Charter school outperforms neighbors

Glencoe Charter School in western St. Mary Parish is outperforming its neighboring public schools, but has a lower percentage of disadvantaged children.
Charter schools in Louisiana typically serve significantly higher percentages of minority or economically disadvantaged students, while across the nation, charter schools typically have similar demographics to their public school counterparts, Veronica Brooks, policy director for the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, said.
The comparison between Glencoe and others comes from state-issued school report cards for Raintree Elementary, B. Edward Boudreaux and West St. Mary High, the nearest public schools to Glencoe.
Glencoe has 372 students enrolled with 9 percent of them being special education students and 71 percent receiving free and reduced lunch, a benchmark the state uses to define underprivileged children. The school received a B on its report card.
Raintree has 584 students, 19 percent special education, 89 percent free and reduced lunch and received a D.
B. Edward Boudreaux has 244 students, 14 percent special education and 91 percent free and reduced lunch. It received a C on its report card, but was considered a Top Gains school, indicating it made significant growth from one year to the next.
West St. Mary High School, while not serving the same population as the kindergarten through eighth grade charter school, has 419 students, 15 percent special education, 81 percent free and reduced lunch and made a D on its report card.
Charter schools are independent public schools that are allowed to be more innovative and are held accountable for student achievement, according to Brooks.
“By all accounts, people underestimate them and the good work they’re doing. It’s a shame,” Brooks said of Glencoe Charter School.
Glencoe Charter School, the only charter school in St. Mary Parish, is a member of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools which seeks to dispel myths about charter schools as well as advocate for and support their member schools.
A Type II school, meaning its charter is through the state school board, Glencoe received a School Performance Score of B for the 2012-13 school year.
The St. Mary Parish charter school is one of the oldest in the state, according to the association’s policy director Veronica Brooks.
She noted a recent Stanford Center for Research on Education Outcomes that indicated Louisiana’s charter school students, specifically low-income black students, on average learn more in a year than their district school counterparts. The result, according to the study, amounts to about 50 more days of learning in reading and 65 more in math for charter school students annually.
As of the 2012-13 school year, there were 105 charter schools throughout Louisiana. The majority of those schools were in New Orleans, a city that leads the nation in the percentage of public school students in charter schools at approximately 78 percent, Brooks said.
Charter schools are public schools that are free and open to any student, regardless of district lines.
Like all public schools in Louisiana, charter schools receive state funds as part of the Minimum Foundation Program, the state’s funding mechanism for schools.
Brooks said a common misconception is that charter schools take money away from public schools in the same parish. However, she said, the money follows the student, so it is no different than the same student moving to another parish. 
The money to fund his public education would follow him from one parish to another.
As for state vouchers to attend private and parochial schools, Brooks said charter schools are not seeing a huge effect overall. While some families decide to go that route rather than staying in public or charter schools, most do not leave the charter school setting once there, she said.

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