The Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) named Dr. Soner Tarim the Leader of the Year and Ms. Brooke Lucero the Teacher of the Year at the 2017 Texas Charter Schools Conference last week. TCSA’s Chris Busse presented the awards to Dr. Tarim and Ms. Lucero at a luncheon with Education Commissioner Mike Morath, and discussed their contributions benefitting students and the charter school sector in Texas.

TCSA’s Leader of the Year Program
This award honors one outstanding charter leader from across the State of Texas. As the second recipient of the award for Leader of the Year, Dr. Soner Tarim received a complimentary registration to the conference, a plaque, and a cash award of $1000. The award recognizes charter leaders that advocate for charters at the state and national level, have successfully replicated high performing charters that are innovative in their approaches to educating all students, and serve as a mentor to other charter leaders.

Dr. Soner Tarim is the Founder and CEO of Harmony Public Schools and he has been an educational advocate for more than 30 years, encouraging students in underserved communities to pursue learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. He is a driving force for STEM education throughout Texas and the United States. He brings decades of experience developing innovative educational programs for K-12 schools to Harmony, which has garnered state and national recognition for its high academic standards. Harmony was a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2017. The Broad Prize for Urban Education recognizes school districts in urban areas for closing the achievement gap by improving academic performance of low-income and minority students.

Under Dr. Soner Tarim's headship, Harmony has earned the reputation as one of the best charter schools in the country, many of its campuses recognized on prestigious high school rankings, such as News & World Report and Children @ Risk. These successes have only increased Harmony’s demand with 55 campuses scheduled to open in the 2017-18 school year in Texas and Washington D.C., educating close to 36,000 students.

Dr. Tarim holds a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University and is a trained biologist and ecologist. He taught courses in biology, ecology, general science, and physical education at the high school, college and graduate-school levels, and spearheaded scientific symposiums and international science Olympiads, such as the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project – or ISWEEEP -- which attracts more than 600 top-ranking high school students from more than 60 nations.

Dr. Tarim continuously works toward building meaningful partnerships, maintaining effective communications and positive relationships with high-level corporate and civic leaders to advance high-quality, rigorous education throughout the state and nation.

TCSA’s Teacher of the Year program
This is the second year for TCSA’s Teacher of the Year program which honors one outstanding educator from across the State of Texas. As the recipient of the award for Teacher of the Year, Ms. Brooke Lucero received a complimentary registration to the conference, a plaque, and a cash award of $1000. The award recognizes charter educators that advocate for charters at the local level, are innovative in their approaches to educating all students, and serve as a leader on their campus and within their communities.

Brooke Lucero is a special education teacher at the Great Hearts Northern Oaks campus, and has 10 years of classroom experience. She inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn. Ms. Lucero uses Socratic Seminar, knowledge of different learning styles, strategies, accommodations and modifications, knowledge of behavior analysis as well as multiple positive behavior supports and systems to work with the special education students she teaches. Great Hearts is passionately committed to cultivating the hearts and minds of students through the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty.

TCSA is proud that Texas’ very own Harmony Public Schools is receiving national recognition for providing outstanding public education to students. Earlier this week, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools announced Harmony Public Schools as a finalist for the 2017 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. In addition to Harmony, DSST Public Schools in Denver, and Success Academy Charter Schools in New York were also named as 2017 Broad Prize Finalists.

The winner of the 2017 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools will receive $250,000 and will be announced at the National Charter School Conference in Washington, D.C. on June 12. The winner is selected for demonstrating outstanding academic outcomes, especially among low-income students and students of color.

Harmony Public Schools is the second-largest charter management organization in the country, currently serving about 32,000 K-12 students in a system of 48 college-preparatory STEM campuses throughout the state. This includes locations in Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Bryan-College Station, Dallas-Ft. Worth, El Paso, Houston, Laredo, Lubbock, Odessa, San Antonio, and Waco.

A 10-member review board of national education experts reviewed publicly available student performance and college-readiness data for 39 of the country’s largest public CMOs and found that Harmony, DSST, and Success had the best overall academic performance, college readiness and progress closing achievement gaps. The review board considered student outcomes, college readiness indicators, scalability, size, poverty, and demographics.

Previous Texas winners of the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools include IDEA Public Schools in 2016, KIPP Schools in 2014, and YES Prep Public Schools in 2012.

Please join us in congratulating Harmony Public Schools!

There is significant momentum for charter school facilities funding this legislative session. Earlier this week, Senator Donna Campbell held an event at the Texas Capitol to highlight joint efforts to narrow the funding gap between students at public charter schools and traditional school districts.

