Letter: Authorizers key to charters

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes has studied the impact of charter schools on student academic achievement since 2009 and this summer revealed that Louisiana charters are among the top five states of 26 states studied in student academic growth.

CREDO says Louisiana 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.

What are we getting right here in Louisiana? As the state’s charter movement has grown to more than 100 schools, and as the ability of parents to choose the school that best meets their child’s needs has been strengthened through reforms, the focus is on sustaining quality public charter schools through effective, quality authorizing.

A charter authorizer is an entity that enters into contracts with nonprofit boards that operate charter schools and permits them to educate students in a given geography.

Authorizers have a responsibility to oversee charter schools by “ensuring that schools have both the autonomy to which they are entitled and the public accountability for which they are responsible.” Currently in Louisiana, local school boards and BESE are the only authorizers.

It is important that on the front end, authorizers hold applicants to a high standard so only the most knowledgeable, capable and robust applicants with proven track records are allowed the privilege to teach. On the back end, that means authorizers must continuously monitor the progress of charter schools and close those that are underperforming.

Research suggests a school that isn’t showing adequate progress in its initial charter term will most likely never achieve “turnaround.”

Thus, it is not surprising that CREDO found that nationally, the rise in average student growth across charter schools is largely due to the closure of low-performing schools. This suggests that accountability for student achievement is working better than it does in the traditional school system, where failing schools remain open too long and continuously harm our children.

Accountability is key.

LAPCS is here to help communities figure out how to close or renew a school. Our school leaders and authorizers must have the courage to close schools that are not doing what is best for children and replicate those that are successful. When our students’ needs are our focus, Louisiana makes progress.

Caroline Roemer Shirley, executive director

Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools

New Orleans