Evaluating New Orleans Charter Schools

Charter school performance has recently been the subject of a number of reports. Some of the highlights:

1.     A national study of 36 charter schools in 15 states showed that on average students who won lotteries to attend charter middle schools performed no better in math and reading than their peers who lost the lottery and enrolled in regular public schools. At the same time, this federally commissioned study showed that charter schools were more effective when serving low-income, lower-achieving students (especially in urban areas) than they were serving higher-income, higher-achieving students.

Read more about the study in Education Week magazine.
Read the Mathematica study “Evaluation of Charter School Impacts.”

2.     Last month, the same research firm, Mathematica, found that KIPP students, most of whom are poor and from a racial minority, outperformed their peers in regular public schools. Read more about Mathematica’s KIPP study.

3.     Louisiana, according to Stanford University’s CREDO study, is one of 5 states where charters do outperform regular public schools. Read the CREDO study.

4.     Fordham Institute’s review of the Ohio charter experience concludes, “placing a charter sign over a schoolhouse doesn’t guarantee success.” Read more about Fordham’s review.

What do these various reports mean for New Orleans?

Educate Now! agrees with Fordham Institute: charters are not in and of themselves better than traditional schools.

The key to charter success is quality authorizing:  Having a rigorous authorization process to determine who gets the right to operate a charter school and then holding the charter to high performance standards. Thus far, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has been a good authorizer. In 2006, it hired the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) to review all charter applicants. That year, BESE approved only 6 of 44 charter applicants. BESE has also set clear performance standards for charters. Educate Now! hopes BESE will maintain this rigor as a number of charter schools are coming up for their pivotal 5-year review this year.

One comment on “Evaluating New Orleans Charter Schools

  • Here’s another interpretation of the Mathematica study:

    To quote: “KIPP schools demand a lot of their teachers, who work very long hours and are required to be on call at all times. They pay a bit more for this, but only a bit, and this isn’t a model that scales well. You can always find a small cadre of dedicated young teachers willing to put up with this, but you’re never going to find the hundreds of thousands you’d need to make this work on a large scale.”

    For more on scability:

    “But progress is coming at considerable cost: an estimated $15 million over the planned four-year turnaround, largely financed by private foundations. That is more than twice the $6 million in federal turnaround money that the Department of Education has set as a cap for any single school. Skeptics say the Locke experience may be too costly to replicate.”

    The RSD is spending considerably more per student than NOPS has available and this clearly is not sustainable. Perhaps we need to dig a little deeper…


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