New Orleans’ Charter Groups Receive $2.3M Federal Grant

Three charter school groups in New Orleans, which already administer more than two-thirds of the city’s schools, have won $2.3 million worth of federal grant money to assist in the cost-intensive process of adding a new campus or taking over of schools in the next year.

The grant, which is given by non-profit group New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), is the first round of grants, known as i3 awards that will go out over five years totaling $28 million, plus $5.6 million in matching funds from private donors. The three charter groups have been selected in-line with the state’s continuing process of turning over traditionally-run schools to independent non-profits.

Two of the benefiting charter groups, FirstLine Schools and Crescent City Schools, will use the federal grant award to pay for the huge costs of improving existing schools that are under performing. Meanwhile, KIPP New Orleans Schools has already received the approval from the state to start up two new primary schools in the city starting one grade at a time.

According to NSNO’s chief strategy officer, Neeray Kingsland, the organization has been prioritizing the funding slots for groups that have recognized track records.

“We’ve being very, very rigorous with new operators. We’re not taking a lot of risk here,” Kingsland said.

In addition, NSNO adds that the three beneficiaries were considered following the intense interviews and evaluations conducted on all applying charter groups in the state. KIPP and FirstLine, for instance, have been evaluated based on test scores gathered from existing schools. Through the help of Standford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO, results were gathered to scrutinize the schools and charters are improving results the fastest. Compared with students in schools run directly by the Recovery School District, both KIPP and FirstLine were able to exhibit significant outcomes and improvements on their students’ performances.

In the case of Crescent City, which will take over Harriet Tubman Charter School in Algiers, thorough interviews were carried out on the charter’s group leaders. Likewise, detailed plans in areas such as school design, curriculum, instruction, and leadership experience were reviewed.

Aside from helping school groups to expand, grants awarded by NSNO will also be helpful for new charters, which often start out with just one or a few grades of students. Since the state allots education funding on a per-student basis, grants can assist new schools in covering high fixed costs, such as paying for employees who provide cafeteria service or coordinate special needs programs.

Source: Vanacore, Andrew, The Times-Picayune, March 29, 2011
http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2011/03/three_charter_groups_win_grant.html

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