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

Center for Reinventing Public Education
01 Dec, 2014

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.

The uncertainty about the causes of disproportionately low special education enrollment puts charter schools squarely in the middle of ugly legislative battles and hostile media stories, and leaves us wanting for the information we need to improve conditions for students and schools. Rather than rhetoric-fueled battles, we need quality conversation about the complexity of the issue. To start that conversation, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), with the support of the Walton Family Foundation, teamed up with researchers across the country to launch a new research agenda devoted to students with special needs in charter schools.