Editorial: State ranks high in charters schools

It is always good news when Louisiana receives a high ranking in some national survey, for positive reasons.

During the recent National School Choice Week, the Pelican State was praised for improving its ranking for its charter schools.

The National Alliance for Public

Charter Schools raised Louisiana from 13th in 2011 to sixth last year,

in its annual rankings

of the states. The rankings measure how closely a state adheres to

the group’s influential model law, which emphasizes giving

schools the freedom and funding to innovate while holding them to

high standards.

Louisiana earned 151 points, up from 119 in 2011. Minnesota topped the list with a score of 172 points on a scale of 228.

Mississippi was the lowest with a 39. Eight states do not have laws allowing charter schools.

“Our top 10 states ... have created

the right policy conditions for charger schools to thrive,” said study

author Todd Ziebarth.

Louisiana earned points for a law

passed by the Legislature in 2012 that gives non-profits the power to

charter a school.

At its January meeting, the state Board of Elementary Education

set up a process for non-profits to apply to become chartering

authorities.

“We are firm believers that in order to get quality right you first have to start with a strong law,” said NAPCS CEO Nina

Rees.

The 2013 rankings should be of particular interest since they will factor in graduation, dropout, attendance and academic

performance for charter versus traditional schools.

Louisiana stood out for its strong

quality control policies, for the transparency of its charter

application and review process,

and for providing “adequate” funding to its charter authorizers.

The state also gives charters freedom by automatically exempting

them from laws that traditional schools must follow.

Caroline Roemer Shirley, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, said the ranking was good

news. “I don’t think the governor and others have utilized the model law to set policy here,” she said.

Overall, the report found charters in Louisiana had nearly twice as many black students than traditional schools — 82 percent

versus 43 percent. That’s largely because New Orleans public schools, which serve predominately African American students,

lead the charter charge in Louisiana and nationwide.

This is another good example of why Louisiana and other states need to have wide latitude in designing educational models

that fit the local conditions, and aren’t restricted to some one-size fits all dictated from Washington.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.