by Madyson Lubba
While there is still room for growth, charter schools are consistently graduating at-risk students at higher rates than their host districts and even the state.
For two years, NECSN has supported the passage of the Charter School Students with Special Needs Act. The proposed bill removes barriers currently preventing charters in New York from serving higher numbers of students with disabilities (SWD) and English language learners (ELL).
NECSN continues to support the Charter School Students with Special Needs Act for two reasons. First, it has the potential to both expand and maintain charter enrollment and retention for SWD and ELL students, something that helps both students and the schools. More importantly, charter schools have been successful educating these at-risk students, resulting in positive academic outcomes. In fact, public charters are doing better than their district school counterparts at getting these at-risk students to graduate, as can be seen in data from the 2008 high school cohort (students graduating four years later and released in 2013). Students at New York charter schools across all demographic groups and at-risk factors outperformed their counterparts at host district schools and the New York State average.
In 2012, the graduation rate for New York charter school students with disabilities was 81 percent higher than the graduation rate in their host districts, and 13 percent higher than New York’s statewide average. Charter schools also are effectively serving English language learners, with a graduation rate that is 45 percent higher than their host district schools and 31 percent higher than New York’s statewide average.
When broken down by individual charter schools, the majority of charters outperform their host districts in at-risk demographics. Specifically, 80 percent of charter schools graduate a higher percentage of African-American students than their host districts, and 85 percent do the same with Hispanic students. The same success is seen with economically disadvantaged students (83 percent higher), students with disabilities (93 percent higher) and English language learners (83 percent higher).
If New York is serious about improving public education for all students, particularly for our most at-risk children, then we should be enabling charters to teach more students with disabilities and ELLs. Legislators should support the passage of the Charter School Students with Special Needs Act, as well as other common-sense measures to expand how many students they are able to serve.