Few Special Education Students Find Success in Idaho’s Charters

CDA Population

2013-2014 Child Find Data

CDA Charter Pop

2013-2014 Child Find Data



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Note:  All data referenced below utilizes the 2013-2014 school year as that is the most recent set of Special Education Student Data (Child Find) available.

Part 2 of an ongoing series regarding demographic data of students in Idaho’s charters.  The last post spotlighted how minority ethnic populations are largely left out of charter schools relative to the proportional enrollment would expect based on the surrounding local public school district.

This post explores special education student enrollment in Idaho’s charters.  Like minority populations, special education students also appear to enroll in a disproportionate number that one would expect based on the local school district.

For example, as visually illustrated in the infographic above, Coeur D’Alene School District has a total of 10,304 students for the 2013-2014 school year.  Of that number, 769 were students eligible for special education (SpEd) services resulting in an overall percentage of about 7.5% students in CDA qualifying as SpEd students.

In contrast, CDA Academy Charter, in the heart of CDA public school boundaries, had a total of 702 students; yet, it enrolls fewer than 10 SpEd students resulting in the Idaho Dept. of Ed redacting the data in order to protect an individual student as being identified as special education.  In other words, less than 1% qualify.

Here is an email from Kelly Everitt, Communication Director for ISDE, regarding the Missing IEP Schools‘ data with an explanation why the data is redacted (If fewer than 10 IEP students are in a school, the school doesn’t show up in the state’s child find data sheet).

Even with the redacted data, one can still understand that fewer than 10 SpEd students in a 700 student population body gives cause for concern considering that the surrounding district illustrates that one would expect around 7.5% enrollment rate of special education students to remain proportional to the local community.

This trend is not isolated.  Here’s a sampling of a few other special education student enrollment in charters in comparison to their surrounding “home” public school district.

  • North Star Charter School (Surrounding district is West-Ada [formerly Meridian Joint School District]).
    • Total Students = 981
      • Total general education students = 947 (97%)
      • Total special education students = 34 (3%)
  • Surrounding West-Ada School District (Formerly Meridian Joint)
    • Total Students = 36,111
      • Total general education students = 32,611 (90%)
      • Total special education students = 3,500 (10%)
  • Special education enrollment total disparity = 7%
  • Idaho Arts Charter (Surrounding District is Nampa School District)
    • Total Students = 766
      • Total general education students = 728 (95%)
      • Total special education students = 38 (5%)
  • Nampa School District
    • Total Students = 15044
      • Total general education students = 13,544 (90%)
      • Total special education students = 1,500 (10%)
  • Special education enrollment total disparity = 5%
  • Xavier Charter School (Surrounding District is Twin Falls School District)
    • Total Students = 645
      • Total general education students = 625 (97%)
      • Total special education students = 20 (3%)
  • Twin Falls School District
    • Total Students = 8,565
      • Total general education students = (90%)
      • Total special education students = 857 (10%)
  • Special education enrollment total disparity = 7%

There were two exceptions to this trend:  Another Choice Virtual Charter Academy and Kootenai Bridge Academy.  Both schools are online and market themselves as emphasizing an individualized approach to student learning.

However, although there is an atypical special education enrollment in these schools that is higher than the other charters (see below), it largely appears these students do not find success in these schools.

For example, only a shockingly small 7.7% of  senior students with disabilities graduated from Kootenai Bridge academy in the 2013-2014 school year; one of the worst in the state (Statewide graduation average for students with disabilities was 59.2%).  The school graduation average as a whole was also depressingly low at 32.4%

In similar juxtaposition, the graduation rate for special education senior students at Another Choice Virtual Charter was an underwhelming 23.8%.  The school average was even lower at 23.2%

  • Kootenai Bridge Academy
    • Total Students = 174
      • Total general education students = 149 (86%)
      • Total special education students = 25 (14%)
  • Another Choice Virtual Charter School (Online)
    • Total Students = 326
      • Total general education students = 219 (67%)
      • Total special education students = 107 (33%)

While these schools should be commended for making an effort to buck the trend by enrolling a disproportionately high percentage of special education students, the data representing the lackluster student outcome for students with disabilities should be a major cause for concern.

The data largely appears to illustrate a story in which a disproportionately low amount of special education students enroll in area charters in comparison to the local demographic population and surrounding district.  In addition, when these students do enroll it is unclear if they find success in the charter schools as evidenced by Another Choice Virtual Charter and Kootenai Bridge Academy.

That outcome should be cause for concern both in families with children who have disabilities as well as the state level in evaluating program effectiveness for students with disabilities in Idaho charter public schools.

Feel free to check out the data yourself.  Embedded below are 2 spreadsheets.  The first is total enrollment data by district/charter.

The second data sheet is the state’s child find enrollment (students with Individualized Education Plans / IEP’s).

Both data sheets must be referenced in order to calculate how reflective a charter’s special education population is in comparison to the surrounding local public school district.




2 thoughts on “Few Special Education Students Find Success in Idaho’s Charters

  1. Jill Dodson

    My student with some special needs transferred to a charter school this year from a highly regarded private school which was academically rigourous and where my student had been pretty successful academically. Soon after transferring to the charter school and after us asking for some accomodations due to some chronic health problems, we were told that this charter school was an “elite” school and perhaps my student was “not a good fit for them”. She was given failing grades on some days in classes for reasons such as stepping out of class for asthma attacks or having to vomit. She was also accused to her face of “just not wanting to come to school” on days that she was out sick. Sadly I had to transfer her out of there. If charter schools are going to get public money they should have to follow the law and serve all students.



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