Study shows Louisiana among top states for charter school gains

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Monday, August 12, 2013 - 11:56am

Governor Bobby Jindal and Superintendent John White announced that a recent 26-state study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that Louisiana is a national leader in student achievement at charter schools, ranking near the top in both reading and math gains.

A more detailed state study, which examines the progress students of particular backgrounds make academically over time, also found that charter schools in Louisiana achieve particularly significant progress with low-income students and students with disabilities.

Governor Jindal said, “When we took office, we made reforming our education system so that every child in Louisiana could receive a great education one of our top priorities. We have come a long way, and Louisiana has implemented some of the most transformative education laws in the country. Many of the reforms started in New Orleans and the results are incredible.

“Part of the incredible progress we have made is due to the success of charter schools. In order to give parents and students more access to charter schools, we have implemented a number of reforms since taking office. We removed the cap on the number of charter schools allowed to operate in Louisiana. Since 2008, the number of charter schools operating in Louisiana has expanded by over 80 percent, from approximately 66 to 121.

“We put teeth in the charter school law by allowing charter schools to apply directly to BESE in D and F rated districts and in districts that have failed to implement and/or routinely break current charter school law.

“We created a common application process for all charter schools, whether applying to local school boards or BESE, that prioritizes quality instead of paperwork, including a fast track process for charter operators that have demonstrated track records in Louisiana or elsewhere and allowing a charter operator to apply for more than one school in the same application cycle.

“We shortened the initial contract period from 5 to 4 years to ensure intervention earlier when a school is not achieving the success we need. At the same time, we created more flexibility to renew contracts for longer or shorter time periods based on initial success.

“We gave charter leaders more flexibility over staffing, giving schools more flexibility to hire nontraditional candidates like mid-career switchers.

“Louisiana is ranked sixth in the country for the quality of its charter school laws according to the National Association of Public Charter Schools, an increase from the 2012 ranking of 13th.

“Indeed, Louisiana has led the nation in utilizing the charter model. One hundred twenty one charter schools across our state are educating nearly 60,000 students. Through the success of these schools and other reforms, we’re working to ensure that every family has the opportunity to get out of a struggling school so that their children get a great education and pursue their dreams.”

Louisiana has worked to not only streamline the application process for charters and recruit additional high-quality operators, but the state also has worked to emphasize the need for accountability and to enforce high standards. Since 2008, the Department of Education, working in conjunction with the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), has closed 14 charters schools due to poor performance.

Superintendent White said, “This study further validates the extraordinary gains made by charter schools in Louisiana and New Orleans in particular.” “There is no silver bullet to this success, however. This is about the teachers and students in these schools. This study should inspire us to learn from them.”

CREDO found that, when compared to traditional public schools, students learning at a Louisiana charter school experience learning gains equivalent to two months of added learning time in reading and three months of added time in math. In New Orleans, where nearly 90 percent of public school students attend charter schools, this figure increases to approximately four months in reading and five months in math.

The longer students are enrolled in charter schools, the larger the gains become. For example, whereas on average, second year charter school students were roughly 80 days ahead of their counterparts in feeder schools, fourth and fifth year enrollees were 180-200 days ahead.

These gains remain high among the most at-risk students—those with special needs, African Americans in poverty, and students who are behind academically. Special needs students in Louisiana charter schools saw over two additional months of learning in reading and nearly two additional months in math. In New Orleans, these gains were even more pronounced.

CREDO also found that Louisiana has a notably large percentage of high-performing charters. While nationally a quarter of charter schools perform dramatically better than other schools, in Louisiana, a greater share of charter schools outperform their peers by significant margins, 41 percent perform better in reading and 46 percent before better in math. The large majority of remaining charter schools perform at similar levels to their traditional public schools peers, with 46 percent performing better in reading and 42 percent in math. In New Orleans, half of charter schools perform significantly better than traditional schools in reading, with 44 percent performing relatively close to traditional public schools. In math, 62 percent perform significantly better than local traditional public schools with 35 percent performing at a comparable level.

"Students thrive when schools and educators are empowered to make decisions and held accountable for results," said Chas Roemer, President of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Louisiana has led the nation in utilizing the charter model. Overall, more than100 charter schools across Louisiana are educating nearly 60,000 students. These public, autonomous schools provide options for families currently in struggling schools and provide flexibility for educators to innovate. Organizations like New Schools New Orleans have worked with the state to support the expansion of high-performing, open-enrollment charter schools and support the turnaround of struggling schools while promoting the importance of accountability and community collaboration. The state is also growing charter schools through initiatives like the Believe and Succeed grant for aspiring school leaders and the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone.

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