Studying Special Education in Charter Schools
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Studying Special Education in Charter Schools. Project Intersect. Project Intersect. The University of Maryland is conducting a three-year study of special education in the charter school sector.

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Project Intersect

  • The University of Maryland is conducting a three-year study of special education in the charter school sector.

  • Project Intersect will examine the relationship among three sets of variables and charter school special education procedures and practices

    1) features of the charter school law,

    2) characteristics of charter schools, and

    3) nature and type of technical assistance and special education infrastructure available to charter schools.

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Project Intersect Data Collection

  • Legislative review (N=41)

  • Survey of state directors of special education (N=41)

  • Survey of state charter school officials (N=41)

  • Survey of authorizers (N=692)

  • Survey of charter school operators with at least 1 year of experience (N=2979, n=683)

  • Case studies of special education infrastructure

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Methodology

Survey of Charter School Authorizers (Spring 2004)

  • 692 charter schools surveyed

  • Electronic (Zoomerang™) and paper-pencil format

  • 452 responses (65%)

  • Random probability sample generalizable to population

  • Test for bias associated with non-respondents revealed no apparent bias according to type or experience of authorizer

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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National Profile

692 Authorizers

  • Local education agency (LEA): 90% (620)

  • Institution of higher ed. (IHE): 5% (37)

  • State education agency (SEA): 3% (22)

  • Other (e.g., charter brds, non-profits): 2% (13)

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Authorizer Experience

Number of Charter Schools Authorized

  • Range 1- 350 schools

  • Average is 6 schools

  • Mode is 1 school (51% of all authorizers have only authorized a single school)

  • Top five authorizers in the sample have authorized 35% of all charter schools represented in the sample (n=2571)

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Key Issues Related to Special Education: Technical Assistance

Authorizers are the primary providers of special education related technical assistance

  • 40% of all authorizers either offer or require that charter schools they authorize attend technical assistance and training related to special education during the application/authorization process

  • 55% of authorizers don’t offer or require

  • 6% of the respondents “do not know”

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Key Issues Related to Special Education: Technical Assistance

  • 33% of all authorizers don’t offer or require that charter schools they authorize attend technical assistance and training related to special education once schools are operating

  • 64% of all authorizers either offer or require during operation

  • 2% of the respondents “do not know”

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Key Issues Related to Special Education: Legal Responsibility

Legal responsibility related to providing special education and related services to students with disabilities attending charter schools they authorize:

  • 34% total legal responsibility

  • 34% shared legal responsibility

  • 21% no legal responsibility

  • 11% Do not know or “other”

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Key Issues Related to Special Education: Provision of Services

Besides charter school associations and resource centers, authorizers report that charter schools are utilizing the following organizations/strategies to assist with the ongoing provision of special education services in their schools:

  • Authorizer 51%

  • Intermediate education agency or unit 36%

  • Individual consultants 31%

  • State-level special ed. admin. for charter schools 17%

  • LEA (if not the authorizer) 16%

  • Education management organizations 11%

  • Local non-profit 10%

  • Special education coop for charter schools 6%

  • Risk pooling (insurance model) 1%

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Key Issues Related to Special Education: Renewal Issues Services

  • 60% reported that a charter school’s special education record is a required component of the charter renewal process

  • 8% reported special education records have been a factor in revocation

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Key Issues: Ongoing Challenges Associated with Special Education

  • Finding qualified related service personnel (62%)

  • Having adequate funds to provide services to special education students (56%)

  • Incorporating SWD in NCLB requirements (56%)

  • Knowing special education laws and regulations (53%)

  • Finding qualified special education teachers (50%)

  • Understanding monitoring and compliance requirements (48%)

  • Working with parents of students with disabilities (46%)

  • Implementing the IEP (44%)

  • Providing services to students in low incidence disability areas (44%)

  • Modifying the school’s core curriculum for students with disabilities (43%)

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Discussion Education

  • Authorizers experience is generally limited to a single or only a few schools

  • A relatively small cohort of very active authorizers have authorized the vast majority of the operating charter schools

  • Authorizers’ responsibilities related to special education extend far beyond authorization and renewal

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Implications Education

  • The manner in which authorizers approach issues related to special education is an example of the evolving role of authorizers and the degree to which they are actively engaged in the actual operation of charter schools

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Implications Education

  • The expanded roles and responsibilities of authorizers raises questions about the degree to which they can separate themselves from charter schools for the purposes of accountability (e.g., 64% of the charter authorizes reported that they are either totally responsible or share responsibility for educating students with disabilities)

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Implications for Future Research Education

  • Critical to distinguish between descriptive information and policy generalizations—authorizers are unique and discussions about authorizers should reflect the policy context (e.g., type of authorizer, policy environment, experience) as opposed to making grand statements about ALL authorizers

  • Avoid temptation to generalize in order to simplify. Findings and discussion must be nuanced to align with reality in the field

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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Resources Education

Project Intersect

www.education.umd.edu/EDSP/Projectintersect

SPEDTACS Primers

www.edgateway.net/specialedprimers

Lauren Morando Rhim

University of Maryland [email protected]

Project Intersect-Preliminary Findings


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