The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $10 million pilot initiative aimed at improving charter school programs for middle and high school students with mild and moderate disabilities.
The Charter Students With Disabilities Pilot Community will support a cohort of ten charter management organizations (CMOs) that collaborate to improve systems, learning experiences, and outcomes for students with disabilities. Each CMO will identify its own goal and create an action plan — initially working with two schools in its network — to improve leading indicators in math, English, student engagement (including attendance and discipline), and/or transition to postsecondary life. Grantees also will receive technical assistance to help them create three enabling conditions that, according to previous research, drive outcomes for students in special education: leadership and staff commitment to collective responsibility for all students; the capacity for disaggregated, data-based decision-making; and a commitment to continuous improvement.
Grant recipients include Ednovate (Los Angeles and Orange County, California), Collegiate Academies (New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana), Green Dot Public Schools (Los Angeles), KIPP Bay Area Schools (San Francisco/Oakland, California), Mastery Schools (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden, New Jersey), Noble Network of Charter Schools (Chicago, Illinois), Summit Public Schools (Bay Area), Strive Prep (Denver, Colorado), STEM Prep Schools (Los Angeles), and Uncommon Schools (Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York). The ten charter school networks collectively include a hundred and thirty-five middle and high schools, with 91 percent of students enrolled in those schools either African American or Latinx and 83 percent from low-income households. Additional partners in the initiative include organizations working on behalf of students in special education such as the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Eye to Eye, and the Center for Special Education in Charter Schools.
"We know that thousands of educators are working on issues surrounding students with disabilities," Bob Hughes, director of the foundation's K-12 Education program, wrote in a blog post on The 74. "We are initially starting with the charter sector, with its origins as education innovators, believing it can leverage its autonomy, flexibility, and commitment to equity to innovate to meet the needs of these students."