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Inclusive Practices in California Charter Schools Help Special Education Students Outperform State Average

Inclusive Practices in California Charter Schools Helps Special Education Students Outperform State Average

The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) has released a report detailing the best practices of 10 outstanding state charter schools that are using inclusive techniques to help their special education students succeed.

The 10 highest-performing charter schools include:

  • CHIME Institute’s Schwarzenegger Community School, Woodland Hills, CA 
  • EJE Middle Academy, El Cajon, CA 
  • Gabriella Charter School, Los Angeles, CA 
  • Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland, CA 
  • Literacy First Charter School, El Cajon, CA 
  • Magnolia Science Academy 7, Northridge, CA 
  • Multicultural Learning Center, Canoga Park, CA
  • Oxford Preparatory Academy, Mission Viejo, CA 
  • KIPP Raíces Academy, East Los Angeles, CA 
  • Santa Rosa Academy, Menifee, CA

CCSA analyzed the aforementioned schools to determine what they have in common in their efforts to meet the need of all students.

According to the report, all ten schools

  • Demonstrated an inclusive school culture
  • Supported individualized student programs
  • Created a positive school community
  • Used multi-tiered support systems for both general and special education students
  • Engaged families and the community to build strong partnerships
  • Implemented cutting-edged technologies/practices
  • Practiced autonomous special education services
  • Committed to offering quality staff development
  • Evaluated programs and practices continuously to improve

Thanks to these practices, the report says students in the respective schools’ special education programs outperformed the state average in both ELA and Math.

Overall, the report points to a firm belief in inclusion as one of the main reasons for the charter schools’ success in the education of special education students.

"All students learn better when they are together, regardless of their ability, and it’s on us to figure out what puzzle pieces they need to have that learning happen, but they all belong together all day long,” said one special education teacher in the report.

Though inclusion is widely being supported by research as a best practice for special education students, the report notes that about half of California special education students are still being segregated from general education.

"In California, nearly half of students with disabilities continue to be educated in segregated settings, with only 53% being included in general education classrooms for 80% or more of their instructional day,” the report says.

"[Our philosophy] is making sure that you are always thinking that the child is a general education student first. . . . Here’s your general education student who has some special needs; not here is a special education student," said one administrator from Oxford Prep Academy.

Going forward, CCSA said it will be expanding on what it has learned from its analysis to "create practical resource guides, toolkits, examples from school visits, and other resources to offer additional insight into each of these areas.”

"We hope that this report and its accompanying materials offer a small window into effective and innovative special education approaches and encourage further dialogue and research,” it said in the report’s conclusion.

Read the full report here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

10/28/2016

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