Study: New Orleans Charters Outperform Other Louisiana Schools

Researchers have concluded that students in New Orleans charter schools not only outperform their public school peers, but also learn at a faster pace than students who enroll in charter schools elsewhere in Louisiana. A new study from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes finds that Louisiana charter school students get the equivalent of 50 additional learning days than their counterparts in traditional parish schools, but the difference between the two types of schools in NOLA is particularly dramatic.

New Orleans charters provide the equivalent of 120 additional instructional days in reading and 150 instructional days in math to their students compared to the state average.

The study spanned six years, tracking the progress of New Orleans charter students from 2005 to 2011. The results were announced at a news conference Thursday at KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans, a school with a high population of students from impoverished families, many of whom also enter performing below their grade level. Despite this, 90 percent of its students are now performing on grade level in math and 80 percent in reading.

“We appreciate this study because folks often question the results,” said Superintendent Patrick Dobard of the state-run Recovery School District. “To have an independent organization to validate and show us where we’re not doing as well is great.”

It’s hard to name a single other place in the country where charters have been more enthusiastically embraced than in Louisiana’s largest urban district. More than 80% of NOLA students are enrolled in this publicly-funded but independently-run institutions. According to Sarah Tan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the study finds that 50% of the city’s charters outperform the conventional schools in reading and 56% have better math results.

Statewide, the results are not as impressive, although still noteworthy. Roughly 40% of Louisiana charters perform better in math and reading than public schools.

Louisiana charters educate a smaller portion of special education students, 12 percent, than conventional public schools in the state, 14 percent. But the charters make greater gains, according to the study: Special education students gain the equivalent of 50 more days of learning in reading at charters, 36 in math.

The study also noted, however, that while urban charters in Baton Rouge and New Orleans make up 85 percent of the charter students in Louisiana and often perform better than their traditional school peers, the same was not the case with suburban and rural charters.