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Charter operators opening Baton Rouge schools in 2018 make ‘Washington Post’ ranking of most challenging high schools

Eight of the 10 schools on The Washington Post’s 2017 list of most challenging high schools in the U.S. are charter schools operated by BASIS or IDEA, both of which will be opening schools in Baton Rouge in the fall of 2018.

BASIS—which had three schools on the list, including the No. 1 ranked BASIS Phoenix—plans to open a K-6 elementary school on the Woman’s Hospital campus in 2018, adding one grade each year until it accommodates K-12 students. The Arizona-based charter network also plans to eventually open a second school in north Baton Rouge.

IDEA—which had five schools on the list, mostly in low-income, south Texas communities—will open two Baton Rouge schools in 2018, one in the north part of the city and one in the southern part. Both will start by taking on K-2 grades, and also plan to add a grade each year until they are K-12 schools.

Having two nationally recognized charter organizations operating schools in the local market will be an asset for parents, students and the community as a whole, say local education and civic leaders.

“For families and students, this will create access to some of the country’s and world’s most successful schools—all tuition free,” says Chris Meyer, president of New Schools of Baton Rouge, which was created by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation in 2012 to bring top-quality charter organizations to underserved areas. “For educators, it will provide new opportunities to join teams that may better fit their personal mission. For the community, it will give us a chance to rethink the way education is offered in our city and how other organizations and institutions can partner with schools to ensure students have the support they need to thrive.”

It will also be a boost for economic development efforts. Potential employers want quality schools for their employees and their families, says Baton Rouge Area Chamber President and CEO Adam Knapp.

“This is significant for a couple of reasons,” he says. “First, these operators have chosen Baton Rouge for multiple schools, not just one each, but for a multi-school set of choices for families each. Second, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and leadership team chose to approve and authorize these charter schools to open here … which speaks volumes to a change in attitude by the board and system toward new, high quality options.”

While both operators have proven track records of success, there’s no guarantee local BASIS and IDEA schools will perform as well as others around the country. But Meyer is confident they will.

“That is exactly our expectation,” he says. “The Baton Rouge schools for BASIS, IDEA and other organizations we have supported should be on that and every other notable ranking. We ultimately want every kid in Baton Rouge to have access to a high-performing school.”

—Stephanie Riegel

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