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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Leadership and Policy

First Advisor

Ben . Pogodzinski


Charter schools have been scrutinized in the past and accused to practicing selective enrollment – a process wherein the school deters the enrollment of students who may be difficult or expensive to educate. While previous research on the enrollment of students with disabilities in charter schools provides evidence of selective enrollment practices, it does not delve into issues and limitations around school programming, value conflicts between leadership and policy, and the resulting consequences of those factors.

The purpose of this study was to explore how the factors of value, leadership, and policy meet and potentially conflict when considering the enrollment of students with disabilities in charter schools. Through this examination, it was found that the values of general education leaders had more influence than those of special education leaders, and as a result, those values may influence the values of other staff. As a result, students with disabilities might experience attitudes from staff that can be perceived to be discriminatory. As the attitudes did not link directly to enrollment, it could have impact on the sustained enrollment of students with disabilities as parents may elect to leave schools where they feel their student’s needs are not being appropriately met.

As previous research discussed schools counseling out students who may be expensive or difficult to enroll, so too did this study identify practices that could be perceived as counseling out or deterring students from enrolling. However, it was the stated intent of participants reporting this information that the communication was used to inform parents and allow them to make educated decisions about their student’s enrollment.

This study used a multiple-case, holistic case study design that utilized interviews to gather relevant data to answer the research questions. In all, twelve people were interviewed from four charter schools – two for-profit and two not-for-profit. Those twelve people included a general education administrator, a special education administrator, and a special education teacher from each of the four buildings. Data from these participants suggested that their schools expressed that program limitations were the primary factor that might influence the enrollment of students with disabilities.

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