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Features of New Orleans Charter Schools Associated with Achievement Growth

The unique nature of the charter school landscape in New Orleans created an important backdrop for a recent study seeking to identify indicators of school effectiveness. The study, requested by the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance of the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest, examined which organizational, operational, and instructional characteristics of charter schools had an effect on student achievement data.

Authors Patrick Wolf and Shannon Lasserre-Cortez began by conducting a literature review of 58 articles and reports pulled from an analysis of more than 1,000 articles and reports on charter school performance. Initially, researchers identified 23 potential indicators previously associated with student achievement growth. Ultimately 12 of those were included because there were reliable measures to produce data and the features fell within the control of policymakers and practitioners at the school level.

In analyzing student achievement data in English language arts, math, and science from 50 of the 75 charter schools operating in New Orleans during the 2012-13 school year, the study identified six indicators with a significant correlation with academic growth. Positive growth in test scores were associated with an extended school year, experienced teachers, and having kindergarten as an entry grade. Conversely, factors linked to declines in test scores include having a higher proportion of teachers with graduate degrees, offering more student supports, and having higher student-teacher ratios. There’s plenty of material for follow up studies, but this offering marks a valuable step in identifying school characteristics that have the potential to help students succeed.