on implementing special education in charter schools
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About the SPEDTACS Primers
I have always known that telling charter operators about the law alone would be insufficient. I try to talk about why they started the school and that all students should be able to derive benefit from this. They should think of it this way—as you are constructing the ship of education, you should see special education not as a little boat you are towing behind or along side, but as part of the beams and planks that structure the ship.
The ship building metaphor is an apt description of the charter school development process. There are several elements that are necessary for the ship to sail and reach its final destination. The blueprints, materials, crew and course all need to be designed, purchased, and put in place to get the ship out of dry dock. If critical parts of the ship are not considered in its design and development, it may or may not reach its final port. Likewise, successfully implementing special education is key to a charter school reaching its desired destination— success with all the students who choose to attend that charter school.
Ensuring that special education is one of the “beams and planks that structure the ship” requires an understanding of special education and the role it plays in the education of students with disabilities. Special education is not a choice for any public school in America—it is a right for any student with a disability. As such, there are requirements and procedures that all public schools, including charter schools, must understand and implement to ensure students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education.
The primers and this web program based on them provide background critical knowledge and resources for the “shipbuilders” of charter schools. They can assist in developing special education programs, provide support for authorizers to better assist schools they charter and give policy and practice support for those at the state level.
The primers were developed under the Special Education Technical Assistance for Charter Schools Project (SPEDTACS) that was funded by the U.S. Department of Education and conducted at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE). The project team is especially grateful to Dean Kern, Director of the Charter Schools Program in the office of Innovation and Improvement, for recognizing the importance of supporting charter schools in their service to students with disabilities. The project also benefited from the involvement of its two partners, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the Charter Friends National Netowrk.
While all errors and omissions are the responsibility of the authors, the primers would not have been possible without the thoughtful input of individuals and groups involved in many aspects of the charter school movement. We are deeply grateful to everyone who contributed to the process.
The SPEDTACS Project Team:
Eileen M. Ahearn, Project Director
Elizabeth A. Giovannetti
Cheryl M. Lange
Lauren Morando Rhim
Sandra Hopfengardner Warren
Note: There are no copyright restrictions on this document; however, please credit the source and support of federal funds when copying all or part of this material.