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Gates Urges Charter-District Collaboration on Serving ELLs

School districts and charter schools could benefit from working together more on how to best serve English-language learners and students with disabilities, Vicki L. Phillips, the director of K-12 education initiatives for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told me this week. EdWeek just published a story I wrote about an announcement today by the Gates foundation to give grants of $100,000 each to collaborations between charter schools and regular public schools in nine cities. (The Gates Foundation also helps support Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit publisher of EdWeek.)

In a phone interview, Phillips mentioned access to facilities and "how do you serve ELLs or students with special needs" as examples of the issues that school districts and charter schools might work on together.

At least two of the signed agreements for collaborations between the leaders of charter schools and school districts—in Denver and Los Angeles—mention ELLs. You can read the Denver compact here. I've seen only highlights for the compacts in the other eight cities selected to receive grants.

The compact in Denver says that charter schools in that city serve about the same proportion of ELLs, 30 percent, and special education students, 11 percent, as the school district does. It says the district commits to providing charter school staff access, at cost, to the same high quality of professional development on strategies for working with students with disabilities and with ELLs as educators in district-run schools receive. The Denver Public Schools authorizes charter schools in Denver.

A highlight from the agreement in Los Angeles says that charter and district leaders will commission a study to analyze enrollment patterns and student outcomes for ELLs in both charters and traditional schools. It says that the study will include recommendations for ways schools can provide greater access for all ELLs and improve learning opportunities for them.

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