Charter schools making the grade

The charter schools that have so thoroughly transformed the landscape of public education in New Orleans were recently issued a report card of sorts, and it’s one that boosters of the local charter movement can be proud to display on the fridge.

This report was an assessment of test scores conducted by Stanford University and commissioned by New Schools for New Orleans, a nonprofit school reform group. Of 44 local charter schools analyzed, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO, found that 23 achieved significantly better results in math, reading or both than their traditional district-run school counterparts. Rather than simply compare a school’s overall test scores, CREDO “matched up” individual students at both types of schools who had similar socio-economic situations and who started with similar base-level test scores. The assessment then tracked their comparative progress.

Since Hurricane Katrina shut down all schools in New Orleans for a time, education leaders and community groups have rebuilt the city’s once abysmally performing public education system school by school. Last year, Newsweek magazine called it “a school system unlike any other in the country,” where most public school students now attend charter schools. 

“At this point, the city has made enormous progress. We’re seeing charter schools with a variety of approaches and philosophies having a significant impact on student learning,” said Keerav Kingsland, chief strategy officer at New Schools for New Orleans, in the report.

CREDO’s assessment serves as more than just a snapshot of improving performance, however. Last fall, New Schools for New Orleans and the Recovery School District were awarded a $28 million federal education grant to help fund a five-year project called “Scaling the New Orleans Charter Restart Model.” Its goal is to expand the New Orleans charter model citywide and eventually bring it to other cities with struggling school districts. The CREDO findings are now one part of the selection process for grants to help the most successful charter programs grow through grade-by-grade expansions and by taking over under-performing schools. In March, the group announced that KIPP New Orleans Schools, FirstLine Schools and Crescent City Schools would be its first grant recipients. 

 “There is still a need to provide opportunity for high-performing schools to turn around the remaining lower achieving ones,” Kingsland said. “This selection process allows us to identify schools each year that are both qualified and ready to do that.”


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