Released: August 8, 2013
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Orleans Goes Back to School
By Caroline Roemer Shirley, Executive Director, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools
This school year, my child will start school with over 40,000 other public school students in Orleans Parish, and like most of those students, my child will attend a public charter school.
If he were to attend a public school before charters had established themselves as a major component in our education system, there would be a 66 percent chance he’d attend a failing school. In 2005, 78 out of 118 public schools in Orleans Parish were failing.
The announcement last week that only ten percent – or nine out of the city’s 90 public schools – are still on the State of Louisiana’s list of failing schools shows how competition among schools to innovate and drive student achievement has changed our landscape. The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), which has studied the impact of charter schools on student academic achievement since 2009, revealed that Louisiana charter schools were among the top five states in the nation in student academic growth.
In Louisiana, CREDO says, students in charter schools gained the equivalent of an additional 50 days of learning in reading and an additional 65 days in math, as compared to their traditional school peers—a result supported by the fact that Louisiana charter schools continue to outpace the state in terms of student academic growth each year.
The local non-profit Educate Now! reported this month that New Orleans special education students now outperform the state, “having improved a remarkable 144 percent since 2008, from 18 percent of special needs students performing at basic or above on state tests to 44 percent.”
Here at the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, we also track these results, and if you look only at the Recovery School District New Orleans schools and their LEAP/iLEAP scores, one can see that there has been dramatic improvements in test results, with more than a 95 percent increase in school performance in English, Math, Science and Social Studies since 2005.
These gains were made possible, and can only be sustained, by ensuring that schools have both the autonomy required to respond to the needs of students, parents and faculty, and are kept on the straight and narrow with a strong, transparent, and equitable system of accountability. Charter school authorizers – such as BESE and OPSB – must hold all their schools to high standards. An education is a right; educating is a privilege. School performances must be continuously monitored and underperforming schools must be closed or turned over to a more capable operator.
The dramatic turnaround of our local schools proves not only that all of our children can learn, but our responsibility to educate children cannot be derailed by adult quarrels or politics.
LAPCS is here to help schools figure out how to do what is best for children and replicate successful school models. When our students’ needs are our focus, our schools make progress; thus, that will continue to be our focus for the 2013-2014 school year.
The Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools supports, promotes, and advocates for the Louisiana charter school movement, increasing student access to high quality public schools statewide.. Ms. Roemer Shirley is the founder and director of this statewide non-profit. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested parties are invited to the LAPCS Statewide conference on Sept. 13 in Baton Rouge. Find more at www.lacharterschools.org and link to analysis about our schools at http://www.lacharterschools.org/resources/data-statistics