Sen. Campbell was joined by state Reps. Harold Dutton, Dwayne Bohac, and Ron Simmons to discuss the importance of providing charter schools with facilities funding through their companion legislation, SB 457 and HB 2337.

Also participating in this event were parents, charter leaders, and advocates from Austin area charters including Harmony Public Schools, IDEA Public Schools, KIPP Public Schools, Not Your Ordinary School (NYOS), Orenda Education, and Rapoport Academy (Waco). These schools, among others from across the state, coordinated a letter writing campaign beginning last fall to encourage families to reach out to their elected officials regarding the need for facilities funding.

Pricilla Cavazos, a parent whose child attends NYOS, shared her personal story on finding a school to best meet the needs of her child and her experience on a waiting list for a charter school. Additionally, Ms. Cavazos told legislators the need for facilities funding and what it would mean for her child to have access to a school library and large hallways in a brick and mortar building (as opposed to a portable classroom).

Larkin Tackett of IDEA Public Schools also delivered remarks describing their student success and tragically, the number of students on a waiting list to attend one of their campuses.

TCSA wants to thank these legislators for hearing the demand of Texas families and responding with filing SB 457 and HB 2337. This is the first time a House bill for charter school facilities funding has been filed by a set of joint authors representing both bipartisan and geographic diversity. This effort is led by legislators representing Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Houston, and the Rio Grande Valley, where a majority of charter schools educate students.

We also want to thank the families from across the state who wrote letters to their elected officials advocating for public charter schools. Many of these letters were delivered to legislative offices later in the afternoon.

Click here to watch the full event in its entirety. (not compatible with Chrome).

Texas is home to innovative technology, energy, manufacturing and healthcare industries impacting millions of people across the globe. The freedom and passion in which our professionals pursue excellence results in the most cutting-edge advancements across America’s key industries in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). In an effort to ensure we maintain this lead, Texas schools have become increasingly more focused on providing high-quality education in STEM as we race to prepare our students to meet the demands of our society.

Harmony Public Schools, Texas’ largest charter school network with 48 high-performing campuses and 32,000 students, leads this effort, striving to give our students, most of whom are from traditionally underserved areas, an education which helps launch them to top-tier colleges and universities, and clinch careers with lucrative STEM companies across the nation.

As part of this mission, Harmony hosts an international science competition each year. International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Projects – or ISWEEEP -- attracts the brightest STEM students in the world to Houston. This four-day event draws nearly 400 international students whose research or inventions dramatically impact the energy, engineering or environment sectors. Research is judged by more than 300 leading industry professionals across Texas, including experts from Rice University, ExxonMobil, and MD Anderson Cancer Center.

ISWEEEP impacts thousands of students across the globe. Whether through supporting their innovative research, providing them access to current industry leaders, or inspiring them during a field trip, participation in ISWEEEP encourages budding scientists to reimagine the world around them.

This year, ISWEEEP will host a Public Day to inspire Texas students from around the state. Students will see dynamic and innovative science exhibits that strive to address, and in many cases solve, the most pressing needs of our future. Public Day kicks off at 9 a.m. Friday, May 5, and features explosive performances from the Texas A&M Chemistry Road Show, interactive robotics displays, and solar car races. Students will be given “passports” to use throughout the event which they will have stamped at exhibits from around the world. Educational vendors will be available to provide valuable information for teachers looking to strengthen their STEM education skills.

There are multiple ways schools can become partners in this exciting program to ensure ISWEEEP’s 10th year is the best year yet! First, teachers can encourage their students to begin their innovative research now to submit for our 2018 competition. Teachers and administrators can register to be a judge for this year’s competition, providing valuable and quality feedback for student projects. Finally, administrators can make it possible to bring students to view the exhibits for future inspiration.

Become a partner in Texas’ future by spreading the word about this amazing event and coming to Public Day to support these brilliant students in their work.

For more information on how to participate, please visit ISWEEEP. Make sure to reserve your spot today!

The Texas Charter Schools Association is thrilled to recognize a Harmony School of Innovation-Fort Worth senior, Miguel Padilla, for earning a perfect score on the Advanced Placement Computer Science Test-A. Padilla is one of only 10 students to earn a perfect score on this exam out of nearly 60,000 students who took it worldwide.

Advanced Placement (AP) tests are administered by the College Board and allow high school students to earn college credit if they make a certain score.


Padilla has been a Harmony student since the fourth grade and attributes his success to his computer science teacher Angela Garcia. He framed a copy of his perfect score and gave it to Garcia as a gift to thank her.


