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NEW REPORT: Students with Special Needs Excel in Public Charter Schools

May 7, 2020

AUSTIN – New research released today shows students with special needs attending Texas public charter schools have higher reading proficiency growth, are more likely to be included in general education classrooms, and have a greater likelihood of attending college than their ISD counterparts.

The report, “Texas Public Charters Prepare Special Education Students to Achieve Ambitious Goals,” is based on publicly available data from the Texas Education Agency and finds that students with special needs enrolled in Texas public charter schools are excelling based on numerous measures.

"Students with special needs deserve to attend schools that put them first and prepare them for college and career. Public charter schools in Texas are doing that,” said TPCSA CEO Starlee Coleman. “Students with special needs who attend public charter schools are learning to read, they are integrated with their peers, and they are getting into college – all at impressively high rates.”

The report finds that for special education students, public charter schools have:

  • Higher Reading Scores. In 2018, public charters moved an average of 4% -- or 500 more special needs students -- from non-proficient to proficient in reading.
  • More Inclusion in General Education Classrooms. The state of Texas/the federal government set a goal that special needs students would be included in general education settings with non-special needs students 80% of the school day. Charter schools are exceeding this goal with 92% of their students in general classroom settings at least 80% of the day. ISDs report including 63% of special needs students in general education settings for 80% of the school day. 
  • More College-Bound Students. Texas public charters are enrolling twice the rate of special education graduates in college as traditional public schools (43% vs 23%). This is in consistent with the findings that public charters in Texas send a higher percentage of students overall to college than traditional public schools.

While public charters enroll a slightly lower percentage of students with special needs, 8.5% vs. 10.3% at traditional ISDs, the difference can be partially explained by parental preferences and school size. The average size of charter schools is smaller than ISDs, and smaller schools tend to enroll fewer students with special needs. Texas data shows that small ISDs and comparably sized charter schools have the same special needs enrollment percentage.

“At the end of the day, what matters the most is that every Texas student with special needs receives a high-quality education that helps them meet their highest potential,” Coleman continued. “Public charter schools are giving many families and students with special needs a shot at a bright future and a great life. We are very proud of the work our schools are doing to put kids first and educate these important students.”

Read the full research brief here.

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