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La. Officials Wrestle With How To Hold 'Alternative' Charters Accountable

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On the heels of a report about the difficulties of judging the performance of charter schools that serve "alternative" populations, a real life example of such challenges is playing out in Louisiana, reports The Advocate.

The story focuses on the Net Charter High School in New Orleans, which aims to serve students who have dropped out of school, been in jail, or have children of their own. One student talks about how she began attending Net charter school after failing to graduate at another high school because of chronic absenteeism. She told The Advocate that without Net charter school, she would have simply dropped out.

But because the student is graduating in more than four years, under the current system of evaluating the performance of schools, her success is not counted as such, say officials at Net charter school. Under the current system, the graduation rates of these schools are negatively impacted by students who take more than four years total to graduate.

The article says that state officials have been quietly working on a solution to how alternative charter schools might be evaluated differently than other schoolS, although the details have yet to be announced. John White, Louisiana's state schools chief, has acknowledged that the current system does not work for alternative schools, but he hasn't yet outlined a plan for a change in the evaluation formula, says the article.

In the report released by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers last week, researchers recommended implementing short-cycle assessments to measure the growth of populations of students that may not have a continuous learning path, giving schools credit for re-engaging dropouts even if they don't graduate in four years, and creating comprehensive and clear contracts between charter schools and charter school authorizers that detail what kinds of data the school should be collecting and how it will be used for performance evaluations.

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