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I got a question from Illinois Raise Your Hand on Twitter yesterday.  Even though it was Sunday, I just had to crunch the numbers because, hey! Interesting question!

Before we go any further, though, what is an IEP exactly?

IEP stands for Individualized Education Program.  Students who need extra services and assistance with their school activities can apply for an IEP to qualify for that assistance and extra resources.

The problem with looking at IEP’s in the context of CPS Elementary School data is that IEP’s cover such a HUGE variety of ability/disability categories.  Everything from Autism, to Visual/Hearing Impairments, to Physical Impairments.  Not all of these disabilities are going to affect an IEP students academic performance in the same way.

But one common theme across IEP student populations is that they do require more resources and those resources cost extra money in school budgets.  Which is how it should be. Public education is supposed to educate all children to the best of their abilities. But schools with a smaller IEP population have to devote less time, energy and resources to providing those services that may affect overall test scores in different ways.

The average IEP population per school in CPS is around 12-14%.  But actual IEP populations vary widely.  The question that IRYH was essentially asking me was “do all ‘open to anyone’ CPS elementary schools would have IEP populations at the district average or higher?”  Are there big differences?  And if there are, why?

I can’t answer the “why?” part.  But we can run some of the initial numbers.  And this is what we came up with initially.

Comparing Charter/Contract, AUSL/Turnaround and regular neighborhood schools, all with low income populations of 90% or more, this is the IEP distribution by percentages of IEP population per school for this (FY2011-2012) dataset:

What does it mean?  Why are the percentages of IEP students lower in this dataset’s charter schools and highest in this dataset’s neighborhood schools?

That is a question that the quantitative data raises, but doesn’t answer.  You need more investigative, qualitative research for that.

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