Special Education Ecosystem Improvement

Special Education in the Nevada Charter School Sector

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Summary

Authorizers play a critical role in ensuring that students with disabilities have access to charter schools through their oversight and support of schools within their portfolio. Charter schools must be equipped to not only comply with federal and state statutes pertaining to special education, but also have the capacity to offer their students with disabilities high quality special education and related services. In order to support the development and sustainability of quality programs for students with disabilities in charter schools, the Center partnered with the Nevada Department of Education to support authorizers and school personnel in Nevada to improve policies and practices related to educating students with disabilities.

Our objectives for this project were to understand:

  • How do the various authorizing entities in Nevada interact with each other and oversee special education in charter schools?
  • How do relevant state statutes apply and be strengthened to ensure strong special education oversight?
  • How is data tracked and analyzed?
  • What systems can be implemented to improve oversight and accountability?
  • What training and support could improve provision of special education programs at the school level?

How we approached this work:

Conduct thorough needs assessment to understand landscape of special education in Nevada charter sector

Identify areas for improvement at state, authorizer, and school level

Design and implement year-long professional development series for special educators

Create and test tools to strengthen oversight

Deliverables

  • Written recommendations for improvements to established charter school authorizing policies and practices
  • Suggested revisions to charter application to include robust special education components
  • Testimony to Nevada Department of Education encouraging clarification of charter statutes to ensure strong accountability
  • Customized Performance Management System to assist with monitoring and supporting charter schools. Components included:
    • Performance Metrics that provide a compliance monitoring protocol with tiered support structures to identify schools that are doing well and those for which additional support and oversight is needed
    • Equity Reports designed to present a profile of the school and highlight issues related to equity and outcome data; and
    • A “Mystery Parent Program” tool to assist with identifying potential challenges with admission policies
  • Eight monthly professional development sessions and a week-long “special education boot camp” serving over 60 staff members from 30 Nevada charter schools

Results

Built capacity of special educators in schools

Improved authorizer practices for charter applications

Clarified statutes and challenges with current legal status

Facilitated measurement and targeted support for struggling schools

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