Key Trends in Special Education in Charter Schools

A Secondary Analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection 2011–2012

The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) is an independent, non-profit organization formed by a coalition of national experts on special education in charter schools. It is committed to proactively ensuring that students with disabilities have equal access to charter schools and to fostering innovations that will benefit students with disabilities in both charter and traditional public schools. To fulfill its mission, NCSECS focuses on four key areas:

● Establish and Communicate Facts

● Inform Policy

● Build Bridges Between a Diverse Coalition of Stakeholders

● Identify and Foster the Creation of Models of Excellence

This report represents a key pillar of our effort to establish and communicate the facts about special education in charter schools. To date, much of the discussion regarding the extent to which charter schools serve students with disabilities has been driven by anecdotes and single cases. The purpose, historically, was to advance an agenda either for or against charter schools as a construct, as opposed to credible data or a commitment to ensuring that students with disabilities are guaranteed their right to a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment in every public school across the country. Our secondary analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection stands as the first comprehensive examination of the status of students with disabilities in charter schools compared to traditional public schools according to: enrollment; service provision; and, discipline; as well as an examination of the prevalence and focus of specialized charter schools. In conducting the respective analyses, our goal was to provide federal and state policy leaders as well as practitioners and researchers with a solid foundation for a more productive examination of the issues in an effort to drive changes that could discernibly benefit students with disabilities. This report reflects our deep commitment to students with disabilities and using data to inform both policy and practice to ensure equity for them in the growing charter sector.