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The Impact of Targeted vs. General Education Investments: Evidence from Special Education and English Language Learners in Boston Charter Schools

Working Paper

Elizabeth Setren

July 2019

Using novel variation in special education and English Language Learner classification from admissions lotteries, the authors finds that students can achieve large academic gains without specialized services. Enrolling in a Boston charter school doubles the likelihood that students lose their special education or English Language Learner status, but exposes students to a high-performing general education program that includes high intensity tutoring, data driven instruction, and increased instructional time. The positive effects extend to college: charters nearly double the likelihood that English Language Learners enroll in four-year colleges and quadruple the likelihood that special education students graduate from two-year college. A multiple instrument strategy suggests that high quality general education practices drive the gains and finds no detrimental effect from lower classification rates.