CA Legislation: Ending For-profit Charters

Charter schools are playing an important role in improving the quality of classrooms for students of all backgrounds, including students with disabilities.  And while there are unfortunately some ill-intended for-profit companies that are simply out to exploit the system for their own financial gain, we cannot let that take away from all of the good charter schools are doing for communities all over the country. Taxpayers do not pay taxes to see school leaders make millions of dollars off of public education, they want dollars to reach students in the classroom.  We commend California for setting the example for other states by creating legislation that would prohibit for-profit corporations from managing and operating charter schools.  We strongly encourage the Governor to sign this bill and for other states to follow so that we can eliminate the bad actors and build on the successful charter school models that so many parents support.

How School Culture and Support Systems Can Improve Disciplinary Outcomes for Students with Disabilities: Mott Haven Academy Charter School 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 New York City charter school is using a positive, inclusive environment and restorative discipline practices to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. The other case study, How Personalized Learning Models Can Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities, highlights Thrive Public Schools in San Diego and its personalized learning model.

About Mott Haven Academy and Its Students

Mott Haven Academy is an independent charter public school in New York City serving pre-K through 6th grade. It is the first school in the nation designed explicitly to focus on the specific needs of children in the child welfare system; 49 percent of its students are in the foster care system or considered at risk of placement in foster care. Haven Academy provides wraparound services to its families through partnerships with several child welfare agencies and community-based organizations that provide housing, medical, and mental health supports.

What makes Haven Academy’s school culture and behavior supports work well for students with special needs?

Key aspects of the academy’s model include the following:

  • Admissions and enrollment processes proactively include and support student populations at risk of being marginalized, including students with disabilities.
  • Teachers and school leaders address behavior with methods tailored to individual students, which preemptively deter behavioral issues and incorporate opportunities for intentional reflection and growth.
  • The school culture and behavior supports are infused with social-emotional learning and address individual needs of students as shaped by their lives beyond the classroom.
  • Students learn in a restorative environment that is safe, stable, structured, and understanding, particularly benefiting students with disabilities by fostering full inclusion.

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 information from the 2017-2018 school year.

Denver’s School of Science and Technology - Cole High School: Supporting Students with Disabilities via Curriculum/Instruction Modification and Coaching

By: Stephanie Lancet

As part of its effort to share best practices with the special education community, The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) identified several public charter schools across the country as “Centers for Excellence” and is communicating how each school uniquely leverages its autonomy to benefit students with disabilities. Here is a spotlight on one of them.

Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) - Cole High School (Cole), a public charter school within the DSST network, serves students from 9th to 11th grade. Cole educates one of the largest proportions of students with mild disabilities in inclusive classrooms in its district, and, in 2016, ranked as the fifth highest-performing high school in Denver and the third highest in ELL proficiency growth. In order to effectively serve students with diverse learning needs, Cole modifies its network’s relatively structured approach to instruction. Our case study specifically explores the school’s modified curriculum and instruction, as well as its professional development model.

Cole teachers cite the ability to create new courses or to modify the curriculum as essential to supporting students' success. Guided by the school’s mission and objectives, for example, teachers may add foundational courses or make adjustments to the 10th grade trimester internship program as needed. This allows teachers the flexibility to meet the needs and foster the strengths of individual students. Moreover, the school supports intensive co-teaching practices, such as shared planning and professional development, to promote effective differentiation.

Coaching, a vital part of DSST and Cole’s professional development model, provides teachers the opportunity to continuously improve and hone their skills with each other’s assistance. Utilizing tools such as video commentaries and observation annotations, the school fosters a sustained cycle of professional feedback, reflection, and modification, with the ultimate objective of improving the experiences of students with disabilities. This practice contributes to a positive school culture, one which nurtures inclusion via comprehensive teacher support.

Together, Cole’s flexibility in curriculum and instruction and its coaching model support the school in balancing and maintaining an inclusive educational model with rigorous learning goals and high expectations. To learn more about DSST - Cole High School, and its approach to serving students with learning differences, read our full case study here.

Supreme Court Establishes a New Standard for Educational Benefit

Supreme Court Establishes a New Standard for Educational Benefit

By: Paul O'Neill

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a unanimous 8-0 ruling in the landmark Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case. The amicus brief we submitted in partnership with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools can be found here. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Roberts stated that, “[t]o meet its substantive obligation under IDEA, a school must offer an IEP [Individual Education Program] reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

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