Recently, the Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price declared November 8th as “Miguel Padilla Day” at a special ceremony at Fort Worth’s City Hall. Padilla received a proclamation signed by Mayor Price for his achievement.  State Board of Education member Pat Hardy also plans to formally honor Padilla in February along with Representatives Romero and Goldman.

Padilla’s goal is to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one day work for Google. On behalf of the TCSA, we congratulate Miguel Padilla and wish him great success in his future!

Texas Charter Schools Association’s (TCSA) Executive Director David Dunn delivered remarks at the recent graduation ceremony for the Harmony School of Excellence in Austin. Commencement activities took place at the extension auditorium in the Texas Capitol on May 28, 2016.

The auditorium was full of enthusiastic family and friends in support of the 38 graduates participating in the ceremony. Each one of the graduates has plans to continue their postsecondary education and many will attend universities in-state including Baylor University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas at Austin.

“The comradery of this class is evident. One of the benefits of attending a public charter school is that the students are often very close-knit and everyone knows each other,” said Dunn.

Dunn (2)

Dunn addressed the graduates and those in attendance by reflecting on the opportunities his own education has afforded him. As the first in his family to attend college, he discussed how completing college and graduate school led to his professional experiences which include serving at Texas Association of School Boards, the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and currently at TCSA. He also spoke of those who inspire him and told the class of 2016 he looks forward to their contributions.

Additionally, Principal Dogan, the class salutatorian and valedictorian gave remarks as part of the commencement activities. After the awarding of diplomas, the graduation ended with the school song and a video. The third graduation for the Harmony School of Excellence was a great success.

TCSA congratulates the graduates and their families.

The following response appeared on the Huffington Post's blog on April 1, 2016.  

TCSA’s Response to Killing Ed: The Film That Texas Doesn’t Want You to See

Note: In 2013, the director of this documentary contacted my office requesting an interview regarding education reform. Taking every opportunity to discuss the necessity for charter schools, I agreed. During the interview, the director turned to a line of questions not strictly pertaining to education. I find this approach disingenuous and misleading. I do not support this documentary even though the director used footage from the interview with me.

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” is a phrase you sometimes hear in Texas. Anna Clark’s blog goes too far and takes direct aim at public charter schools in Texas with broad generalities and unfounded charges. I have spent my career in education policy and find it incumbent to address the factual inaccuracies concerning charter schools and education presented in Ms. Clark’s blog.

Ms. Clark finds it unconscionable that Texans “look the other way as funds are diverted from our public education system, which is subject to locally-elected oversight and regulations to protect the public interest, in order to finance charter schools that further sub-par education…”

I find not completing your homework sub-par, particularly when dealing with education in Texas. Here are some facts to consider: Charter schools are public, tuition-free, open-enrollment, and innovative while held to strict financial and academic accountability standards. More specifically, charter schools must submit annual financial audits conducted by independent auditors to the Texas Education Agency and comply with federal financial standards. Further, Texas’ accountability system is more rigorous for charter schools than their traditional school district counterparts, shutting down charter schools that fail to meet state financial and academic standards for three consecutive years.

Based on Ms. Clark’s blog, she would have you believe that teachers at charter schools are not fit. Currently, teachers at public charter schools must be highly qualified, have a Bachelor’s degree, and provide notice to parents of each teacher’s qualifications. Additionally, teacher certification is required for special education and bilingual education.

Ms. Clark also cites that she sends her children to Catholic school, and I am glad she has this option. However, not everyone has the option to pay for private school--particularly the underserved populations that typically make up the student populations at charter schools. By and large, Texas public charter schools have higher proportions of economically disadvantaged, African American, and/or Hispanic, student populations, which are thriving as evidenced by student outcomes.

This is particularly the case at the campuses featured in Ms. Clark’s blog and in the documentary. TCSA has had a strong working relationship with Harmony Public Schools for more than a decade and we support their mission to educate students and stand behind their record of academic performance focusing on college preparation and STEM areas. It is clear by their success that parents want their children to attend a Harmony campus which is why they also have the largest waiting list in Texas. Another fact to consider—Harmony Public Schools graduate hundreds of high schools students who are often the first in their family to attend college. Even in Texas, this is no tall tale.

We support providing parents with options in public education to best serve the needs of their child. Public charter schools serve nearly 228,000 students at 613 campuses across Texas. Additionally, there are nearly 130,000 students on waiting lists to attend a public charter school in Texas because the demand outpaces available seats. Parents elect to send their children to charter schools; no one coerces them and that’s just the facts, M’am.