Sunday, December 28, 2014

Special Ed children in charter schools

One of the other pernicious lies about charter schools is that they don't take or force out special ed kids. Here's Doug McCurry, co-CEO and superintendent of the Achievement First charter network, whose own special needs child had a transformative experience at a Success Academy charter school:

When Jack was 5½, his neuropsychologist said he couldn't handle a mainstream school and suggested a small specialized setting instead.

Jack, my wife, Daria, and I happened to live in District 15 in Park Slope, Brooklyn — one of the best in the city, near one of the most sought-after elementary schools.

We thought we'd find help and support for Jack. Instead, we found discouragement and low expectations.

The folks there told us their program wasn't a good fit for Jack; they didn't know whether they could accommodate him in a "collaborative team teaching" (CTT) class — a mix of general-education and special ed students, with two teachers.

When we sat down to draw up Jack's Individualized Education Program, the staff pushed for an IEP that expected him to master only one-half of one grade level, even though I believed he could master all the standards.

We then approached three other schools in District 15; they said they could not take an IEP student who wasn't specifically zoned for their school.

Rather than allow these schools to limit Jack's potential, we decided to put him in a mainstream kindergarten with special supports.

We entered the Achievement First and Success Academy kindergarten lotteries, and Jack was lucky enough to win a spot at Success Academy Cobble Hill.

What a world of difference: One of the first things the Success team did was to work with us to rewrite Jack's IEP, to have him mastering all grade-level standards with CTT and other supports.

At first, socialization and conversations were challenging for Jack. But thanks to small group instruction, speech and occupational therapy, in-school counseling and a great team of teachers, he has flourished.

Now in second grade, Jack reads well above grade level, scores near the top of his class in math, writes with style and precision and loves science.

…The sky is the limit for my sweet Jack, and I am grateful for the team at Success Academy whose mix of high expectations and strong supports enabled him to thrive.

Special-ed success: Making hope real for my son

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