A new GAO report requested by Democratic House member George Miller was unveiled to several media outlets (presumably under embargo) and reported all over the place today (Charter schools enroll fewer disabled children than public schools, GAO report says is one example). Today also happens to be halfway through the national charter school conference in Minneapolis.
What makes the report noteworthy isn't so much its main finding (that charters serve 8 percent SPED kids compared to 11 percent in the general population) but its timing. GAO reports usually come out at random times. The occasional exception is when a new report is released around a Committee hearing. Miller isn't known for being anti-charter, though he's a Democrat. He has urged them to do better in terms of ELL and SPED kids, and to get more involved in turnarounds. In this case, Miller's office handled the press and seems to have orchestrated the timing. From Miller this morning: "This report rightly calls on Congress and the Department of Education to focus our efforts on providing students with disabilities the full opportunity to achieve a complete mainstream education whether in a traditional public school or a charter school.” (see full press release below)
Even before the report came out, CER's Jeanne Allen was raising warning flags about media coverage this week, describing a Minnesota Public Radio story as "a taste of what is to come" this week. "we will see many more stories citing “studies” that show “mixed results” on charter school performance," said Allen in an email Tuesday. NAPCS and NACSA are working on statements, I'm told.