Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance

This alliance seeks to identify indicators of program quality and effectiveness among charter schools to inform charter school improvement in Louisiana. Alliance work includes developing a research agenda, conducting research, and supporting the use of data and evidence to improve practice, policy, and student outcomes.

Goals

  • Identify evidence-based factors related to improving charter school performance and student achievement in Louisiana
  • Build the state’s capacity to use data and evidence to support, implement, and maintain effective initiatives to improve and monitor charter school performance and student achievement

Research Focus

Alliance members have identified the following charter school research topics as priorities:

  • Factors affecting student achievement
  • Teacher/leader pipeline
  • School choice
  • Special education

Alliance Flyer

screen cap of alliance flyer

Work Updates

2017

Spring

During this quarter, the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to discuss alliance projects and plan and hold meetings and events.

On March 29, the alliance convened at Lusher Charter School in New Orleans for a quarterly meeting. More than 25 participants from seven alliance member charter schools attended. Dr. Yvelyne Germain-McCarthy, an associate professor of mathematics education at the University of New Orleans, shared research on instructional strategies and best practices in mathematics, with a focus on reducing the state's mathematics achievement gap. Next, members learned how to use a custom resource tool to identify and access available data and research related to topics in the alliance's research agenda. Alliance members then engaged in three learning tasks to explore possible uses for the tool in their work.

On May 10, the alliance sponsored a research-to-practice bridge event in Baton Rouge on charter school authorization. Conducted in collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Education and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the event included a presentation and workshop on research, policies, and practices to guide charter school authorization. An archived presentation from the event is available online.

Progress was also made on alliance projects, as REL Southwest staff continued to revise the final reports for the Key Indicator Study to Identify Promising Operational, Organizational, and Instructional Features of New Orleans Charter Schools and the Special Education Longitudinal Enrollment Study for Louisiana Public Charter Schools. Both reports are expected to be published later this year.

Winter

During this quarter, the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to address questions, discuss alliance projects, and plan upcoming meetings and events. This planning included the alliance's next quarterly meeting, held March 29, 2017, at Lusher Charter School in New Orleans.

A face-to-face bridge event on charter school authorization, being conducted in collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Education and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, was approved and scheduled for May 10 in Baton Rouge.

Progress was also made on alliance projects, as REL Southwest staff continued to revise the final reports for the Key Indicator Study to Identify Promising Operational, Organizational, and Instructional Features of New Orleans Charter Schools and the Special Education Longitudinal Enrollment Study for Louisiana Public Charter Schools.

2016

Fall

During this quarter, the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to address questions, discuss projects, and plan for future meetings and events.

On October 18, REL Southwest staff facilitated a policy and practice roundtable discussion at the 44th International Society for Educational Planning Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The focus of the discussion centered on the alliance's Louisiana Student Privacy Policy Technical Assistance project, which was completed this quarter.

In addition, REL Southwest staff made revisions based on IES review to the final report for the Key Indicator Study to Identify Promising Operational, Organizational, and Instructional Features of New Orleans Charter Schools and completed data analysis and began drafting the final report for the Special Education Longitudinal Enrollment Study for Louisiana Public Charter Schools.

Summer

During this quarter, the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to address questions, discuss projects, and plan and hold events.

On August 4–5, the alliance sponsored a workshop titled "Using Data to Guide Instruction in a Culturally Responsive Environment" at Hynes Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana. More than 400 charter school educators attended the event, which helped clarify recent changes in education data privacy laws and policies in the state. REL Southwest researchers provided this information as part of the Louisiana Student Privacy Policy Technical Assistance project. Workshop participants also explored the use of student data to guide instruction in a culturally responsive environment. The workshop included expert presentations, panel discussions, small-group activities, and reflective dialogue.

In addition, REL Southwest staff completed data analysis and began drafting the final report for the Key Indicator Study to Identify Promising Operational, Organizational, and Instructional Features of New Orleans Charter Schools and began data analysis on the Special Education Longitudinal Enrollment Study for Louisiana Public Charter Schools.

Spring

In April 2016, the liaison for the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance met with alliance member Dr. Ken Ducote, CEO, Greater New Orleans Collaborative of Charter Schools, to discuss the technical assistance needs of the collaborative. The liaison also met with alliance member Michelle Douglas, principal/CEO, Edward Hynes Charter School, to plan a site visit to Hynes during the REL Southwest Governing Board meeting on May 2–4. The visit was approved, and staff at Edward Hynes Charter School treated Governing Board members and REL Southwest staff to a tour of the school's grounds and an overview of its innovative programs and practices. See a photo gallery and description of the tour.

Also in April, REL Southwest staff began work on the document review for the Technical Assistance to Louisiana on Student Privacy Policies, gathering information about recent preeminent changes to federal and Louisiana student privacy laws and policies since the enactment of COPPA in 2000. In May, staff identified and began interviewing individuals to inform the technical assistance.

