• There are 6,800 charter schools operating across the country enrolling roughly 2.9 million students; just over 10% of these students qualify for special education.




For information about this grant, please visit our Grant Database.





4.  Personalise learning

5.  Build demand





Information missing







Case study




In the media




Contact person for Oak LDP grant

Name: Tracey Saunders

Email: tsaunders@ncsecs.org



Website & social media links

“As the charter sector grows, it is more important than ever that students with learning differences are able to exercise choice on par with their peers. NCSECS is uniquely positioned to not only push the sector for access but work with key stakeholders to ensure that charter schools build the capacity to provide quality services to enable all students to succeed.”

– Lauren Morando Rhim, Co-founder and Executive Director



What have you accomplished through your Oak-funded programme that you’re most proud to share with your colleagues?


  • We co-developed a mentor and staff training with innovation Research & Training (iRT) available here.
  • We designed and managed an innovative pilot program to enable BBBS agencies to be better serve over 500 youth at high academic risk, including students with learning differences and disabilities.
  • We trained agencies on the use of three new evaluation tool and data collection instruments designed to help them become more data-driven in their provision of services.
  • We developed and delivered over 20 hours of staff and mentor training on promoting non-cognitive skills essential for academic success.



What’s the most interesting challenge your Oak-funded programme currently faces?


  • The most interesting challenge facing our partners centers around our efforts at Compass Academy to simultaneously achieve and drive outcomes in student achievement, social emotional development and bi-literacy. Not only is Compass Academy a new endeavor that requires rapid learning and improvement, but we are also trying to do something different and dynamic in education — instill in students, teachers, staff, and families the core Learner & Leader competencies that enable success in today’s rapidly changing world. There is no existing blueprint for how to get this right, which means we must be vigilant in documenting what we learn so that, in the long-term, we create a plan that benefits and inspires others in our community and the field.



The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools’
(NCSECS) goal is to advocate for students with diverse learning needs to ensure that if they are interested in attending charter schools, they are able to access and thrive in them. NCSECS is studying charter schools that have proven successful in addressing learning differences and drafting briefs that teach other charter schools how to follow suit, as well as building its internal systems to ensure organisational longevity.

Spearheading special education-related guidance for charter school leaders and bolstering its organisational capacity



NCSECS’s mission is to increase collective understanding of challenges, identify viable solutions, and ensure effective charter school practices that justify the trust of parents and students with disabilities. The organisation was established in 2013 with a start-up grant from Oak that spurred Walton Family Foundation investment. In just three years, NCSECS has positioned itself as the leading national voice regarding special education in the charter sector. NCSECS achieved this through the publication of thought-provoking policy papers, substantive research studies, practical tools, guides and other impactful documents and the development of key partnerships linking the special education and charter school communities. Despite its small size, NCSECS has also engaged in targeted fieldwork in Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Tennessee, training both schools and authorizers on best practices. A range of organisations regularly seeking its input and advice include: the U.S. Department of Education, numerous state education departments, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the National Charter School Resource Center, Education Week, LRP, and Politico.







With Oak’s support, NCSECS is analysing and profiling charter schools whose success reaching students with learning differences can serve as a model for others; it is also increasing its organisational capacity. NCSECS is identifying “Centers of Excellence” based on these schools' ability to support all students, and demonstrate strong academic outcomes for students with learning differences in particular. During each year-long term, NCSECS will lead an initial planning meeting, conduct interviews with stakeholders, develop a profile of each school and identify practices other schools will find informative, and provide customized technical assistance focused on ensuring schools are complying with the law and delivering quality instruction, interventions and services. It will then develop and disseminate school-specific briefs that present a profile of each school, highlight key school practices, and introduce relevant tools integral to success with students with learning differences. The four schools selected for the NCSECS Centers of Excellence Initiative are:

  • Denver School of Science and Technology, Denver, CO
  • Paramount School of Excellence, Indianapolis, IN
  • Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School, Brooklyn, NY
  • Two Rivers Public Charter School, Washington, DC


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Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.

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