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Special education enrollment and classification in Louisiana charter schools and traditional schools

Region:
Southwest
Description:
This study is an exploratory analysis of the enrollment rates of students with individualized education programs (IEPs) in the charter school and traditional school sectors. It also examines factors associated with variation in classification and enrollment rates of students with IEPs across these school sectors in the four educational regions of Louisiana with three or more charter schools. Those areas are Region 1, which includes New Orleans; Region 3, which includes Jefferson and five other parishes near New Orleans; Region 5, which includes Ouachita and five surrounding parishes in the northeast corner of the state; and Region 8, which includes Baton Rouge. In the 2013/14 school year, 77 percent of charter students in Louisiana attended school in one of these four regions.

The study found that the enrollment rate of students with IEPs was lower in public charter schools than traditional public schools in the four Louisiana educational regions in the study from 2010/11 through 2013/14. This gap, however, declined from 2.5 percentage points in 2010/11 to 0.5 percentage points 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. In 2013/14 the special education enrollment rate was higher for charter schools than traditional schools at the high school level (a 2.0 percentage point difference). The gap varied by disability type, as enrollments were higher in charter schools for students with emotional disturbance but higher in traditional schools for students with most other disabilities. Charter school enrollment was not clearly associated with the likelihood of being newly classified as requiring an IEP. However, charter school enrollment was associated with an increased likelihood of being declassified as requiring an IEP, though less than 1 percent of students with an IEP in both charter schools and traditional schools were declassified over the study period. The gap in the declassification rate of 0.04 percentage points favoring charter school declassifications over the four years of the study was too small to explain the 2 percentage point reduction in the charter school special education enrollment gap.

The exploratory results signal that, by the 2013/14 school year, charter schools in Louisiana were serving students with IEPs in the high school grades at rates similar to or higher than traditional schools in the state. The findings suggest that public charter schools are less successful at attracting and enrolling students with IEPs into their schools in the early elementary grades. Finally, these findings confirm those of prior studies that charter schools declassify students as no longer requiring special education services at higher rates than do traditional schools, but those rates of declassification remain less than 1 percent over a four-year period.
Publication Type:
Making Connections
Online Availability:
Publication Date:
January 2018
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