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The Impact of Charter Schools on Special Ed & ELL Students

Students who qualify for special education or English language learning services often lose those designations when they move to charter schools. But a new study of Boston Charter Schools suggests that in charter settings these students can experience large academic gains without specialized services.

With data from Boston traditional public and charter schools, Elizabeth Setren provides insight on this in her paper titled The Impact of Targeted vs. General Education Investments: Evidence from Special Education and English Language Learners in Boston Charter Schools. In her analysis, Setren finds that one year in a charter reduces the special education and ELL achievement gaps by 30.8 percent and 88.4 percent respectively, compared to the gaps that persist in traditional public schools. Furthermore, the likelihood that ELL charter students enroll in four-year colleges doubles, and the likelihood that special education students graduate from a two-year college quadruples, when compared to students who participated in the lottery for charter schools but remained in traditional public schools.

Such findings highlight the importance of providing high-quality, general education practices for all students, as well as the tutoring and longer school days that these charter schools provided.

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.