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These hybrid schools are blowing up the public education model

The Lesser Known Section of the Charter Movement

The story that I am looking at on special education in charter schools, grows increasingly complicated each time I talk to someone new about it.

James Forman, founder of Maya Angelou Public Charter School and Georgetown University Law professor. Photo courtesy of Georgetown Law.

James Forman, founder of Maya Angelou Public Charter School and Georgetown University Law professor. Photo courtesy of Georgetown Law.

Some traditional public school advocates skeptical of charters say that charter schools do not welcome students with special education needs. But the charter school structure allowed for James Forman, a Georgetown University Law Professor and founder of Maya Angelou Public Charter Schools to set up a school that served students who had been in the juvenile justice system in Washington, D.C. The city’s public schools did not adequately address the difficulties that this group of kids has in integrating back into the education system.

I am currently in a panel that features Forman at the National Charter School Conference called “How to Make Alternative Education Excellent Education.”

The panelists and participants said that specialized schools for higher needs students are wrongly on the margins of the charter movement. “This session should be in the ballroom,” said Cami Anderson, a panelist of the New York City Department of Education. What these schools do will drive the progress of the larger school system, Anderson added. She mentioned that New York won a Broad prize for the highest high school graduation rate of an urban school system.  That number? Sixty percent. And it will not go up much further unless school systems focus more on the special education population, Anderson said. “As a society, if we don’t figure out how to tackle and serve the hardest to serve kids, we’re going to hit a ceiling.”

To improve this populations’ chances, school officials need to focus on increasing their attendance. They also have to get leaders to understand that accountability has a different meaning for schools serving special education populations, said participants.

One participant worried that her improving school could be shut down. “How do we prove that we’re doing good work?” she asked.

Filed Under: National Charter Schools Conference CoverageWashington, D.C.


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  1. The images aren’t showing up in your post. Maybe its just my computer but I’ve tried it in a couple of different browsers now and still no luck.

  2. Lynnell Hancock says:

    Just to keep public heads spinning with numbers: If you ask NY State officials, NYC’s high school dropout rate is not 60 percent; it’s closer to 50 percent. That’s because the city calculates differently, adding GED diplomas, etc., to the mix.

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