Opinion
School Choice & Charters Letter to the Editor

Don’t ‘Scapegoat’ Charters For Failing Students With Disabilities

February 16, 2016 1 min read

To the Editor:

After presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stated in a town-hall meeting in South Carolina that “most charter schools ... don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids. Or if they do, they don’t keep them," there was a media flurry regarding whether charters enroll and retain such hard-to-teach students, including students with disabilities (“Would Hillary Clinton Be an Anti-Charter-School President?”).

Consider the irony of this narrative, that charters are a scourge because they underserve students with disabilities as part of those hard-to-teach groups. This assumes that traditional public schools are consistently providing a quality education to students with disabilities, which is hardly the situation.

We are 25 years into the evolution of charters, and they are growing for a reason: Parents want options. Not all charters have embraced their responsibilities to students with disabilities, and data also demonstrate that many regular public schools are also failing these students.

However, wide variability in these data tell us that we can do better. There are good and bad schools in both sectors. The variability in student outcomes is the problem that we need to address, not whether charters accept hard-to-teach students.

Advocates committed to students with disabilities can’t afford to pass up opportunities to innovate. The autonomy extended by state charter laws is just that, an opportunity. Politics can oversimplify complicated issues. But students with disabilities seeking a quality education don’t benefit from the scapegoating of charters. Rather than exploiting incidents of discrimination as a weapon to rally opponents against charters, I urge those concerned about students with disabilities to focus on developing thoughtful policies and practices that will ensure equal access and quality programs—two constructs that are intricately connected, regardless of educational setting.

Gross generalizations about school quality may play well for politics, but they fail to advance the important dialogue about promoting excellence and equity for all students.

Lauren Morando Rhim

Executive Director and Co-Founder

National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools

New York, N.Y.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 17, 2016 edition of Education Week as Don’t ‘Scapegoat’ Charters For Failing Students With Disabilities

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online
School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters COVID-19 May Energize Push for School Choice in States. Where That Leads Is Unclear
The pandemic is driving legislators' interest in mechanisms like education savings accounts, but the growth may not be straightforward.
8 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature on Jan. 12 at the statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address to state lawmakers on Jan. 12. She's pushing a major school choice expansion.
Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register via AP
School Choice & Charters Letter to the Editor Are NOLA Charters a Mixed Bag?
To the Editor:
The opinion essay by Douglas N. Harris about how New Orleans’ education reforms post-Katrina are relevant to the COVID-19 era (“As Schools Recover After COVID-19, Look to New Orleans,” Sept. 30, 2020) highlights some basic improvements in the NOLA system but downplays the most significant aspects of those changes: the impact on people of color.
1 min read
School Choice & Charters Home Schooling Is Way Up With COVID-19. Will It Last?
The shift could have lasting effects on both public schools and the home-schooling movement.
BRIC ARCHIVE
RyanJLane/E+
School Choice & Charters Opinion Challenging 3 Common Critiques of School Choice
A new volume from Corey DeAngelis and Neal McCluskey challenges some of the familiar but suspect assertions that pepper public debates about school choice.
3 min read