Special Education Programming at the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference

Designing and Elevating Conference Programming


We partnered with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of a mutual priority to raise the profile of disability and equity issues at the 2019 National Charter Conference. We created and promoted a strand of sessions focusing on varying topics, including policy issues, best practices, research, and inclusion. We were successful in increasing attendance by participants who would be particularly interested in these topics and highlighting the importance of these issues to a national audience.

Questions guiding this project:

  • How can we elevate issues related to educating students with disabilities through interesting sessions, high quality content delivery, and proactive promotion?
  • How can we increase conference attendance by individuals engaged in work with students with disabilities who might not otherwise attend?
  • How can we facilitate interaction and networking among attendees engaged in this work?
  • How do we foster equity and inclusion by featuring a diverse roster of presenters?

Services provided:

Developed thoughtful and engaging strand of special education focused sessions with diverse panelists

Hosted a lunch convening for a wide range of stakeholders including authorizers, school leaders, funders, special education directors, parent advocates, and numerous others with focused conversations on core challenges

Attracted targeted attendees including special education experts who do not typically attend the conference through targeted outreach, promotion through our internal and social networks, and promotion during the conference

Hosted a “homeroom” session during the first morning of the conference to facilitate attendees to share personal accounts of their passion and motivations for doing this work and learn about the planned sessions that would focus on educating students with disabilities


Increased conference attendance by individuals with expertise in educating students with disabilities

Identified and recruited expert presenters who are highly knowledgeable about special education, but who would have been unlikely to attend otherwise

Prioritized diversity through recruiting panelists and attendees from underrepresented groups

Executed strong sessions focused on educating students with disabilities with standing room only crowds

Highlighted the interest and need for continued focus on issues central to our mission before a national audience