builds off of local efforts to boost special education at charter schools that have been going in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn since 2007.

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Free Appropriate Public Education for Students With Disabilities: Requirements Under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including federal funds. Section 504 provides that: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . .

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Financing the Education of High-Need Students

School districts face an enormous financial burden when it comes to educating our highest-need students. Financing the Education of High-Need Students focuses on three specific challenges that are often encountered when districts—especially small ones—grapple with the costs of serving their highest-need special-education students.