Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Uncharted waters: Where Charter Schools, Parental Choice and IDEA Intersect
James P. Dawson
Fordham University
UEGE  5102

            A recent article in the New York Daily News quoted a parent of a student enrolled in a Harlem Charter School as stating that the school had tried to force his child out, due to the child’s need for a paraprofessional that the school could not provide (2009). The article also cited complains from public school principals that charter schools were dumping their ED and LD students on public schools late in the year, when the public school did not have the funds to service such children: in response, the administration of Harlem Success Charter School maintains that these incidents are few and far between, and that students are not forced out (2009)
            As the fiction between Charter and public schools regarding ED and LD students increases, it would seem that a simple review of the legal obligations of Charter schools under IDEA would suffice to clarify the matter. However, a review of the literature indicates that there exists a murkiness, as to how much responsibility Charter schools actually take for special education student, regardless of IDEA.
            Lang, Rhim, & Aheren found that while IDEA is unequivocal on charter responsibility to special education students (“"Children with disabilities who attend

public charter schools and their parents retain all rights under this part" [34 CFR §300.2(a)]), confusion still persists at the state and city level regarding these responsibilities (2008.)  In addition, a lack of resources at start-up charters schools coupled with an unfamiliarity regarding their roles in the special education continuum, by both charter and sate education officials, make create conflict that interferes with efficient delivery of special education services and the streamlining of such services into the charter (Lang, Rhim, & Aheren 2008.)

            In addition, charter schools may be able to keep special education enrollment to a minimum yet not reject students: Estes study of Texas charter schools found there was substantial evidence of non-compliance with IDEA to be a concern, including the lack of such fundamentals as wheelchair access and progressing to charter schools “counseling out” special education students (2004.) In addition, in the interviews conducted in the study, charter administrators admitted unfamiliarity with tenets of special education best practice (Estes 2004.) While this study was based on a sample of charter schools in Texas, it is noteworthy in that indicates a gulf between the obligations of the charter schools and their actual delivery of special education services, raising questions as to the validity of charters as a viable replacement for traditional public schooling.

              Research by Atkins, Hohnstein and Roche holds that students with IEPs and behavior disorders are not only served by charter schools, but served well enough to elicit positive perceptions from special education students (2008.) While an admittedly small sample, the students interviewed all stated that they had higher perceptions of their academic and social achievement at the charter school, compared with their previous traditional school—with those students with IEP’s reporting the most improvement (Atkins, Hohnstein & Roche 2008.) But it would seem that this charters school was designed and staffed with special education students in mind, something Estes found all too rare in her research (2004.)

            The debate as to the efficiency and legitimacy of charter schools will  continue; however, as school districts such as New York City’s Department of Education and Texas state education department actively promoting and financing them, it is imperative that these schools provide the same range of services to special education students that they so actively promise to general education. It would be damaging, not just to the charter system, but to American education as a whole, if these schools were allowed to over promise and under perform those essential educational services that these students need. 

           

References

 

Atkins T., Hohnstein S., and Roche V. (2008) Perceptions of their new school: Students

             with and without disabilities changing to an alternative and charter School.
             Journal of School Choice. 2 (1) 47-65.

 

Estes B.M. (2004) Choice for all? Charter schools and students with special Needs.
             Journal of Special Education.
37 (4) 257-267.

 

Department of Education. Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of

2004. Accessed July 20, 2009. 
http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/%2Croot%2Cstatute%2C

 

Lange C. M.Rhim L. M., and Ahearn E. M. (2008) Special education in charter schools:
             The view from state education agencies. Journal of Special Education

             Leadership. 21 (1) 12-21.

 

Kolodner M., and Monahan R. (2009) Charter schools pawn off flunking students, says
             public school principal. New York Daily News. Accessed July 20, 2009.

