Thursday, December 06, 2012

Baker on CRPE on Charter Schools and Kids with Disabilities

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on a report by the Center on Reinventing Public Education that assessed the degree to which charter schools in New York State serve children with disabilities.  I wondered at the time whether someone would look at CRPE's data on a more granular level.  Bruce Baker of Rutgers has now done such an analysis.  Key takeaways:
The report asserts that differences in charter and district school special education rates are far smaller than is claimed in recent federal reports and other literature. The new report further asserts that location and grade-level differences lead to a mixed story regarding whether or not charter schools systematically under-enroll children with disabilities.

While the report does show that under-enrollment patterns vary by grade level and to some extent by location, it downplays the fact that the largest subset of charter schools in the sample—elementary and K-8 schools, most of which are in New York City—do systematically under enroll children with disabilities. What this report actually shows is that the vast majority of charter schools in New York state happen to be in New York City (76%) and happen to serve lower grades (73%), and these schools serve much lower percentages of children with disabilities than comparable traditional public schools in the same city or area within New York City. In an effort to undermine their own primary finding, the authors infer—without evidence or foundation—that charter elementary schools simply may be providing better early intervention. Those supposed interventions, in turn, would help these schools classify fewer children than their district school counterparts.

The report does not address whether variations in disabilities by type and severity exist between charter and district schools. As discussed below, this is a significant omission.



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