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2013 Louisiana Charter School Rankings

In December 2013, the Louisiana Department of Education released its annual report on its 117 charter schools. Considering that the state has remained at the forefront of the school choice movement, we decided to summarize the report for our readers and simultaneously provide another edition of charter school rankings.

If you’re new to Louisiana charter school policy, you should know that there are five different “types” of charter schools in Louisiana, which vary in how they are authorized, how much autonomy they have, and what purpose they serve. They are as follows:

Type 1: This is a start-up school authorized by a local school board. These charter schools are not their own Local Education Agency (LEA), meaning they remain under the careful watch of the district that authorized them and enrollment is restricted to students within the district’s municipal limits (i.e. semi-open enrollment). There are 21 charter schools of this type in the state.

Type 2: This is a start-up or conversion school authorized by the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). In general, these are charters that were either denied at the local level (i.e. denied a Type 1 charter) or filed directly with BESE to be placed in a district that is struggling (received less than a C-rating). There are 24 charter schools of this type in the state.

Type 3: This is a conversion school authorized by the local school board. This can be the result of successful community lobbying efforts, or even a case where a district wants to outsource a struggling school to a EMO. There are 12 charter schools of this type in the state.

Type 4: This is a local school board’s start-up or conversion school authorized by BESE. One advantage might be open-enrollment that is not restricted to within the district itself (since it is authorized as its own LEA). This is understandably very rare since districts would typically got he Type 1 or 3 route, and there is only 1 charter school of this type in the state.

Type 5: This is a Recovery School District (RSD) charter school authorized by BESE. Although the RSD has existed since 2003, it gained national attention when it took over 107 schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Roughly 50% (59 total) of all charter schools in the state are of this type, but not all RSD schools are charters.

There are also two new types of charter schools in Louisiana, according to the DOEType 1B and Type 3B. A Type 1B charter is authorized by a Local Charter Authorizer, a Type 3B charter school is a former Type 5 charter that transfers from the Recovery School District back to the jurisdiction of a local school system. As of 2012-13, no Type 1B or 3B charters exist.

According to the annual study, Louisiana charter schools are now serving 59,251 students, and 82% of those students are served by Types 2, 4, and 5 (i.e. authorized by BESE). Those BESE authorized schools also tend to serve the most challenging areas, especially the RSD schools – 84% of BESE’s charter students qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch (FRL). When all charter types are combined the FRL population served drops to 73%, but that is still greater than the average of all public schools in the state (67%).

Ranking these schools isn’t too difficult because Louisiana’s A-F accountability scale is based off a numerical School Performance Score. The SPS is derived from a calculator, which measures all sorts of things such as attendance and drop-outs (via Carnegie Units), FRL population, ACT scores and, of course, the student aggregate score on the state’s standardized tests (LEAP, iLEAP, LAA1, and LAA2).

In 2013, Louisiana changed the way that the SPS score is interpreted as a letter grade. Previously, the SPS was on a scale of 0-200, with awkward transitions from one letter grade to the next. Now it is out of 150, and the letter grades are assigned like this:

  • A:  100 – 150
  • B:  85 – 99.9
  • C:  70 – 84.9
  • D:  50 – 69.9
  • F:  0 – 49.9

In the end, the school is assigned a score and a letter grade that shows up on the final BESE report. Normally, we’d split out the schools by type for any readers making enrollment decisions, but instead we chose to lump them all together and simply include the grades served for reference. Not all 117 Louisiana charter schools are listed here as 24 of them opened or closed in 2013, meaning there was no performance data for them.

The rankings are below, but here are some things we noticed:

  • The average charter SPS is 73, while the median charter SPS is 75.7 – The state average for all public schools is 79.8
  • The average SPS score for Types 2 & 4 is 77.4, the average for Types 1 & 3 is 81.2, and the average for Type 5 is 66.8
  • Of the eight charter schools with an A-rating, five of them were Type 3 charters, representing almost half of all the Type 3 charters in the state. Another three were B-rated.
  • Up to 14% of the charter schools  in Louisiana possess some form of Academically Unacceptable Status, while the number of district schools with an AUS designation matched the total number of charter schools ranked below (93). 7.6% of district schools are AUS in some way. However, there are 8 RSD charter schools on AUS, and ignoring them would leave only 5 charters on AUS (or 5.3%).
  • Just as we saw in Florida, the school with the highest SPS in the state (138.5) is a charter school – Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans. Lusher Charter School, a combination school in New Orleans, was ranked 9th in the state.

Overall, there are a few gaps between between district schools and charter schools that aren’t at all surprising. For instance, although district schools appear to have an edge on the statewide SPS average, charter schools clearly serve higher percentages of FRL kids, so the small discrepancy there is to be expected. Louisiana’s RSD also brings charter averages down quite a bit compared to district averages, primarily because the RSD is taking challenging schools away from the districts and chartering some of them. This has the double effect of raising the district average while dropping charter averages.

Louisiana SPS rankings 2013 redo


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