The Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI) is committed to the creation and success of high-quality charter public schools  that meet the needs of their communities, particularly those serving at-risk populations and working to close the achievement gap. CSI continues to actively prioritize service to and outcomes for at-risk students and has sought to target student needs through a variety of mechanisms.

For those less familiar with CSI’s work around special education, here’s a brief timeline:

  • In 2015, CSI passed Board Resolution 1549, which affirmed CSI’s commitment to closing the achievement gap and charged CSI staff with increasing and improving service for students.
  • In 2016, CSI commissioned a Special Education Report to review the state of its special education programs and services and provide recommendations for moving forward.
  • In 2017, CSI collaborated with the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools to develop the Student Services Screener and Tiers of Support to both assess and support schools in providing equal access and quality programs to students who qualify for specialized supports.

Recent Initiatives Expand Special Education Supports for CSI Schools

CSI has prioritized access and equity by growing its team of experts, offering expanded professional development opportunities for school staff, implementing data-driven improvement strategies, and committing financial resources at both the school and CSI level.

CSI is committed to working collaboratively with schools to increase financial resources for students with special needs as well as to expand capacity-building strategies for special education staff. CSI does not retain administrative fees from the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the state’s Exceptional Children’s Education Act (ECEA) funds.  85% of the state and federal funds flow directly to schools, and the remaining funds are spent on special education coordinators for CSI schools and related professional development. Additionally, special education fund reserves have been created both at CSI and at CSI schools in case of unanticipated needs.  CSI hires Special Education Coordinators to support each school’s capacity to serve students with special needs, and also offers scholarships for CSI school staff to participate in RELAY leadership programs to support capacity building within the portfolio. This renewed commitment to serving all students reflects the original mission and vision of CSI.   

Partnering on Colorado’s Equity Convening

To add to these initiatives, we are excited to be partnering with CDE’s Schools of Choice Unit in offering the first ever Equity Convening. This daylong event scheduled for September 6, 2019 includes current research and best practices in special education from local and national perspectives and practical next steps to apply the rich information within our schools.  Here’s a link to the agenda and to register!

As an organization, CSI continues to find ways to advance the conversation on access and equity and ultimately to foster a portfolio that is accessible to and serves all students well. Stay tuned as I’ll be sure to provide my key takeaways following the Schools of Choice/CSI Equity Convening.

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