Charters: Students With Disabilities Need Not Apply?

NEW YORK - MARCH 30:  Teacher Shawn Abernathy ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

That is the title of a very good op-ed piece that recently appeared in Education Week by Professor Thomas Herir of the Harvard School of Education. Here is a link. I want to thank professor Herir for giving me permission to quote from his article in this blog.

Here is a quote:
"With the Obama administration and many state governors calling for more charter schools, it may be time for policymakers to address directly the issue of these schools’ imbalanced enrollment of students with disabilities.

The enthusiasm for charter schools, which was also high during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, reflects the desire of many parents to have choice within the public system. This desire has only been heightened by research showing superior results obtained by charters.

In a performance comparison of Boston charter school students with those not admitted, for example, Harvard University professor Thomas J. Kane found that the students attending charters outperformed their peers at traditional public schools. His research, however, was designed with the recognition that charter students are different along some critical, perhaps immeasurable, dimensions from students attending traditional schools. This is especially true in relation to students with disabilities: Traditional public schools are serving far greater numbers of them than charter schools, particularly those whose disabilities require significant special education services."

The article then goes on to cite a number of studies that show that students with disabilities are under-represented in charter schools. This is disturbing and brings to mind the recent post on these pages about the law review by Professor Mark Weber regarding some issues with charter schools and kids with disabilities. As the political support for charters increases, we need to keep a vigilant eye on how charters are welcoming and educating kids with disabilities.

What has your experience with charters been like?