Another “Dirty Little Secret”?: KIPP, Charters, and Special Education

I received an email this morning from an educational professional from Houston. The issue of special needs students (English Language Learners, Special Education, etc) and charters is not going away.

Hello Dr. Heilig,

I viewed the panel on Education Nation that you were a part of and I wanted to thank you for trying to speak about the statistics here in Texas.  As a Middle School Licensed Specialist in School Psychology, I deal with students transferring back into HISD from KIPP whose parents had to obtain outside or private evaluation for their children only to not be serviced as a special education student at KIPP.  Parents often re-enter their zone school frustrated and agitated that their child was not getting their special education needs or even 504 needs met and they are returning to get support in the public school.  My training at Howard University led to consistent and often heated debates about Charters vs. Public due to the voucher climate and numerous charter schools in the DC, MD, and VA areas.  I also worked in Baltimore City Public Schools prior to coming to Texas where this was also a major topic of concern for the Teacher’s Union as well.

I agree that KIPP and other Charter schools like it can work well with certain types of parents and students, however, the students that have behavioral disorders and or learning disabilities are often left unserved by these Charters and it is the unfortunate “dirty little secret” like you pointed out on the panel.

Thank you for trying to get the conversation going on this topic and I hope in Texas, as well as in other parts of the Nation, Universities and TEA policy makers can work together to improve public schools, assist Charters in delivering these types of services, and speak openly and honest about the real concerns that plague our schools and students.

In Positive Regard,

Lakeisha J Kearney, Ph. D.
HISD Secondary/Middle School
South Region Field Office

Notably, KIPP and other charters faced a federal lawsuit in New Orleans for not serving special populations and/or doing so poorly. Amy Williams, one of my graduate students here at UT-Austin, is finishing up a blockbuster dissertation on the topic. She has interviewed schools leaders and teachers at KIPP, YES, and many other charters across the state. Stay tuned.

Again, I don’t believe that KIPP and charters are a bad idea— however, they have to be more honest about their data and who they are truly serving.


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