Friday, May 16, 2014

An Important New Study On Special Ed Enrollment In Chicago Charters

Hot off the presses at UIC, a tremendously important study of the special education enrollment patterns in Chicago charter schools and neighborhood schools by Federico Waitoller, Josh Radinsky, Agata Trzaska, and Daniel M. Maggin, of the Collaborative For Equity and Justice in Education.

Read the whole thing.

People like me (there's a concept...) are always frustrated by the public data because it seems to hide more than it reveals. We can look up statistic after statistic, but in too many cases, the data is junk. IEP  enrollment data is like this; the only numbers available are the aggregate numbers of kids with IEPS. Talk about a near-to-useless number!

All IEPs are not the same. In fact, they're wildly different, and they require vastly different resources to implement.  That's what this research is about. We know that schools' test scores are impacted mostly by SES, students requiring special education, and English Language Learners (we have excellent local research); this new research is very, very helpful in fleshing out what is happening in special education enrollment patterns.

In the honored tradition of blogging, I'm going to clip a few of the summary statements here, just to encourage you to read the real data.

  I think this conclusion is nice to see, finally, in print, based on research. I live across from Sullivan HS, and I can tell you that some of the kids that Sullivan serves are not really included this "choice for the sake of choice" phenomenon; the charter schools don't want these kids, and that the "choice" phenomenon itself reduces the resources available for meeting these kids' needs. As well as everyone else's needs, when you think about it.

This observation, I hadn't even thought of. I work in a school where the extraordinarily impacted kids get to spend time with their typically developing peers. It's good for everyone.

There's no doubt in my mind about this phenomenon. I blame the poor quality of the data, in part.  The charter operators know that the data available to the public measures the presence of aggregate numbers of IEPs. So why wouldn't they go after the less intensive ones?

Again, read the whole thing. I need to read it again. And probably a third time. It's one of the benefits of being older; you can re-read endlessly without feeling like you're missing out on something fun going on somewhere. 

Two observations: First, during Byron Sigcho's series on the UNO schools,  we had real concerns about whether or not these kids with IEPs were actually being served. It's one thing to accept kids with IEPs, it's another to provide the services called for in those IEPs. Who watches that? It may be time to review the whole situation. Today's report doesn't deal with the question.

And this. This IEP enrollment study is critical and eye-opening. But is there a similar body of research in SES? The only data publicly available is the almost useless designation "low income," a term that doesn't come anywhere near what we need in a country with rampant poverty. We undoubtedly have all kinds of poverty; in fact, I'm pretty sure I can map it block-by-block in Rogers Park just from walking around.  Who are the experts in this field and why haven't I met them? In short, we need a smarter set of metrics for poverty beyond "low income" because it's more complicated than that.

I'm posting the whole study here if you want to flip through it. Give it a moment to load. If you want to download it, find it here, at the Collaborative.

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