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Thu Feb 25, 2016, 07:48 AM

Controversial Charter School May Be Pushing Out Students With Disabilities


The Guardian compared the charter school network to traditional public schools in high-poverty neighborhoods and found that Success Academy shed 10 percent of its enrollment between grade levels — while only 2.7 percent of enrollment among public schools in physical proximity to the charter schools was lost from grade to grade.

There could be three possibilities for that difference, as Richard Kahlenburg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who focuses on education policy, explained to the Guardian. Success Academy could be “counseling out weaker students,” not replacing students after they leave, or both. Some of the changes may also be due to the fact that up until last year, the charter school network didn’t accept new students after the third grade, a researcher from Success Academy countered.

But another interesting finding from the analysis is that despite the schools being located in areas populated by low-income families, there were significant gaps between the populations of students with disabilities, poor students, and students with limited English proficiency in the areas it serves versus the later grade levels in the schools themselves. For example, while schools in those areas had 27.6 percent students with disabilities, Success Academy only served 2.4 percent students with disabilities.

None of this is surprising given previous investigations into Success Academy. A New York Times investigation into Success Academy reported on the story of a mother who said her daughter’s name was on a list of students with the header “Got to Go.”

The Times also spoke with current and former employees of Success Academy who said that administrators and staff members would explicitly discuss ways to encourage parents to withdraw their children, such as making suspensions and asking for many meetings with parents. PBS NewsHour, meanwhile, reported that 44 students in a group of 203 first-graders and kindergarteners received suspensions at Success Academy.

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