The Tide Keeps Turning

 Update (Wednesday afternoon) - Interesting chart from the Wall Street Journal article on the GAO report on charters underenrolling Special Ed students.

Update (Wednesday morning): From at reader at Diane Ravitch's blog: is still collecting sigs for the group. Their petitions remain. The only thing they have agreed to is to stop offering them paid promotion of their petitions. Please read the HufPo article more closely and you’ll see this is so. They have already gained over a million sigs through these automatic ads.
Bottom line: Don’t sign any petitions on until you feel certain that you are not automatically registered as a “member” of Students First or Stand for Children without your knowledge.

end of update

Remember how it has been reported that StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee's organization, had petitions at that if you signed them, made you a member of StudentsFirst?  Well, I guess had a change of heart because both StudentsFirst and Stand for Children have been booted out.  

The story at the Huffington Post is far more nuanced. leaders, for their part, said they think some of the outrage resulted from a misunderstanding of the company's goal, which is not to spread American-style progressive values around the globe, but rather to empower as many people as possible under the theory that the world will be better as a result. 

Why were they booted?

The move comes after intense pressure from the labor movement and other progressive allies, who accused the for-profit company of betraying its liberal roots by partnering with Rhee, the former head of Washington, D.C., public schools, and the similarly aligned group Stand for Children headed by education advocate Jonah Edelman. The ouster of StudentsFirst and Stand for Children was confirmed by a spokesman.'s meteoric rise has included a host of glowing profiles and the Time magazine stamp of approval when it named CEO and founder Ben Rattray one of the 100 most influential people in the world. It is staffed by some of the most talented progressive organizers in the country -- many of whom are well known and liked in the tight-knit liberal community, making the feud that much more bitter. And Edelman is the son of liberal champions Marian Wright Edelman and Peter Edelman. 

Don't like  There's always the non-profit,

From the charter world via Ed Week,  hey, big surprise to none - the GAO says charters serve fewer students with disabilities, across the spectrum of disabilities.  

The report from the Government Accountability Office, released late Tuesday, says some charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling or denying them admission, a charge that has been periodically levied at the independent public schools over the years.

But the GAO also explains that much of the information it could gather on that point is anecdotal, and that other factors are likely at work—such as individual families deciding that charter school with distinct missions or academic approaches are not the right fit for children with specific needs.

Or maybe they find they are not welcome.  

"[T]here are no comprehensive data to determine the extent to which charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling or the extent to which such practices actually contribute to differences in enrollment levels," the GAO states.

Access to charter schools—or a lack thereof—has been a longstanding concern among advocates for students with disabilities, especially students with less common or more severe needs. Those worries have emerged in the Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago school systems, among other districts. 

Why is that?  Because charters, despite being public schools, do NOT have to report out data as traditional public schools do.  Hard to know what is really going on without full data.

Charter schools, as the GAO report explains, must adhere to a number of federal requirements for serving students with disabilities, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Yet by most standards examined by the GAO, charter schools fall short of traditional publics in the extent to which they serve special needs populations.

Overall, the percentage of students with disabilities in charters was smaller, 8.2 percent, than in traditional public schools, at 11.2 percent, for the most 2009-2010 year. Moreover, charter schools enrolled a lower percentage of students in each of 13 disability categories identified within the IDEA, which include learning disabilities, visual and hearing impairments, autism, intellectual disabilities, and emotional disturbances, the GAO said.

It varies:

In most states, charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of students with disabilities than traditional public schools do, the report found. In New Hampshire, for example, about 6 percent of students in charters have disabilities, compared with 13 percent in traditional publics. That pattern was not uniform, however: In eight states—Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming—charters enroll the same, or a higher percentage of students with disabilities than traditional public schools, the report found. 

Kaloi said she was shocked to see that in several states, there was no data on students with disabilities enrolled in charter schools, including the District of Columbia, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Utah.

"Where are those kids?" Kaloi said.

That's a good question, said Ali. "As a recipient of federal funds you are signing an assurance with the Education Department that you are complying with all civil rights laws. If you don't even know how many students with disabilities you're enrolling ... that seems like an important piece of information to ensure compliance."

Traditional or charter - Special Ed kids have tough going in American public education.  


mirmac1 said…
There's a "Contact Us" on's homepage. I told them I would not visit their site, nor would I forward their petitions until they dropped StudentsFirst and Stand for Children.
mirmac1 said…
Response from

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. As you know, strives to be an open platform that achieves maximum impact in the world while being grounded in universal values. We have been listening to you - and to the community of people who voiced concern about our partnerships process - and we are taking steps to conclude our contracts with Stand for Children and Students First while our broader client policy is under review.

At, we believe in open dialogue, and we try to listen as we grow. We appreciate that you care enough about our company to weigh in and directly share your point of view.

Carol Scott
Community Manager,
Anonymous said…
Charlie, what does your bud Robin Lake have to say about these latest findings re: charters?


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