Analysis of New Orleans Test Data Suggests Best Practices for Charter Schools
A new report written by University of Arkansas professor Patrick Wolf and published by the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education describes possible best practices for charter schools based on research conducted in New Orleans.
Wolf, who holds the Twenty-First Century Chair in School Choice and the rank of Distinguished Professor, directs the School Choice Demonstration Project in the Department of Education Reform. His team has been researching charter schools in New Orleans for several years. He conducted the study described in the new report, “An Exploratory Analysis of Features of New Orleans Charter Schools Associated with Student Achievement Growth” for the Regional Education Lab Southwest.
The study found that several charter school features were statistically significantly associated with school-level student achievement growth, especially in English language arts.
Schools were more likely to report improvement in test scores if they had kindergarten as an entry grade, had an extended school year and had more experienced teachers, the study found. Other key findings indicated factors such as a higher percentage of teachers with a graduate degree, a higher student-teacher ratio and more student supports offered were associated with smaller test score gains.
The study looked at organizational, operational and instructional features of open-enrollment public charter schools in New Orleans, where 84 percent of public school students are enrolled in charter schools, during the 2012-13 school year. The results are a first step in identifying charter school conditions that could be studied through more rigorous research to determine whether they are valid factors of school success, according to the report.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the public school system in New Orleans, already one of the lowest performing in the United States, was reorganized and most schools became charter schools, the report said. Public charter schools operate outside the traditional public school district system according to provisions of their organizational charter, giving them the flexibility to innovate in both their features and operation.
Shannon Lasserre-Cortez of the American Institutes for Research co-authored the report, which is available online.