Dive Brief:

  • Research from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) shows parents of students with disabilities often struggle to find charter schools that fit their children’s needs and feel that the information-gathering process falls largely on their shoulders. The research was based in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., and looked at how school choice affects families that have children with disabilities.
  • In both cities, a lack of specialized expertise leaves families feeling forced to choose between schools with what they perceive as low-quality inclusion or segregated programs that are highly specialized for students with disabilities. 
  • Across the board, while information and supports for the choice process has improved, there is still a need for more detailed information about special education programs. 

Dive Insight:​

Charter schools have been criticized for not welcoming students with disabilities, but that trend appears to be changing. While students with disabilities are still less likely to attend charter schools than traditional schools, the numbers are growing.

An analysis by the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools shows that 83.5% of students with disabilities spend at least 80% of their day in general education classrooms, compared to 65.5% of students with disabilities in traditional public schools. But it’s still unclear whether charter schools have more students who can be successful in general classrooms or if they are struggling to provide programs for students with disabilities. 

Parents of special education students often find themselves haggling with district representatives over Individual Education Plans for good services. A report found that out of 1,467 special education teachers surveyed, only about a quarter said principals in their building were “well prepared” to support IEP goals and even less (18%) thought their district’s general education administrator was equipped.

Yet, it remains essential for administrators to support the IEP process. For example, Indiana’s IEP Resource Center provides neutral parties to attend the meetings who act as mediators who make sure everyone is being heard and understood.

Simpler fixes like adjusting body language and tone to put parents at ease also have been found to help build a positive relationship with parents during and outside the meetings. 

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