Do Charter Schools Enroll Their Share of ELLs?

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 17, 2009 1 min read
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Diane Ravitch over at Bridging Differences observes that many charter schools “have disproportionately small numbers of children who need special education or who are English-language learners.”

That complaint has been popping up in a number of different places lately.

Last month, Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj and Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco made the same observation in the Huffington Post, basing it on data about charter schools in New York state. The month before that, an ELL advocacy group in Massachusetts made the same claim about charter schools there, which I reported on in Education Week.

A national study of charter schools in 10 states found that, on average, enrollment of ELLs in charter schools was about the same as in traditional schools. I got that information from Margaret E. Raymond, the director of the Stanford University center that conducted the study and the study’s lead author, when I interviewed her back in September.

She said, however, that some charter schools, such as those in Minnesota that offer dual-immersion programs in Hmong and English, have a high concentration of ELLs and others don’t.

So the information from the national study doesn’t contradict Diane Ravitch’s statement that “many” charter schools don’t enroll as many ELLs as traditional public schools do.

I’m hoping in the next couple of years that researchers will provide richer information about ELLs and charter schools. At this point, we don’t know much.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.