Volume 29, Number 1
Making Charter Schools More Inclusive
Experts debate how to increase enrollments of special education students
Director of intervention services, Elizabeth Marcell, works with a student at a ReNEW charter school in New Orleans.
Two years ago, Elizabeth Marcell, the director of intervention services at ReNEW Schools in New Orleans, faced an unenviable challenge. As the charter network worked to open its first two schools in the city, she saw that every special education file she inherited from the schools the network took over failed to comply fully with federal and state laws. Marcell, who wrote her dissertation on charters and special education, knew she had to act quickly. Some people in the charter world “don’t understand they are legally obligated to serve students with disabilities,” Marcell says. “But I don’t think ignorance is going to be a viable answer for much longer.”This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.
As charter schools transition from a fringe alternative to a mainstream option in many communities, special education is emerging as their Achilles’ heel. Over the last few years, numerous reports have shown that most charters do not enroll as large a proportion of disabled children as do their traditional school counterparts. The gaps are particularly wide when it comes to students with the most challenging needs, such as multiple disabilities and severe autism, who cost much more to educate.