NCSECS' Monthly Newsletter: January 2018

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NCSECS Welcomes the New Year with a Renewed Commitment to its Mission

January 23, 2018

Guided by the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., and the many other individuals who have fought and continue to fight for civil rights, we, the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) team, greeted this new year with a renewed, deep commitment to civil rights advocacy. Keeping organizational purpose and drive at the core of our work, we look forward to engaging with our many partners, colleagues, and stakeholders, and to collectively drive changes in policy and in practice that will better support students with disabilities and sustain their access to charter schools. 


NCSECS Hits the Road

From December 4-6, representatives from over 30 charter management organizations (CMOs) across the country came together in New Orleans for NCSECS' most recent National CMO Special Education Network convening. During this time, they shared best practices for serving students with disabilities, discussed a range of important issues, collaborated to address challenges in practice, and brainstormed innovative approaches for handling such challenges.

If interested in learning more about NCSECS’ National CMO Special Education Network,
please contact Lindsay Coker at lcoker@ncsecs.org.

Following the convening, NCSECS joined the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Illinois Network of Charter Schools in hosting a Charter Support Organization Master Class on Special Education, in Newark, New Jersey. This one-and-a-half-day class cultivated interactive discussions with leaders from charter support organizations (CSOs) across the country, offered attendees the opportunity to visit KIPP Bold Academy, and featured a session on Special Education essentials led by NCSECS’ Co-Founder and Senior Fellow Paul O’Neill. The agenda also highlighted the diverse array of services and supports provided by CSOs in an effort to boost charter school operators’ and applicants’ capacity to educate students with a wide range of disabilities.

If interested in obtaining resources, documents, and presentations from the Master Class,
please contact Lauren Morando Rhim at lmrhim@ncsecs.org.

Most recently, NCSECS Co-Founder and Executive Director Lauren Morando Rhim took part in "Diversity and Cultural Competence: Fostering a More Equitable and Inclusive School Community." This Diverse Charter Schools Coalition convening brought together a community of charter schools to share best practices and to build their capacity to advance diversity, equity, and excellence.


New Resources

To widely share best practices with the special education community, NCSECS identified several public charter schools across the country as exemplary “Centers for Excellence” and is communicating how each school uniquely leverages its autonomy to benefit students with disabilities. We are excited to share the profile of one "Center of Excellence," Denver School of Science and Technology’s Cole High School. 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. Cole’s flexibility in curriculum and instruction, as well as its professional development and coaching model, support the school in balancing and maintaining an inclusive educational model with rigorous learning goals and high expectations.

A new resource from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and NCSECS provides crucial, comprehensive guidance regarding how effective oversight can be leveraged to ensure the quality of education provided to students with disabilities in charter schools. This Special Education Toolkit highlights best practices with the hopes that more authorizers will consider the needs of students with disabilities during each phase of the charter school lifecycle. For example, the toolkit offers a useful summary of applicable laws and regulations; provides a rubric and tools outlining important considerations for special education oversight; profiles exemplary authorizers who are effectively addressing special education; and addresses important financial considerations relating to special education in charter schools.


Policy Updates

The Council on Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), a NCSECS Equity Coalition partner, recently collaborated with the National Council on Disabilities to develop a research synthesis about special education in charter schools. They have held focus groups in FL, CA, AZ, MI, and Washington DC, thus far. This new paper will build upon prior research published by the COPAA team regarding special education vouchers.

If interested in learning more about the research or participating in future focus groups,
please visit the COPAA website.
 

The U.S. Department of Education issued its finding from an 18-month investigation of the Texas Education Agency’s discriminatory policy designed to reduce the proportion of students with disabilities receiving special education and related services for over 12 years. This egregious violation of IDEA resulted in an estimated 150,000 students failing to receive critical support.

This recently published ACLU report about Arizona charter schools"Schools Choosing Students," raises concerns about the extent to which students with disabilities in Arizona are being extended the same degree of school choice as their peers without disabilities. In particular, the report finds that some school policies cap the enrollment of students with disabilities.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is taking on the issues of overrepresentation of students of color in special education, as well as punitive disciplinary models. On December 8, Commissioners held a public hearing, "The Intersection of Students of Color and Students with Disabilities, and School Discipline Policies," in Washington DC and heard from "affected individuals, community and advocacy groups, and academics," according to a commission spokesman. 


Thank you for reading, and please join us in ongoing virtual conversations by following @NCSCES on Twitter and Instagram