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Bruce Baker, (732) 932-7496 ext. 8232,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Special Education Under-enrollment Study Fails Test

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Dec. 6, 2012) – A recent report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), at the University of Washington, compares special education enrollment patterns in charter schools and district-run schools in New York State. The report suggests that charter schools may be doing better at enrolling students with special needs than previously reported.

The report, New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis, was written by Robin Lake, Bethany Gross, and Patrick Denice and commissioned by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

Bruce Baker, Rutgers University, reviewed the report for the Think Twice think tank review project. The review was produced for the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report implies that charter schools perform well in serving special needs students. The authors of the study suggest that factors other than discrimination explain disparities in enrollment of students with special needs in charter schools.

In his review, Bruce Baker says, "When not spun and when properly understood, the report's findings are relatively simple, straightforward and unsurprising." However, Baker finds that the study's main contention, that differences in enrollment rates among special education students are smaller than claimed on federal reports and other literature, is unsupported.

His review also finds that the study relies very little on existing research regarding special education enrollments in New York State or New York City. Baker does agree with the report that state average comparisons between charter and non-charter schools without regard to location or age ranges of children served may not be accurate or sufficiently nuanced.

Baker says "the report's main findings properly read, are consistent with earlier research: this set of charter schools – the vast majority in the sample observed – tend to systematically under-serve children with disabilities."

"The report's objective appears to be to provide the appearance of an empirical basis for an advocacy goal – convincing policymakers across states that it would be unnecessary or wrongheaded to adopt 'enrolment target' policies to address a special education under-enrollment problem that may not exist."

Find Bruce Baker's review on the Great Lakes Center website:

Find the New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis, by Robin Lake, Betheny Gross, and Patrick Denice on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review is also available on the National Education Policy Center website:



The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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