While the charter sector has much to celebrate, the country can do more to put great schools—including excellent charters—within reach for our most vulnerable students. Students with disabilities represent one such group. The best solutions start by partnering with the parent groups that advocate for students with disabilities, and have been doing so for decades. As partners, charter school champions and organizations working with parents of children with disabilities can collectively improve outcomes for students with disabilities, create better school options for them, and advocate for better policies. This call to action for charter champions to launch and deepen their partnerships with parent advocates explains how they are better together—why such partnerships are needed, the forms they might take from partnerships highlighted in Washington, DC, New York City, and Los Angeles, and how to get started.
Led by Newark Opportunity Youth Network (Newark OYN) in New Jersey, key public and private organizations in Newark came together to focus efforts on supporting disconnected youth and transforming how they are educated and prepared for life, postsecondary learning, and careers. This report describes how Newark OYN emerged and is charting its path of engaging community partners, implementing direct education services to reengage disconnected youth, and providing supports to organizations supporting these youth. Throughout the report, Newark OYN youth reflect on their experiences of disengaging from school or coming close to disengaging, and how Newark OYN’s intentionally designed educational programs and schools set them on a path to opportunity. The report also shares Newark OYN’s early achievements, impact, and lessons learned after two years of implementation.
Technology holds great potential for rural schools, such as extending the reach of excellent teachers and expanding course offerings. But digital devices in a pre-digital school structure will not transform K-12. This paper, written for the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho, offers policymakers and philanthropic leaders a set of recommendations to capitalize on the potential of technology to serve students: expand broadband access to schools lacking it, create an elite corps of proven teachers who would be made available to students across the state, and provide districts and schools with the flexibility to develop new models of staffing and technology and to achieve the most strategic combination of personnel, facilities, and technology.
Ideally, charter developers use autonomy extended by state charter school laws to develop new robust educational options for all children, including children with disabilities. This report, written by Lauren Morando Rhim and Dana Brinson for the Center on Reinventing Public Education, presents findings from exploratory case studies of six charter schools identified due to their reported success educating children with disabilities. Collectively, they provide insight into practices that hold promise for educating children with disabilities in both traditional and charter public schools striving to develop high quality special education programs. Recurring school characteristics observed include a powerful school mission that incorporated a commitment to including children with disabilities, professional development that supported meaningful access to the general education curriculum for all students, highly individualized programs for all students that ‘normalized” special education, and easy transferability of the practices to traditional public schools.
Ensuring the growth of successful charter schools requires special attention to a variety of challenges associated with providing high-quality specialized services to children with disabilities, such as lack of clarity about legal responsibilities, limited access to existing state support structures, and limited technical capacity to provide specialized services. This report, written by Lauren Morando Rhim for the Center on Reinventing Public Education, explores these challenges and examines potential opportunities to grow quality charter schools that have as a feature promising or innovative approaches to educating children with disabilities. Opportunities include advocacy to clarify existing laws and change laws that hinder charter schools’ efforts to develop quality special education programs, research to document how charter school operators are using their autonomy to craft potentially unique new instructional programs, and investments in building technical assistance networks and charter school infrastructures are essential. The multiple policy, research, and investment opportunities outlined can help pave the way for growing high-quality charter schools that successfully educate all children.
This report, by Lauren Morando Rhim and Julie Kowal, describes how educating students with disabilities in virtual charter schools entails not only molding state charter school laws to fit a specialized type of charter school, but also adapting federal and state special education guidelines aimed at providing special education in traditional brick and mortar settings. This special report, funded by the USDOE National Initiatives Grant of the Charter Schools Program and administered by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, is a supplement to a series of special education primers, Primers on Special Education in Charter Schools, created to inform state officials, authorizers and charter school operators about special education in the charter sector.
Bryan Hassel co-authored two articles with Patrick J. Wolf about making the nation’s special education system more outcome-oriented and less procedure oriented. The first, Effectiveness and Accountability (Part 1): The Compliance Model and the second, Effectiveness and Accountability (Part 2): Alternatives to the Compliance Model both appear in the book jointly published by the Progressive Policy Institute and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.