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Topic: No Bridge for this Gap
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
No Bridge for this Gap
Posted: Nov 17, 2013 2:50 PM
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From National Education Policy Center, Thursday, November 7, 2013.
Research and analysis to inform education policy and promote
democratic deliberation

No Bridge for this Gap

Report confirms charter schools enroll fewer special-needs students -
but it lacks support for claims that the disparities are innocuous


William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, <>
Julie F. Mead, (608) 263-3405,

URL for this press
release: <>

BOULDER, CO (November 7, 2013) - There's clear evidence that charter
schools enroll significantly fewer special education students than
traditional public schools. But why is that?

In Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools,
a recent report published jointly by the Manhattan Institute and the
Center on Reinventing Public Education, Marcus Winters asserted the
disparity is not the product of concerted attempts by charter schools
to exclude special needs students. Instead, the gap was attributed to
lower application rates on the part of families of these students.

A new review published today, however, explains flaws in that
report's data, analysis, reasoning and applicability to the broader
charter school sector. The report was reviewed for the Think Twice
think tank review project by Julie Mead of the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. The review is published by the National Education
Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of

Mead is a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and
Policy Analysis at the UW-Madison. Her research centers on legal
issues related to special education and legal issues raised by
various forms of school choice. She is co-author, with Preston Green,
of the book Charter Schools and the Law: Establishing New Legal

The issue of special-needs-enrollment disparities between charter
schools and traditional schools is significant because any such
disparities arguably result in a distinct advantage to charter
schools when comparing their educational outcomes with traditional

Mead points out that the Winters report does confirm that disparities
in special-education enrollment clearly exist in New York City
between charter and traditional schools. It also raises interesting
issues about application and transfer patterns among families who opt
for charter schools and those who don't, and it offers evidence that
more research is needed to fully understand the scope and details of
the gap between the two sectors.

But Mead also finds extensive grounds to critique the report.

"It neglects any review of related literature and therefore ignores
alternate explanations for the statistical patterns found," Mead
writes. Relying as it does on a set of data that is restricted and
non-representative, the report is constrained by "severe limitations
on the generalizability of the findings and the conclusions that may
be drawn."

Perhaps most importantly, it provides no evidence for an assertion
that the "counseling out" of families of special needs children is
minimal, she points out. "Nor does it answer 'why' disparities
persist"-the promise made in the report's title. Accordingly, Mead
concludes that the report "ultimately fails to provide useful results
to inform policymakers."

Find Julie Mead's review on the NEPC website at:

Find Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter
Schools, written by Marcus Winters and published by the Center for
Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) and the Manhattan Institute for
Policy Research, on the web at:

The Think Twice think tank review project
( of the National Education Policy Center
(NEPC) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely,
academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed
at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think
Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support
provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and

This review can also be found on the GLC website at

If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter and would like
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Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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