LAUSD Charter Schools Outperform District Average

September 19, 2013

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Charter schools located in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are among not only the highest-performing charter schools in the state, but all public schools, according to the most recent academic performance results released by the California State Department of Education (CDE). The Academic Performance Index (API) is California's primary accountability metric for schools, with the statewide goal for all schools set at 800 on the state's 1,000 point scale.

On average, autonomous charter schools in LAUSD outperform LAUSD traditional public schools, averaging a 782 API to the district's 761.


This analysis includes 186 autonomous charter public schools located within the boundaries of LAUSD as of the 2012-13 school year. CCSA's Research and Evaluation team divided the schools by grade-level for a more accurate comparison and also looked at how various subgroups performed compared to the district average. The results below are for autonomous charter schools - see a more detailed explanation below about school autonomy. Non-autonomous schools (district-dependent schools with much less autonomy over personnel, governance or finances) were excluded from this analysis because they are substantially different than the majority of Los Angeles charter schools.

This analysis included all schools physically located within the school district boundaries (including those authorized by county offices of education or the State Board of Education). This excludes schools operating under the Alternative Schools Accountability Model (ASAM) and special education centers.


The average APIs for each group of schools are:

Elementary Schools

  • Charter schools (n=77): 831
  • Traditional LAUSD schools (n=456): 789

Middle Schools

  • Charter schools (n=47): 768
  • Traditional LAUSD schools (n=83): 730

High Schools

  • Charter schools (n=62): 732
  • Traditional LAUSD schools (n=123): 678

Subgroup Breakdown

On average, charter schools outperform the district average for these student subgroups:

  • +27 API points - Latino
  • +20 - Socioeconomically disadvantaged
  • +18 - English Learners
  • +9 - African American

School Transformation

Charter schools are partners with LAUSD in expanding high-quality options and, in some cases, in helping turn around struggling schools.

Last year, Fenton Avenue, a successful charter school conversion, took over management of a low-performing charter school, Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School in Hollywood, applying their experience and knowledge. Staff are tremendously excited to see that the many changes made are paying off. The school's API went up 65 points in one year, hitting 808, above the statewide goal.

Green Dot Public Schools has been particularly focused on this area, working on school transformations at former LAUSD schools: Locke High School, Henry Clay Middle School and Jefferson High School. Some highlights from Green Dot's press release:

Ánimo College Prep Academy (which took over half of the campus of Jefferson High School two years ago) gained 111 points, for a two-year gain of 122 points. The Locke Family of Schools continues to show steady improvement since its transformation into a Green Dot school, increasing its API score by 18 points this year for a total of 96 points over the past five years.

Ánimo Phillis Wheatley and Ánimo Western Charter Middle Schools at the Henry Clay Learning Complex are up 35 points from the previous year for a total gain of 109 from Clay's API before Green Dot began operation of the former Henry Clay Middle School through the Public School Choice initiative.

School Autonomy

CCSA divides charter schools into three categories based on autonomy: autonomous, semi-autonomous and non-autonomous. Over the past few years, several dozen LAUSD schools have converted into "affiliated charter schools," which are unique to LAUSD. In this analysis, these schools are categorized as non-autonomous and excluded from the comparisons above. This is a distinct group of 39 elementary schools and four middle schools, primarily located in the West Valley. All were generally high-performing before converting and continued to post strong results after converting into affiliated charter schools. We excluded them from the district comparison because we felt our analysis better reflects the intent of the charter school movement - to offer schools flexibility and autonomy in exchange for high levels of accountability. Including non-autonomous charters in LAUSD would increase the API delta between charters and traditional public schools.

The average API scores for non-autonomous and semi-autonomous charter schools is 892 (n=47). The break-down by grade-level is:

  • Elementary: 900
  • Middle School: 883
  • High School: 801

Definitions of Autonomy

Autonomous charters appoint their board of directors, do not use the local school district's collective bargaining agreement, are directly funded and are likely to be incorporated as a 501(c)3.

Non-autonomous charters either have the majority of their board appointed by their authorizer or are under a school district's collective bargaining agreement, are indirectly funded, and are not incorporated as a 501(c)3.

Semi-autonomous charters appoint their own board and is incorporated as a 501(c)3. In addition to these characteristics, a semi-autonomous charter school either uses their authorizing district's collective bargaining agreement and is directly funded or is indirectly funded and does not use the district's collective bargaining agreement.

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