Lauren Morando Rhim, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools

“What is getting lost in the tragedy of children being separated from their parents is the serious health impact on kids, both in the short-term and long-term. This is particularly concerning for students with disabilities, as research indicates that early trauma can impact children's learning, behavior and relationships. While there appears to be movement towards changing the current policy that separates families, we have to keep the pressure on to ensure that the top priority moving forward is to protect the well-being of all children. Families have been hurt and in addition to ensuring that this type of situation never happens again, we have to make sure that families are reunited immediately and children get the support they need to recover from the trauma they've experienced due to the ill-advised actions of the U.S. government."



Commentary: Minnesota’s New, Common-Sense Approach to School Discipline Policy Should Be a Model for Other States

By: Lauren Morando Rhim

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights recently announced collaborative agreements with five school districts and five charter schools to address practices that lead to disproportionate discipline of students of color and students with disabilities. The objective is to address “implicit bias that influences perceptions of student behavior.” Two districts in which the department was unable to develop agreements are most likely headed to court due to practices alleged to have resulted in educational discrimination ... Read the full article here.

Let’s solve the right problems for Detroit’s students with disabilities — not recycle old ones

As Superintendent Nikolai Vitti approaches his first anniversary of leading the struggling Detroit Public Schools Community District, I commend him for his energy and vision. In particular, I applaud his focus on developing a robust curriculum and hiring great teachers, the foundations of any great school district.

However, his recently announced plans to create new specialized programs for students with disabilities are disconcerting to me, given decades of research demonstrating the benefits of inclusion.

Specifically, Vitti has discussed the possibility of creating specialized programs for students with autism, dyslexia, and hearing impairments. The motivation is twofold: to meet students’ needs and to offer distinct programs that will attract parents who have fled Detroit in search of higher quality schools.

I’ve spent 25 years both studying and actively trying to improve schools for students with disabilities, and I can understand why Vitti’s proposal may have appeal. (I’m now the head of the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools.) But while the specialized programs might fill a critical need immediately, I have seen the downside of creating such segregated programming....

Continue reading this article here.

New CRDC Findings Reveal Unacceptable Trend of Discriminatory Discipline in Schools Continues

Black students and students with disabilities are subject to disciplinary practices that exclude them from classroom instruction, creating additional barriers to their learning.

Washington, DC – The following statement was released today by Lauren Morando Rhim, Executive Director of the National Council for Special Education in Charter Schools, in response to the latest Civil Rights Data Collection findings:

“These findings confirm the unacceptable trend of black students, especially boys, and students with disabilities being subject to disciplinary practices that exclude them from classroom instruction, thereby creating additional barriers to their learning. In line with the 2014 guidance published by the Department of Education, we must continue to not only track data regarding these practices but also take focused steps towards introducing school and classroom level policies and practices that will provide critical supports to students and teachers that, if implemented with fidelity, can decrease the need to exclude students from opportunities to learn. We are discouraged by the data, but are confident that our community of advocates will reverse these trends through research, communications, and smart policymaking at the federal and local levels.”


Today, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights released the findings of the 2015-2016 Civil Rights Data Collection. The massive database includes data from 17,337 school districts representing 96,360 schools enrolling 50.6 million students. The CRDC provides invaluable data regarding the status of students' civil rights across the nation and reflect OCR's commitment to ensuring that discussion related to civil rights are informed by data.

As with prior releases, NCSECS will be conducting a secondary analysis of the data set to examine the progress of both traditional public schools and charter schools. However, the data highlights published by the Department provide a somewhat discouraging preview. Most notably:

  • Black or African American students represent 15% of enrollment in public schools, but 31% of referrals to law enforcement or subjected to school-related arrests
  • Black males represent 8% of the population, but 25% of those receiving one or more out of school suspensions and 23% of the expulsions. 
  • Students with disabilities represent 12% of enrollment, but 28% of law enforcement referrals and subjected to school-related arrests, 26% of those receiving one or more out of school suspensions, and 24% of the expulsions.
  • Black or African American students represent 15% of the population, but 27% of the students restrained and 23% of the students secluded.
  • Students with disabilities represent 12% of the population, but 71% of those restrained and 66% of those secluded.

For more information on the NCSECS analysis of CRDC data, visit this NCSECS webpage.



How Personalized Learning Models Can Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities: Thrive Public Schools Case Study

By: Stephanie Lancet

The Center for Reinventing Public Education contracted with NCSECS to conduct case studies on school models and practices that effectively serve students with special needs. This brief highlights how a San Diego charter school network is using personalized learning to meet the needs of its students with disabilities. The other case study, How School Culture and Support Systems Can Improve Disciplinary Outcomes for Students with Disabilities, examines Mott Haven Academy Charter School in New York City and the impact of its positive school culture and behavior support systems on disciplinary outcomes.

About Thrive Public Schools and Its students

Thrive Public Schools is an independent charter public school network in San Diego founded with a unique vision: to build a school that adapts to each individual student and ignites passion for learning and self-confidence. The network enrolls higher percentages of students with disabilities and English language learners compared to the city and the state. Thrive students are in the top 1 percent nationally for reading growth, and in 6 out of 10 grade levels, its students are meeting or exceeding national math growth targets.

What makes personalized learning work well for Thrive’s students with special needs?

Key aspects of the charter school network’s model include the following:

  • Students with disabilities are fully included in general education. There is no discernable distinction between students receiving special education services and students who are not.
  • Teachers use technology-based education programs to supplement instruction and develop data-driven individualized support that benefits all students, particularly those with disabilities.
  • All teachers receive training about special education and learn effective strategies for meeting individual student needs. Special education teachers work alongside general education teachers and share responsibility for all students, not just those with disabilities.

NCSECS researchers conducted document reviews of both publicly available and privately shared resources; interviewed school administrators, teachers and staff, students, and families; and observed educators and students in action. The case study reflects school visits and data from Thrive’s three campuses in the fall of 2017.