In a new report from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, authors Whitney Bross and Douglas N. Harris find that the charter application review process can help authorizers identify high-performing charters if they gather more information about potential charter operators than the charter application alone can offer.
“It’s important that the only factor predicting both charter approval and renewal is a school’s rating from Louisiana’s independent evaluator,” said Harris. During the years studied, the state almost always followed the evaluator’s recommendations, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), which were informed by a great deal of data beyond formal charter applications, including interviews and site visits. The NACSA rating predicted whether the state would renew the charter in the future. The authors also found some indications that the NACSA ratings predict students’ achievement growth, though these results were less clear. Authorizers also have much more information when making renewal decisions of existing charters because they can consider the school’s actual performance, and the study’s authors find that Louisiana’s state authorizer, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), based its renewal decisions on school performance. According to Bross, “The School Performance Score and students’ achievement growth were the strongest predictors of renewal.” In contrast, enrollment levels did not predict renewal, indicating that BESE did not focus on family preferences. While this research focuses on how well authorizers choose charter operators, the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans has a second forthcoming study analyzing the effects that closure and school takeover have on students. The full report is available here.