Are charter schools turning away students with disabilities?

Across the U.S., charter schools tend to enroll fewer students with disabilities, but the situation in San Antonio is more complicated. “Charter schools still enroll fewer disabled students”, San Antonio Express-News, June 20, 2012 (from the New York Times with contributions from Lindsay Kastner).

“Across the country, disabled students represented 8.2 percent of all students enrolled during the 2009-10 year in charter schools, compared with 11.2 percent of students attending traditional public schools,” reports a Government Accountability Office study of Department of Education data.

Locally, the rates vary widely. Less than 8 percent of students at KIPP: San Antonio receive special education services, compared to more than 10 percent at San Antonio ISD.

Are charter schools turning away students with disabilities (i.e., “skimming”)? Or, are some students at public school districts being misdiagnosed with disabilities? A local charter school leader believes it’s the latter:

KIPP-SA Chief Executive Officer Mark Larson said his charter district routinely enrolls students that it considers misdiagnosed. Depending on the recommendation of a special committee, those students often shed their diagnoses once at KIPP, Larson said.

“If we look back historically at the number of kids that we dismissed from special ed because it was determined that it was no longer needed any more, we have exited far more kids than we have entered into special ed,” he said.

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