Apr 27, 2012

BATON ROUGE, La. - Today, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) released the 2012 Call for Quality Schools, the annual Request for Applications (RFA) for groups seeking authorization to open state sanctioned charter schools. Each year, theBoard of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), through the LDOE, accepts applications from nonprofit groups to operate Type 2, Type 4, and Type 5 Charter Schools. The LDOE is calling for proposals from educators seeking to launch new high-performing charter schools in high priority, high need areas throughout the state, including Baton Rouge, Northwest Louisiana, Jefferson Parish, New Orleans, and Central and North Central Louisiana. Successful applicants proposing to establish schools in these regions will be given priority in the allocation of any available facilities and will be eligible to receive incubation funding up to $200,000 per-school for the first three years of operation.

"Through this Call for Quality Schools, our intention is to identify and provide support so that great educators, both here in Louisiana and beyond, are empowered to establish schools of excellence where they are needed most and accelerate the growth of high-performing schools statewide," State Superintendent of Education John White said. "This process will not only give tens of thousands of students and families an option they otherwise wouldn’t have, but it provides our educators with the opportunity to start and work in a school where they can shape the learning environment of their students. And it gives communities an actionable course to fully invest in meeting the unique educational needs of their children and families."  

Louisiana’s charter school policies have garnered national praise. Even more pertinent to students and families trapped in chronically failing schools, these policies are resulting in significant academic growth. Specifically, based on growth in School Performance Scores from 2010 to 2011, the average growth of charter schools, 6.3 points, was three times the average growth for all schools, 2.01 points. Studies have consistently linked the success of charter schools to the accountability standards imposed by charter authorizers, and in particular the approval process.

While charter schools in Louisiana are established by a variety of groups, including businesses, non-profits, parent groups, education groups, and others, charter applicants must include no fewer than three certified teachers on their governing boards. Also, all charter schools must be governed by a local board.

In fact, earlier this month, with expressed intent of allowing local communities to play a bigger role in the charter school approval process, Governor Bobby Jindal signed into law Act 2. While current law limits charter school approval to the BESE and local school boards, the new statute, which goes into effect August 1, will allow the BESE to approve non-profit organizations, universities and community groups as local charter authorizers, provided they meet certain requirements. The law also requires all authorizers, including local school boards, to use the same timeline, standards and application as the BESE.

And just last week, based on recommendations from the New Orleans Charter Application Task Force, BESE adopted nearly two dozen substantive changes to the charter authorization process, with the aim of encouraging and ensuring the successful participation of local community groups seeking BESE authorization.

"These changes will only strengthen what’s already a solid process, as evidenced by the success of our charter schools," BESE President Penny Dastugue said. "While the new process is designed to be more transparent and provide clear direction so all groups are informed and empowered to submit successful applications, these changes in no way compromise the high standards we’ve set for the approval and renewal of charter schools in this state."

Commissioned by Recovery School District (RSD) Superintendent Patrick Dobard in February, the 16-member Charter Application Task Force was made up of representatives from diverse stakeholder groups across New Orleans, including former charter school applicants, current charter school operators, and members of non-profit community organizations. The group, working in collaboration with the RSD and the LDOE’s Office of Parental Options, developed recommendations to modify the: 1) application submission and review timeline; 2) reviewer selection process; 3) interview process; 4) evaluation rubric; and 5) assistance and feedback provided to applicants throughout the process. While BESE adopted the complete set of recommendations from the Task Force, the Board approved the following distinct changes, which are also represented in the application released today:

  • The LDOE will arrange a study guide for review teams and conduct sessions to better outline and explain the Louisiana charter school process to applicants;
  • Local residents will be eligible to serve as members of charter review teams or nominate others to serve as reviewers;
  • At least one local reviewer will be included on each review team; and
  • After a review team makes a recommendation, applicants will have the chance to respond and submit additional information to the LDOE before a final recommendation is made to the BESE.   

