Oct 21

The Center for Learner Equity Official Launch

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESan Diego, CA – Today, in response to a compelling need in the charter school sector, The Center for Learner Equity (The Center for Learner Equity) is announcing its launch at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers’ (NACSA) 2013 Leadership Conference. This new nonprofit organization is the first to focus solely on proactively working with states, authorizers, charter and special education advocates and other stakeholders to improve access, create dynamic learning opportunities and address barriers that may impede charter schools enrolling and effectively educating students with disabilities.

Co-founder and executive director of The Center for Learner Equity, Lauren Morando Rhim explained, “Two decades into the evolution of the charter sector, we have witnessed exciting innovations and expanded opportunities for students in dozens of communities. Yet, to date, many of these new autonomous schools have not developed exemplary programs for students with disabilities. It is this dilemma that we want to help solve.”

Despite the rapid growth of charter schools – whose enrollment now exceeds 2.2 million students in over 6,000 schools across the U.S. – criticism persists about equal access and robust educational opportunities for students with disabilities. In response, The Center for Learner Equity work will be guided by four priorities:

  • Communicate vital facts to policy makers, advocates and authorizers about the status and progress of students with disabilities in charter schools;
  • Inform Policy so states and authorizers can address barriers and create opportunities for students with disabilities to enroll in charter schools and access effective instructional programs and individualized supports
  • Develop coalitions and form essential partnerships to both protect student rights and honor the core tenets of the charter sector: choice, autonomy and accountability; and,
  • Create opportunities for excellence that highlight and support exemplary programs for diverse learners in the charter sector.

Co-founding partner of The Center for Learner Equity, Paul O’Neill remarked, “Given their unique educational needs, educating students with disabilities can be challenging. Nevertheless, as charter schools present themselves as an alternative to traditional public schools, their commitment to all students is an important measure of the sector’s commitment to equality of opportunity. Our center will reinforce this commitment by helping states, districts and authorizers address barriers and create opportunities so all students can in fact, learn and thrive in a charter school.”

A diverse group of thought leaders have congratulated The Center for Learner Equity on its launch and strongly support their mission to create opportunities for excellence for all students, especially students with disabilities.

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Co-chair of the Senate Charter School Caucus, “My hope is that every public school- traditional, charter or independent- will focus on helping every child succeed. Charters have the flexibility to do that and their effort to support children with special needs is important. With the right family and community support in schools, all children can learn to be contributing citizens.”

“We look forward to partnering with The Center for Learner Equity in this important work,” stated Robin Lake, director, Center for Reinventing Public Education. Together, we will invest in rigorous research to determine best practices and inform policy and practice so that we can improve the access and achievement of all students, including those with disabilities.”

James H. Wendorf, executive director of the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) confirmed, “Historically, many charter schools have struggled to provide the instruction and support that children with disabilities need to achieve with their peers. This new center can play a critically important role for these students, their families and charter school leaders. NCLD wholeheartedly supports the center’s mission and we look forward to partnering with them to fill this need.”

“The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) is honored to support this work. We have a strong history of partnering with state policy leaders and charter school operators to improve the quality of education for students with disabilities. We know these ties will be strengthened as we work with the new center,” stated Bill East, executive director of NASDSE.

Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools added, “Our parallel missions – to create and support high-quality public charter schools that serve all students well—make us ideal partners in ensuring students with special needs and their families have great public school options. We look forward to working with the new center in this important endeavor.”

“On behalf of charter authorizers, we welcome The Center for Learner Equity to our network. Knowing that we share an important responsibility in ensuring that every child attending a charter school receives the highest quality education will help us focus to achieve this goal together,” stated Greg Richmond, CEO of NACSA. “We value and support the role the new center will play in the charter sector.”