In May as well, the liaison for the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance met with the Alliance Planning-Leadership Team members to begin planning technical assistance for August 2016.

Also during this quarter, REL Southwest staff began data analysis on the Key Indicator Study to Identify Promising Operational, Organizational, and Instructional Features of New Orleans Charter Schools and made progress on the Special Education Longitudinal Enrollment Study for Louisiana Public Charter Schools.

In related news, West Feliciana Parish Schools, whose superintendent serves on both the alliance and REL Southwest's Governing Board, posted the second-highest average ACT score in the state. Congratulations, West Feliciana's Class of 2016!

Winter

In December 2015, the alliance liaison conducted outreach to continue building and strengthening REL Southwest relationships and visibility in Louisiana.

In January and February 2016, the liaison for the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance met with Hollis G. Milton, the superintendent of West Feliciana Parish Public Schools as well as the president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and a REL Southwest Governing Board member. Discussion focused on identifying a Governing Board nominee and a potential speaker for the Board meeting on May 2–4 in New Orleans. Dr. Brian Riedlinger was suggested as a nominee, and the liaison contacted him to discuss the possibility of his joining the alliance and serving on the board.

Also in January, REL Southwest received approval to conduct a new project, Technical Assistance to Louisiana on Student Privacy Policies. This project will be performed in collaboration with the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance. REL Southwest will gather information about changes to education privacy policy since the enactment of COPPA in 2000 and share the findings with the alliance. In addition, REL Southwest will provide technical assistance on how to interpret and understand current student privacy laws and policies and how to stay abreast of policy changes, including how to assist students in using websites and apps without jeopardizing privacy and security.

During this quarter, REL Southwest staff continued to make progress on the Key Indicator Study to Identify Promising Operational, Organizational, and Instructional Features of New Orleans Charter Schools and the Special Education Longitudinal Enrollment Study for Louisiana Public Charter Schools.

2015

Fall

In August 2015, the liaison for the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance conducted a site visit to the West Feliciana Parish School District to meet with Hollis Milton, district superintendent and president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents. The liaison discussed the possibility of the superintendent joining the alliance and serving on REL Southwest's Governing Board. In addition, the liaison discussed partnering with West Feliciana, which is the state's top-ranked district in kindergarten readiness, to host an early childhood bridge event. The superintendent agreed to serve on the Board and to participate in hosting the event. West Feliciana Parish School District, in addition to being ranked first in kindergarten readiness, has been recognized as a model of universal prekindergarten, as a leader in college readiness, and as the state's best school district (see slide 15).

West Feliciana and REL Southwest staff worked together to finish planning the early childhood bridge event, retitled "Bridging Research, Policy, and Practice in Early Childhood Education." This all-day symposium was held at Bains Lower Elementary School in St. Francisville, Louisiana, on December 10, 2015. Participants discussed policy, research, and practice in early childhood education and toured the school's high-quality early learning program.

Also during this quarter, REL Southwest staff continued to make progress on the Key Indicator Study to Identify Promising Operational, Organizational, and Instructional Features of New Orleans Charter Schools and the Special Education Longitudinal Enrollment Study for Louisiana Public Charter Schools.

Summer

In June 2015, the REL Southwest liaison for the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance participated in an outreach/networking meeting with the governmental affairs director at Stand for Children. The purpose of the meeting was to identify a staff member to represent Stand for Children on the alliance. The liaison will follow up with the organization.

Also in June, the alliance liaison attended the conference “The Urban Education Future? Lessons From New Orleans 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina,” held by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans. One of the hosts of the conference is a member of both the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance and the REL Southwest Governing Board. The conference included a number of breakout sessions and plenary panels on topics related to school choice and reform since Hurricane Katrina. At the conference, another Louisiana Charter Schools alliance member presented on the panel for charter management organizations (CMOs) and new nonprofits, and a REL Southwest researcher presented during the plenary session titled “Competition Between Charter, Private, and Traditional Public Schools.”

Planning continues on “The Role of Charter Schools in Improving Student Achievement” bridge event for the alliance. In addition, progress was made on the Key Indicator Study to Identify Promising Operational, Organizational, and Instructional Features of New Orleans Charter Schools and the proposed Special Education Longitudinal Enrollment Study for Louisiana Public Charter Schools.

Spring

In February 2015, alliance members participated in a workshop titled "Getting Ready for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Assessments in Louisiana Charter Schools." The workshop was designed to build members' capacity to understand the what and how of the PARCC Common Core assessments. Dr. Joan Herman, director emeritus of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at UCLA, discussed the development of the PARCC assessment and the shifts in what is being asked of students. Alicja Witkowski, Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), facilitated a session to help increase participants' knowledge of the PARCC math practice tests, including how to access them, best uses and cautions, and how to analyze item types and interpret results.