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2009/07/19/2009-07-19_charters_pawn_off_flunking_kids_ps_big_sez.html#ixzz0LrWen1q4

 

 

 

 


 

  

 

 Uncharted waters: Where Charter Schools, Parental Choice and IDEA Intersect

James P. Dawson
Fordham University
UEGE  5102

            A recent article in the New York Daily News quoted a parent of a student enrolled in a Harlem Charter School as stating that the school had tried to force his child out, due to the child’s need for a paraprofessional that the school could not provide (2009). The article also cited complains from public school principals that charter schools were dumping their ED and LD students on public schools late in the year, when the public school did not have the funds to service such children: in response, the administration of Harlem Success Charter School maintains that these incidents are few and far between, and that students are not forced out (2009)
            As the fiction between Charter and public schools regarding ED and LD students increases, it would seem that a simple review of the legal obligations of Charter schools under IDEA would suffice to clarify the matter. However, a review of the literature indicates that there exists a murkiness, as to how much responsibility Charter schools actually take for special education student, regardless of IDEA.
            Lang, Rhim, & Aheren found that while IDEA is unequivocal on charter responsibility to special education students (“"Children with disabilities who attend

public charter schools and their parents retain all rights under this part" [34 CFR §300.2(a)]), confusion still persists at the state and city level regarding these responsibilities (2008.)  In addition, a lack of resources at start-up charters schools coupled with an unfamiliarity regarding their roles in the special education continuum, by both charter and sate education officials, make create conflict that interferes with efficient delivery of special education services and the streamlining of such services into the charter (Lang, Rhim, & Aheren 2008.)

            In addition, charter schools may be able to keep special education enrollment to a minimum yet not reject students: Estes study of Texas charter schools found there was substantial evidence of non-compliance with IDEA to be a concern, including the lack of such fundamentals as wheelchair access and progressing to charter schools “counseling out” special education students (2004.) In addition, in the interviews conducted in the study, charter administrators admitted unfamiliarity with tenets of special education best practice (Estes 2004.) While this study was based on a sample of charter schools in Texas, it is noteworthy in that indicates a gulf between the obligations of the charter schools and their actual delivery of special education services, raising questions as to the validity of charters as a viable replacement for traditional public schooling.

              Research by Atkins, Hohnstein and Roche holds that students with IEPs and behavior disorders are not only served by charter schools, but served well enough to elicit positive perceptions from special education students (2008.) While an admittedly small sample, the students interviewed all stated that they had higher perceptions of their academic and social achievement at the charter school, compared with their previous traditional school—with those students with IEP’s reporting the most improvement (Atkins, Hohnstein & Roche 2008.) But it would seem that this charters school was designed and staffed with special education students in mind, something Estes found all too rare in her research (2004.)

            The debate as to the efficiency and legitimacy of charter schools will  continue; however, as school districts such as New York City’s Department of Education and Texas state education department actively promoting and financing them, it is imperative that these schools provide the same range of services to special education students that they so actively promise to general education. It would be damaging, not just to the charter system, but to American education as a whole, if these schools were allowed to overpromise and underperform those essential educational services that these students need. 

           

References

 

Atkins T., Hohnstein S., and Roche V. (2008) Perceptions of their new school: Students

             with and without disabilities changing to an alternative and charter School.
             Journal of School Choice. 2 (1) 47-65.

 

Estes B.M. (2004) Choice for all? Charter schools and students with special Needs.
             Journal of Special Education.
37 (4) 257-267.

 

Department of Education. Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of

2004. Accessed July 20, 2009. 
http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/%2Croot%2Cstatute%2C

 

Lange C. M.Rhim L. M., and Ahearn E. M. (2008) Special education in charter schools:
             The view from state education agencies. Journal of Special Education

             Leadership. 21 (1) 12-21.

 

Kolodner M., and Monahan R. (2009) Charter schools pawn off flunking students, says
             public school principal. New York Daily News. Accessed July 20, 2009.

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2009/07/19/2009-07-19_charters_pawn_off_flunking_kids_ps_big_sez.html#ixzz0LrWen1q4

 

 

 

 


 

  

 

 

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