March(ing) Forward into the Year
March 28, 2018
The Center for Learner Equity on the Road
From March 11-18, Executive Director Lauren Morando Rhim took a pause from NCSECS-related travel to visit Pyeongchang, South Korea and cheer on TEAM USA at the 2018 Paralympic Games. View event photos on The Center for Learner Equity’ Instagram!
“This Paralympic mural shows support for principals of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Inspired by participants in the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Games, their achievements, courage, and determination, we commit to a new world without barriers and limits to human abilities.”
On March 19, Senior Fellow Paul O’Neill presented on policy and practice issues related to student discipline at a Massachusetts Charter Association training session, which incorporated his set of best practices for charter schools to employ. This is of particular importance, given that students with disabilities tend to be suspended approximately twice as often as their nondisabled peers across all schools (see our CRDC report for more information). With this in mind, he advocates for strong and fair federal oversight of student discipline issues.
From March 21-22, The Center for Learner Equity’ Equity Coalition convened again in Washington D.C for its semi-annual meeting. Formed in 2014, this diverse group of representatives from the public charter school and special education communities comes together to identify common ground, collaborate on issues of equity, and take collective action to protect student civil rights. Look out for the Equity Coalition’s upcoming publication (and be sure to check out other Equity Coalition publications, like the Joint Statement to the Trump Administration and 115th Congress, the Joint Statement on Discipline, and Issue Briefs.
On March 23, the New York City Special Education Collaborative and The Center for Learner Equity hosted a lunch panel to discuss national trends in special education in charter schools, centered on our recent analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection, and to explore effective and innovative practices with NYC colleagues.
The Center for Learner Equity Resources
On February 27, The Center for Learner Equity hosted a presentation and panel discussion in Washington DC on the most recently released report “Key Trends in Special Education in Charter Schools: A Secondary Analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection.” A number of news outlets, including The Education Post, Education Week, and the 74 Million, reported on various aspects of the report, such as enrollment, placement, discipline, and specialization. Learn more about the report and its findings by reviewing the accompanying interactive data visualization tool and our methodology section.
The Center for Learner Equity has identified several public charter schools across the country as exemplary “Centers of Excellence” and is documenting how each school uniquely leverages its autonomy to benefit students with disabilities. We are excited to share the profile of another “Center of Excellence,” Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (LAB). The school utilizes a dual approach in removing barriers that often stand in the way of the learning of all students, and particularly the learning of those that learn differently: a robust teacher pipeline and a combination of personalized instructional practices.
The Center for Reinventing Public Education contracted with The Center for Learner Equity to conduct case studies on school models and practices that effectively serve students with special needs. One case study, How Personalized Learning Models Can Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities, highlights how San Diego charter school network Thrive Public Schools is using personalized learning to meet the needs of its students with disabilities. The other case study, How School Culture and Support Systems Can Improve Disciplinary Outcomes for Students with Disabilities, examines Mott Haven Academy Charter School in New York City and the impact of its positive school culture and behavior support systems on disciplinary outcomes.
The Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center at WestEd developed a policy brief, “Working Together to Support Equitable Access to Charter Schools,” that addresses the role that state- and district-level policymakers can play in ensuring that all students have equitable access to high-performing charter schools. The brief focuses on three emerging strategies – unified enrollment systems, weighted lotteries, and comprehensive transportation – as mechanisms for ensuring that students and families have access to information about charter school options and the ability to enroll regardless of where they live, their socioeconomic status, or their education status.
While diversity and inclusion gained attention in this year’s awards season honoring the television, movie, and music industries, the disability community continued to lack representation. A USC study released in July of 2017 noted that only 2.7% of speaking characters in the top 900 films from 2006-2017 had a disability, despite the fact that ~20% of Americans have a disability; moreover, most of the actors and actresses filling these roles were individuals without disabilities, further exacerbating the gap. During the Academy Awards, Frances McDormand concluded her speech with two significant words – inclusion rider – calling all Hollywood actors and actresses to demand, within their contracts, a certain level of diversity among a film’s cast and crew. With tremendous power to influence public thought and to promote social change, we urge the entertainment industry to improve the perception of individuals with disabilities and to advocate for greater equity.
CEC has sent out a Call for Proposals for the 2019 Special Education Convention & Expo in Indianapolis, encouraging charter school stakeholders to submit proposals and to plan activities explicitly for charter schools at the convening.
Topic Brief: School Safety
The “#Enough! National School Walkout” and March for Our Lives have sustained momentum on the issue of school safety and gun violence this past week, demonstrated by Executive and Legislative actions, as well as progress in Florida:
The White House released a fact sheet detailing an agenda to promote and support programs and initiatives for school safety, including making resources available via the U.S. Department of Justice to arm and train teachers and school personnel, and providing mental health resources to states and school districts. Moreover, the White House announced that Secretary DeVos (who has asked for input via email) would chair a Federal Commission on School Safety.
One component of the Commission’s agenda is to rescind the 2014 federal guidance on school climate and discipline which was jointly issued by The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The guidance package intended to assist states, districts and schools in developing practices and strategies to enhance school climate, and to ensure those policies and practices comply with federal law. The Center for Learner Equity supports the guidance and this week signed a letter to Secretary DeVos, along with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and other disability and civil rights organizations, urging ED to maintain the guidance.
By a vote of 407 to 10, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4909, the Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act to reauthorize the 2001 Secure Our Schools program through the U.S. Department of Justice, with companion bill S. 2495 introduced in the Senate. Moreover, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing, “See Something, Say Something: Oversight of the Parkland Shooting and Legislative Proposals to Improve School Safety,” where panelists representing law enforcement, parents, teachers, researchers, and internet technology experts discussed the violent events at Marjory Stoneman High School and provided detailed recommendations to improve school safety.
Finally, following notable student activism and contentious debate, Florida Governor Rick Scott broke with the NRA and signed new gun regulations into law for the first time in two decades, despite controversial provisions. One significant aspect of the legislation should not go unnoticed: $400 million in funding will be allocated for school mental health services and counseling programs and other school safety programs.
Thank you for reading, and please join us in ongoing virtual conversations by following @NCSCES on Twitter and Instagram!