Workshop participants also deepened their understanding of how the Common Core State Standards in math have shifted to a stronger focus on college and career readiness and mathematics implementation support; gained a deeper awareness of the design, organization, and major instructional shifts of the Common Core State Standards in English language arts; and learned about instructional practices that support learning progressions and how students' must demonstrate literacy skills on the PARCC assessments.

During this quarter, the alliance liaison also worked to recruit new members. In March, the liaison conducted a site visit to the office of Statewide Monitoring, LDOE, as an effort to increase state education agency representation on the alliance. Meeting topics included the REL Program's purpose and goals, the REL Southwest's projects and activities, and the alliance's goals, priorities, and research agenda. On April 1, the liaison conducted a presentation (by invitation) at the annual meeting of the Type 2 charter school administrators, held in Algiers, Louisiana. More than 50 Type 2 charter school leaders (including a few alliance members) attended and learned about the REL Southwest and the alliance. The goal of the presentation was to strengthen the relationship between the REL Southwest and the LDOE and to recruit more Type 2 charters to join the alliance. In April, the liaison also met with newly recruited alliance members to discuss the work of the REL Southwest and the alliance and to identify a potential fast response project.

Winter

In November 2014, the alliance gained two new members, both of whom represented new organizations within the alliance. Both new members joined as a result of recruitment efforts at the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools 7th Annual Conference in Baton Rouge, on October 21, 2014.

In December, alliance members met at Edward Hynes Charter School to discuss the ongoing Key Indicator study, the proposed Special Education Longitudinal Enrollment study, the Louisiana Charter Schools Data Inventory, and emerging technical assistance activities in various areas of need, such as the Common Core State Standards, Common Core assessments, and English learners in New Orleans charter schools. In addition, members learned about improving language instruction for English learners.

In February 2015, the alliance's quarterly meeting in New Orleans featured a workshop on the new Common Core assessments. More than 50 educators attended, including the director of the charter school division at the Louisiana Department of Education, who reiterated the department's commitment to its partnership with REL Southwest.

2014

October

REL Southwest staff continue to develop content for a whole-group alliance meeting in November 2014. This meeting will review the alliance's year 2 projects and activities, and plan for accomplishing priority items on the research agenda for year 3.

On October 21, 2014, REL Southwest hosted a booth at the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools 7th Annual Conference in Baton Rouge. The Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance liaison and researcher disseminated information about the REL Southwest and the alliance at this event in an effort to recruit new members.

Research staff finalized the Louisiana Charter Schools Data Inventory, which was approved by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) on October 30, 2014. In addition, the research team on the Louisiana Charter Schools Key Indicator study continued preparing data for analysis.

August–September

REL Southwest staff is planning and developing content for a whole-group alliance meeting in November. This meeting will reflect on the alliance's year 2 projects and activities, and discuss ideas and plans for accomplishing priority items on the research agenda for year 3.

In an effort to recruit alliance members, REL Southwest staff is preparing to serve as a conference exhibitor at the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools 7th Annual Conference on October 21, 2014, in Baton Rouge. REL Program and REL Southwest information will be disseminated to conference participants.

Research staff continued to revise the Louisiana Charter Schools Data Inventory. In addition, the team received IRB clearance in September for the Louisiana Charter Schools Indicator Study and has begun preparing data for analysis.

July

A small group of available alliance members held a short work session in July to review and respond to the alliance's research agenda, which had been developed over time through facilitated full-alliance activities. The members also discussed proposed ideas for potential year 3 alliance research projects and provided feedback to guide the refinement of the ideas. The project ideas will be submitted to the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) for approval.

REL Southwest staff continued to refine the Louisiana Data Inventory. The final proposal for the Louisiana Key Indicators of Charter Schools study was approved, and the team has applied for IRB clearance before moving forward on data analysis.

June

Activities during June focused on engagement and maintenance to sustain the work of the research alliance. Face-to-face outreach activities were conducted with various members in small groups to accomplish the following:

  • Collect needs-sensing information about emerging needs of alliance members
  • Discuss alliance members' analytic technical support on previously identified needs
  • Obtain members' input on ideas and plans for the third-quarter alliance activities
  • Gather feedback about proposed year 3 analytic technical support projects and applied research studies
  • Recruit members to volunteer to serve in leadership roles in the alliance

The site visits and subsequent follow-up conversations yielded important information regarding alliance leadership, the nature of the support needed, and next steps.

In addition, researchers continued to revise the Louisiana Data Inventory for the alliance and to refine the proposal for the Louisiana Key Indicators of Charter Schools study.

