Myth: Charters don’t serve special education students.
Fact: Charter schools cannot discriminate against students based on disability and are open to all students. In fact, some charter schools are allowed to weight their lotteries to give greater preference for students with disabilities.
Charter schools are also encouraged to focus programs on students with disabilities, and many charter schools throughout New York actually target and specialize in serving students with disabilities.
The Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem (NCSH) is a shining example of this, making it one of our Myth-Busting Charters.
Thirty-one percent of the school’s children are Special Education students. NCSH has a unique inclusion program for high functioning students with autism -- and all of the school’s students learn together. Each classroom has two teachers. The school is flexible enough to meet the needs of every single student, while providing rigorous academics that challenge its students and help them achieve.
“NCSH is a very special place and is educating all of our students at an extremely high level,” said science teacher Michael Renda. “Our scholars have a longer school day, longer school year, and participate in a well rounded curriculum. Starting in kindergarten, our students participate in hands-on science every single day, in addition to several hours of math, English, physical education and the arts.”
The school also has two full time Speech Language Pathologists who provide socialization instruction for students on the autism spectrum.
Renda continued, “The school is highly structured; nothing is left to chance. The majority of scholars are reading at or above grade level. Those who aren’t are given immediate and constant intervention and quickly improve. We utilize an “all hands on deck” approach to teaching. I am the kindergarten and first grade science teacher but I also teach a reading and math intervention group every day for an hour. We aren’t job description educators here. We all do whatever it takes, with no excuses, to help our scholars achieve.”
This can be seen in the school’s most recent achievement data. NCSH scholars scored in the 91st national percentile on the TerraNova exam, a nationally recognized achievement exam.
Last spring, Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited the school and was impressed with the school model. Read more about that visit here.
The need for the school is clear. NCSH received almost 1,000 applications for 50 kindergarten seats last spring.
Renda said, “Families are desperate for options, especially families with children with special needs.”
Charter critics who don’t believe charter schools are serving a high enough percentage of special needs children should take a look at the Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem. There is no doubt the school is busting myths, but more importantly children at NCSH are thriving and receiving a great education.
For more on NCSH, click here.
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