September 2019 Newsletter
Sep 28
The Centers September Newsletter

September 2019 Newsletter



September 27, 2019

Partnership and collaboration are critical to achieving the Center’s mission. We hope that our newsletter helps inform and empower you to take action in your area. Email to discuss how to improve education for students with disabilities in charter schools near you.

On September 9, The Center awarded education advocate Eileen M. Ahearn the inaugural Eileen M. Ahearn Education Visionary Award for her foresight and commitment to ensuring students with disabilities have the same access to a high quality charter school education as do their peers.

The Center’s Executive Director, Lauren Morando Rhim, stated, “Eileen’s recognition of the challenges that might emerge at the intersection of federal civil rights laws and state charter school laws have resulted in more than 300,000 children with disabilities exercising choice in charter schools across the nation. We are indebted to her vision and work, which created a foundation for the Center’s, and we look forward to recognizing her achievements annually as we honor other leaders having an impact in this movement.” The Center’s Senior Fellow, Paul O’Neill, added that “Eileen was the trailblazer, tirelessly insisting to all stakeholders that access, equity, and academic success for students with disabilities in charter schools must be a priority. She was right, and they listened.” 

The Eileen M. Ahearn Education Visionary Award was established in 2019 to honor an individual or organization that has made an outstanding contribution to ensure that students with disabilities who are interested in attending charter schools are able to access and thrive alongside their peers.

Congratulations to the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates for their persistence in fighting for students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education’s appeal was dismissed by the US Department of Justice, upholding the federal court ruling that found Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Department engaged in an illegal delay of the 2016 Equity in IDEA regulation. This regulation was designed to ensure that students with disabilities of color are protected from over- and under-identification, segregation, and harsh discipline.
A New York City Councilman recently launched an effort to transfer oversight of special education from NYC’s Department of Education to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, a move the Center strongly believes is not in the best interest of students with disabilities. Paul O’Neill, the Center’s Senior Fellow, made the case in an op-ed published by the Brooklyn Eagle.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities released a new set of white papers (see three reports below) that review existing research and implementation challenges related to the current methods and procedures used to evaluate students suspected of having learning disabilities:
1. “Evaluation for Specific Learning Disabilities: Allowable Methods of Identification & Their Implications” aims to provide parents, educators, school professionals, and policymakers with a common language and shared understanding of terms related to data-based problem solving approaches to improve practice and better serve all students.
2. “What a Specific Learning Disability Is Not: Examining Exclusionary Factors” explores the exclusionary criteria that exist in federal law to ensure that schools consider the primary cause of learning challenges before a child may be determined to be eligible for special education due to a specific learning disability. It also describes implementation challenges facing the field related to these factors.
3. “Data-Based Problem Solving: Effective Implementation of MTSS, RTI, and PBIS” examines the history of the federally permissible methods to determine eligibility for special education due to a specific learning disability, describes advantages, challenges, and research related to the evaluation frameworks, and highlights selected state practices to demonstrate the variability in eligibility methods across the country.
The NCSECS team was pleased to participate and present at the The Center on Reinventing Public Education’s recent convening that brought leaders from cities around the country to explore ways that school districts can use the portfolio strategy to help cities improve education for students with disabilities. CRPE published highlights in a new report, “It Takes a City: How the Portfolio Strategy Can Bring Schools, Districts, and Communities Together to Transform Special Education,” drawing on different cities’ experiences and defining the principles that will help portfolio managers coordinate the development of new, differentiated programs that can better serve students with disabilities who require unique programming.
Research shows that students tend to perform better academically when they are taught by teachers of the same race. Around half of students receiving special education services are White, yet over 82% of special educators in public schools are White. Recognizing that the special education field is “really prime to recruit faculty of color,” Jacqueline Rodriguez, Assistant Vice President for Programs and Professional Learning at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, is leading a networked improvement community with 10 teacher-preparation programs that have pledged to find ways to enroll more aspiring special educators and reduce the shortage of special education teachers by fall 2022, with a big focus on the recruitment of teachers of color and teachers with disabilities.
Lawyers representing families in Flint have filed a lawsuit against the school system, the Michigan Education Department, and the Genesee County Intermediate School District, alleging systematic failure to meet the needs of students with disabilities. At least 1 in 5 students in Flint’s public schools are eligible for special education, with the percentage of students with disabilities increasing by 56%, rising from 13.1% in 2012-13 (the school year before the water crisis began) to 20.5% last school year.
New California legislation will place restrictions on charter schools and “pause a long-standing battle at the state Capitol between politically powerful teachers unions and deep-pocketed charter advocates.” The agreement “gives public school districts more authority to reject petitions for new charter campuses, phases in stricter credentialing requirements for charter school teachers, and places a two-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools.”

The Center on the Road

If you will be at any of the following upcoming events, please come find us. We love to connect with our partners and stakeholders.

  • Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools Annual Conference Building Pathways to Excellence:
    October 9-11 in Harrisburg, PA
  • New Jersey Charter Schools Conference:
    October 14-15 in Atlantic City, NJ
  • Missouri Charter Schools Conference:
    October 16-18 in Kansas City, MO
  • The Center’s National CMO Special Education Network Annual Convening:
    October 17-18 in Houston, TX
  • NACSA Leadership Conference Gateways to Impact:
    October 21-24 in St. Louis, MO
  • National Rural Education Association’s Annual Convention National Forum to Advance Rural Education:
    October 24-26 in Louisville, KY
  • Equity in Education Coalition’s Conference Decolonizing Education: October 27-29 in Tacoma, WA

Calling all CMO school and special education leaders!

Our National CMO Special Education Network will be convening for our annual conference 10/16-10/18 in Houston, TX. This event brings together special education and school leaders from across the country to focus on driving high level systems change to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. This year, we plan to engage around topics such as developing the full continuum of service, managing upward/outward to ensure strong Tier 1 systems and practices, exploring teacher perceptions and mindsets, and discussing the role of anti-bias education to elevate inclusion and disrupt disproportionality. Registration closes 10/1 – secure your seat today!

Please email Megan if you are interested in attending or presenting!


Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Center's staff is currently working remotely. Please email with any questions and we will direct you to the appropriate member of our staff.Email Us