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.