Charter schools enroll fewer disabled children than public schools, GAO report saysBy Lyndsey Layton, Published: June 19
Public charter schools, a small but fast-growing segment of K-12 education, enroll fewer children with disabilities than traditional public schools, according to a new federal study.
The report, released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office, examined how many disabled students are served by charter schools as compared with traditional public schools.
“It’s troubling — we need to know why,” said Rep. George Miller (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which requested the GAO study.
The findings were based on school data from 2008 to 2010. More than 2 million students attend about 5,600 charter schoolsacross the country, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Todd Ziebarth, vice president for state advocacy and support at the alliance, questioned the data, saying statistics can be misleading. Some traditional public schools may be mislabeling struggling students as special-needs children, inflating their share, he said. Still, charter schools could improve, Ziebarth said.
“There’s been some progress made but still some challenges that remain,” he said.
The question of whether charter schools educate similar numbers of disabled students is significant as the charter movement grows, because critics have accused charters of “creaming,” or preferring to enroll students who are easier and less costly to educate.
The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights is in the middle of a broad review of whether charter schools are complying with federal law regarding disabled students.
The GAO report said it is unclear why charter schools are enrolling fewer disabled students. Parents of disabled students may think that a charter school won’t adequately meet their children’s needs, it said. Or some charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling, the report said.
About half of the charter school officials the GAO interviewed cited insufficient resources, including limited space, as a challenge. Often, severely disabled children are removed from regular classrooms and given additional help in a separate room, but charters often lack the necessary physical space.
The GAO study recommended that the Education Department update its guidance to charter schools, addressing practices that may affect enrollment of students with disabilities. It also wants the department to determine the reason behind the enrollment disparity.
Two charter school studies, two findings on effectivenessBy Nick AndersonWashington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 30, 2009
As President Obama pushes for more charter schools, the education world craves a report card on an experiment nearly two decades old. How are these independent public schools doing? The safest and perhaps most accurate reply -- it depends -- leaves many unsatisfied.
This year, two major studies offer contradictory conclusions on a movement that now counts more than 5,000 charter schoolsnationwide, including dozens in the District and Maryland and a handful in Virginia.
Margaret Raymond, director of Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, reported in June that most charter schools deliver academic results that are worse or no better than student accomplishments in regular public schools. She relied on test data from 15 states (not including Maryland or Virginia) and the District.
Caroline M. Hoxby, a Stanford economist, reported in September that charter school students are making much more progress than peers who sought entry to those schools by lottery but were turned down. She drew on test data from New York City.
The studies have drawn fire from various quarters. They highlight the challenge of rating schools with huge differences in resources, methods and students. Research over the years has shown pluses and minuses for the charter movement, which began in Minnesota in 1991.
"The people who said this was going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread were wrong," said Robert Maranto, a University of Arkansas professor of education reform, who counts himself in that group. "The people who said it would be a calamity were equally wrong."