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GAO Looking Into English Learners' Access to Charters

The federal watchdog agency that just released a report showing that students with disabilities are underrepresented in the nation's charter schools is conducting a similar probe into how charters are serving English-language learners.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office is looking into the English-language-learner issue, which was part of a larger request to study how charters are serving special populations of students, including those with disabilities and those who are learning English. But the work on the ELL issue is just getting underway, making it too early to say when a report would be ready for release, said Chuck Young, a spokesman for GAO.

Notably, the office for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education is also investigating—through its compliance review process—whether charter schools in one state are falling short of serving English-language learners. Russlynn H. Ali, the chief of the civil rights office, shared that tidbit with my colleague Nirvi Shah. Ms. Ali did not disclose specifically which state, but did say it was taking place in one of the same four where OCR is also looking into issues concerning students with disabilities and charter schools: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

As is the case with students with disabilities, there have been concerns from the civil rights and advocacy community that charter schools may discourage ELLs from enrolling or deny them admission. Two years ago, the National Council of La Raza and the Center for American Progress issued a report urging a number of state policy changes that would help ensure that charter schools do a better job of serving ELLs and Latino students.

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