Also, the RFA released by the Department today reflects the following Act 2 provisions:

  •  Charter applicants proposing to operate a charter school in a local school district with a D or F letter grade may apply directly to the BESE.  (Previously, only groups that had been denied a charter by their local school system qualified for BESE approval.)
  • Charter applicants proposing to operate a charter school in a local school district that has failed to comply with charter school application and evaluation laws and policies may also apply directly to the BESE.
  • BESE, through the LDOE, will actively recruit charter organizations to offer a program of study that effectively addresses regional workforce needs, such as Career and Technical Education, Industry-Based Certifications, and vocational course work.

The deadline to submit applications for the 2012 Call for Quality Schools is July 31, 2012. The timetable for charter school applicants is summarized below.

2012 Application, Submission, and Evaluation Timeline


April 27 Release Charter School Request for Application
May - July Information Sessions and Support Workshops for Applicants
June 1 Letter of Intent Due
July 31 Deadline for Mandatory Eligibility Review Documentation
July 31 Charter Applications Due 
August 8 Applicants Notified of Eligibility
August 10 - September 9 Application Evaluation, to include Due Diligence Review, Site Visits (if applicable)
September 17 Opportunity for Applicants to Submit Additional Information
September 24-25 Applicant Interviews
October 9 Draft Recommendations Released 
October 23 Applicant Opportunity to Respond to Draft Due
December 5 BESE Approves New Charters

For more information regarding the 2012 Call for Quality Schools RFA, please click here.  To access the 2012 Call for Quality Schools RFA for Type 2, 4 and 5 charter schools, please click here

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  • Charter schools are publicly-funded, independently-operated public schools and do not charge tuition or fees.
  • Charter schools are authorized by the Board of Elementary of Secondary Education (BESE) or a local school board for a five-year period, subject to a three-year review.
  •  Charter schools are open to all students who wish to attend and cannot discriminate when making enrollment decisions.
  • While charter schools are not forced to enroll students based on an attendance zone, the student population of a charter school must reflect the at-risk population in the district where the school is located.
  • In Louisiana, there are five types of charter schools:
    • Type 1:  New start-up school authorized by local school board
    • Type 2:  New start-up or conversion authorized by BESE
    • Type 3:  Conversion of existing school authorized by local school board
    • Type 4:  New start-up or conversion operated as a result of charter between a local school board and BESE
    • Type 5:  School transferred to the jurisdiction of the Recovery School District and authorized by BESE
  • Charter schools are required to participate in the state’s accountability program, including high stakes testing.  Likewise, while charter schools are free to use a wide variety of educational resources and are not required to use state-approved textbooks, charters are required to meet minimum standards of instructional time, as mandated by state law.  However, the length of the day and year may vary from one school to another school.
  • In addition to meeting the qualification requirements of instructional faculty set forth by No Child Left Behind, Louisiana’s Charter School Law mandates at least 75 percent of the instructional faculty of Type 1, 2, 3 and 4 charter schools to be composed of teachers certified by BESE or the French Ministry of Education.  The makeup of certified teachers in Type 5 charter schools must reflect the school district from which the school was transferred.
  • Statewide, the student enrollment in charter schools has more than doubled over the last four years. The number of charter schools has grown from 52 schools with a total enrollment of about 21,000 students in 2007 to 98 schools enrolling about 44,000 students in 2011.
  • In New Orleans, where charter enrollment accounted for only 1.5 percent of the city’s student population in 2005, 77 percent of students now attend charter schools.  And based on schools in the city receiving School Performance Scores in either year, the number of schools earning a School Performance Score below 65 has declined from 69 percent in 2005 to 29 percent in 2011. And the percentage of New Orleans students attending these Academically Unacceptable Schools has dropped from nearly seven out of 10, or 69 percent, in 2005, to about 24 percent in 2011.

A 2009 study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) revealed, with the exception of year one, the growth demonstrated by charter school students in reading and math outpaces that of students in traditional schools across the state. The study also found that Louisiana’s at-risk and minority students in charter schools achieve higher overall gains than traditional public school students. Specifically, black and Hispanic children made significantly higher gains in reading and math than their peers in Louisiana’s traditional public schools.