Special Education Enrollment and Classification in Louisiana Charter Schools and Traditional Schools
Serving students with an individualized education program, which entitles them to special education services, can be a challenge for charter and traditional schools. In Louisiana in 2010/11, 12 percent of enrollees in charter schools had an individualized education program, compared with 14 percent of students in traditional schools.
Members of the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance, as well as policymakers and the public, are interested in an updated and more extensive examination of the dimensions and possible sources of the special education enrollment gap between charter schools and traditional schools in Louisiana. Is the gap larger in the earlier or later grades? Does it vary across disability categories? Is it due to a tendency for charter schools to declassify students as requiring an individualized education program at a higher rate than traditional schools do?
This study is an exploratory analysis of special education enrollment rates in charter schools and traditional schools, as well as of factors associated with variations in classification and enrollment rates of students with an individualized education program across school types in the four educational regions of Louisiana that have three or more charter schools. Key findings include:
- The gap was 2.5 percentage points (8.5 percent in charter schools and 11.0 percent in traditional schools) in 2010/11 and declined to 0.5 percentage point (10.2 percent and 10.7 percent) in 2013/14.
- For three of the four study years the gap was largest in schools serving grades K–5, and for all four study years it was smallest in schools serving grades 9–12.
- By 2013/14 the special education enrollment rate in schools serving grades 9–12 was higher in charter schools than in traditional schools.
- The enrollment rate for students with an emotional disturbance was higher in charter schools than in traditional schools, but the enrollment rate for students with most other categories of disabilities was higher in traditional schools than in charter schools.
- Charter school enrollment was associated with an increased likelihood of a student being declassified from requiring an individualized education program, though less than 1 percent of students with an individualized education program in both charter schools and traditional schools were declassified over the study period.