"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, June 27, 2009

DC Charters' Selective Admissions: Special Ed Students Need Not Apply

Several years ago historian James Anderson suggested that if charters and vouchers continued to eat away at the public schools that we would likely see a remaining public system of children that no one wants, from low performers to handicapped to the mentally impaired. It would seem that the rush toward corporate charters is creating just such a reality, even though the most reliable research available shows charters doing more harm than good, even when it comes to academic achievement. As Jerry Bracey noted in a HuffPo post the other day:

. . . . if the CREDO results are true, Arne, why are you blackmailing states with threats to withhold stimulus money unless they permit charters or lift charter caps? The logic here is astonishing. Suppose I invent a medicine and find it helps 17% of people, doesn't do anything for 46% and hurts 37%. Would the FDA approve and tout my medicine? CREDO is a Stanford University-based think tank and its findings were that kids in charters did better than matched peers in publics in 17% of the cases, worse in 37% and neither better nor worse 46% of the time. As I closed my chapter on charters in Setting the Record Straight (second edition), "Charter schools were born of perceived failures in public schools. So, if the charters are doing worse than the publics, where is the outrage about them?" Where indeed, Arne?

Now WaPo, in its Saturday edition that most people don't read, has the story on a new report showing a continuation of Rhee's corporate charter school creaming of the most able students:

Some D.C. public charter schools continue selective admissions practices that discourage special-needs students from enrolling, and students citywide with possible disabilities still face delays in special education evaluations, a federal court monitor said this week.

"Charter schools . . . generally have not enrolled students with significant disabilities who required extensive hours of special services or education," the monitor, Amy Totenberg, wrote in a report prepared for a court hearing yesterday.

The report casts a somewhat harsh light on a fast-growing sector of public education in the city. Charter schools, which receive public funding but are independently operated, have siphoned many students from the city's troubled public school system and have posted somewhat higher test scores than regular schools in recent years.. . .

But Totenberg said some charter schools explicitly limit the number of hours of special education they will provide and counsel parents to enroll their children at regular public schools or at private or other public charter schools that focus on students with disabilities. D.C. law prohibits charter schools from asking about learning disabilities or emotional problems during the admission process.

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