The new evidence in the report is pretty damning and could affect an upcoming vote on re-authorization by CPS' Board of Education. It's also another strike against Rahm Emanuel with the mayoral election only weeks away. The mayor has full control over the public schools and he and his predecessor have pursued a policy of unchecked and virtually unregulated expansion of the city's charters.
The findings show, for example, that among charter school students with an IEP (Individual Education Program), just 4% of the students receive an intensive level of services, which is 75% less than in non-charter CPS schools, where 15% of students with disabilities receive this level of services.
More EFE findings:
- Some charter schools still have enrollment rates for students with disabilities as much as 30-50% lower than comparable CPS schools. The gap is especially large for charter elementary schools, where students with disabilities on average constitute 9.5% of the student enrollment, compared to 12.5% in similar CPS schools.
- Access is an acute problem for students with significant needs. Among charter school students with an IEP, just 4% of students receive an intensive level of services, which is 75% less than in non-charter CPS schools, where 15% of students with disabilities receive this level of services. During the 2013-14 school year, students receiving an intensive level of services increased in CPS schools by 2%, but dropped by 21% in charter schools.
- Charter school expulsions fall harshly on students with disabilities, even more so than in CPS. In 2013-14, 26.2% of students expelled from charter schools had an IEP, compared to an enrollment rate of about 12%; only 22.5% of students expelled from CPS have an IEP.
- Charter school high school students are nearly twice as likely to change schools within CPS over the summer as students at similar CPS schools (9.9% versus 5.3%). This may be related to charter school policies that retain students for low-level behaviors or missing too many days of school (even if students pass all their classes).
- In many charter schools, the enrollment of students with an IEP drops during the school year at higher rates than for non-disabled peers. This is especially true for option schools, which grow by 10% on average during the year, but report an average 10.6% drop in students with IEPs. Some charter schools facing reauthorization also have a problem with disproportionate losses of students with IEPs, including EPIC, Urban Prep and Prologue schools.
- Charter school attrition is particularly high in Kindergarten, 8th grade, and 9th grade, which are key years for students who are trying to access school options in Chicago. Charter Kindergarten and 8th grade classes shrink at 5 times the rate of similar CPS schools. Attrition is also uniquely high at Urban Prep during the 12th grade year, which has high attrition rates overall, and even higher attrition rates for students with disabilities.
- Some charter schools have concerning admissions practices that may violate the Illinois charter school law, including YCCS campuses that require minimum scores on academic admissions tests for admission and other schools that have transfer policies (at Urban Prep and EPIC, for example) that screen applications through personal statements, grade, discipline, and test score information, and even recommendations from current administrators.