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What Kinds of Charter Schools Are Linked to Student Gains in New Orleans?

New Orleans' maturing charter school field is beginning to reveal structural differences among schools that might help spur student learning.

More than 4 in 5 public school students in the Crescent City attended charter schools in the 2012-13 school year, according to a study by University of Arkansas researcher Patrick Wolf for the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance of the Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest. Charter schools tend to serve more black and low-income students than traditional district schools in the city.

Wolf and co-author Shannon Lasserre-Cortez of the American Institutes of Research analyzed student growth from 2012-2014 in language arts, math, and science at 50 of the city's 92 charter campuses (not counting those that did not produce student growth data that year).

They found that charter schools, in general, served wider grade spans within the same campus. The study was not causal, but it did find that charter schools that started in kindergarten and those with extended school years had faster student growth in students' language skills than schools that started school at higher grades or with shorter years. 

Schools with higher concentrations of experienced teachers were associated with faster student growth, but schools with high concentrations of teachers with graduate degrees were actually associated with lower student growth than average. However, New Orleans charter schools in general had lower concentrations of teachers rated "highly effective" than the state average.

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