May

On May 6, 2014, the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance held its quarterly meeting via webinar. The meeting served as Part II of the alliance’s Spotlight on Special Education series, focused on charter schools and special education. The keynote presenter was Dr. Patrick Wolf, REL Southwest researcher. Dr. Wolf’s presentation illuminated what the empirical literature suggests nationally about school choice and charter schooling opportunities, challenges, and best practices. He connected his presentation with the special education best practices shared on March 24 during Part I of the Spotlight on Special Education series. The webinar was attended by a number of alliance members and invited teachers, professors, and other personnel from their organizations.

During the month, the alliance liaison also conducted small group meetings and face-to-face site visits with alliance members and stakeholders. The goal of the site visits was to discuss exemplary practices associated with alliance members’ organizations and to respond to alliance members’ requests for analytic technical support. The site visits and subsequent follow-up conversations have yielded important information regarding the nature of the support the alliance needs to move forward.

REL Southwest researchers continued to work with the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to refine the proposal for the Louisiana Key Indicators of Charter Schools study.

April

During April, the alliance liaison conducted several small group meetings and two site visits with alliance members and stakeholders. The small group meetings focused on topics and subtopics that surfaced during research agenda-building activities. These meetings precipitated the site visits. The goal of the first site visit was to learn more about a charter school's implementation of an exemplary process that school leaders, teachers, and other staff are using when making prevention and intervention decisions to address students' social-emotional learning (SEL) needs. SEL is a priority subtopic that alliance members have identified during conversations about factors affecting student achievement. SEL strategies being implemented at the school that was visited will be shared with other members in the alliance's first e-newsletter, which will be disseminated in May. Also, SEL best practices will be the focus of an upcoming alliance quarterly meeting.

The goal of the second site visit was to discuss an exemplary and nationally recognized program in special education. Special education and educator preparation are also high-priority topics for the alliance. The site visit and subsequent follow-up meetings have yielded ideas for a potential analytic technical support project around data and educator preparation.

In addition, REL Southwest staff continued to revise the proposal for the Louisiana Key Indicators of Charter Schools study to address feedback from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The revised proposal will be submitted to IES in May 2014.

March

The alliance met on March 24 for Part I of the Spotlight on Special Education series. The meeting was hosted by the chief academic officer of New Beginnings Schools Foundation and took place at the Lake Area New Tech Early College High School. The goal was to explore best practices for preparing and supporting education leaders and teachers to work more effectively in the area of special education. The topic for the panel session grew out of an interactive year 2 planning meeting held in February.

The panel consisted of two alliance members and two designees—alliance members represented Xavier University of Louisiana and Lusher Charter School (Lower School); designees represented the University of New Orleans and All Ways Learning Counseling. The panelists shared special education best practices from varying perspectives, including a nontraditional inclusive approach to preparing teachers/school leaders, parental and educator perspectives regarding furthering student success, and a team-based approach to meeting students’ needs (with team broadly conceptualized to include students, parents, teachers, leaders, and other personnel). Alliance members and panelists also shared additional strategies and routines that are working; flags that signal the need for further investigation, support, or screening; and resources for refining the work being done within the organizations represented in our alliance.

Part II of the Spotlight on Special Education series will take place in the form of a webinar in May 2014. The webinar will feature research on special education and charter schools presented by a professor and the 21st Century Endowed Chair in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

In addition, REL Southwest staff submitted a proposal for the Louisiana Key Indicators of Charter Schools study.

February

The Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance held its quarterly meeting on February 10. The meeting was hosted by the principal/CEO of Hynes Charter School and convened in the school’s state-of-the-art computer laboratory. The goals of the meeting were to share updates on the alliance’s “in progress” research agenda and to involve the alliance members in planning year 2 analytic technical support activities.

A REL Southwest researcher shared that the superintendent of Louisiana Public Schools will support the alliance’s data acquisition efforts for the proposed Key Indicators of Charter Schools research study. Pending approval by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), this study will examine promising operational, organizational, and instructional features of charter schools. Next, REL Southwest researchers presented a draft of the alliance’s research agenda. The draft was used to inform an interactive planning session, which yielded a range of ideas for improving student achievement through professional learning experiences for alliance members. These professional learning experiences will showcase the best practices of practitioners (internal and external to the alliance) and be guided by the work of researchers who are experts in the field.

January

In lieu of the monthly meeting of the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance, several small meetings with alliance members and other key stakeholders took place during January. These stakeholders included members of the Eastbank Collaborative of Charter Schools, the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans (ERA-NO), the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (LAPCS), the National Charter Schools Institute (NCSI), and the University of Eastern Michigan Charter Schools Office. A number of possibilities for furthering the work of the alliance grew out of these meetings. One big win was the addition of LAPCS representation to the alliance’s membership. Welcome, LAPCS! Another big win was an agreement between the Louisiana Charter Schools Research Alliance and the ERA-NO to keep the lines of communication open to ensure efficiency and avoid redundancy in supporting the education community through research. Finally, these meetings yielded future opportunities for information sharing regarding charter school authorization, policy, best practices, and research.