One of the key changes to the weighted funding formula for schools under HB 3 is the formula used to calculate the bilingual education allotment (BEA), which provides funding to districts and charters for the education of students participating in one of the State’s six English Learner/Limited English Proficiency (EL/LEP) program models.

 Under HB 3, some bilingual programs will receive an additional weight to the basic allotment that some programs will not. Transitional bilingual education programs (like early exit or late-exit) and English as a Second Language programs (like content-based or pull-out) will receive the same 0.1 weight that they received prior to the passage of HB 3. However, dual-language immersion (DLI) programs will receive an additional 0.05 weight, bringing their weight to 0.15. This weight also applies to non-LEP students participating in a dual language immersion two-way program. This increase in funding for DLI was recommended after data indicated that DLI programs are more effective than other language programs.

Additionally, under HB 3, the minimum spending requirement for BEA funds on the provision of bilingual or ESL programs has increased from 52% to 55%, and spending eligibility to meet this requirement has been expanded. TEA will likewise expand its selection of tools and resources to support bilingual education programs. The SBOE will adopt rules on creating an audit report regarding how BEA funds are spent. These rules will ensure that schools comply with the 55% minimum expenditure requirement and report in their annual financial audit.

The Texas Charter Schools Association will update schools on the SBOE rules when they are announced. For further information on the new bilingual education funding weights, click here or email me.

TCSA files Amici Curiae Brief to Texas Supreme Court

On Friday, January 5th, TCSA submitted an Amici Curiae brief in support of the charter school petitioners in the case currently before the Texas Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the revocation procedures for charter revocations under the state’s “three strikes” law enacted by Senate Bill 2 of the 83rd Texas Legislature. Prepared on behalf of TCSA by Tommy Fuller of the Fuller Law Group, TCSA argued in support of the charter petitioners that the Commissioner did not provide the charter holders with any meaningful due process, as required by the Texas Constitution. TCSA highlighted for the high court that not once in the arc from the first negative performance rating to final revocation by the Commissioner and review by SOAH are the charter holders provided meaningful due process.  In particular, TCSA argued that the Court of Appeals erred in finding due process in the revocation procedures, as there is,  is no meaningful opportunity for the charter holder at the performance rating level (the Commissioner limits review to data or calculation errors on behalf of TEA or the Commissioner), and that the review of the Commissioner’s revocation decision by the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) should have included a review of the underlying evidence.  The Texas Supreme Court heard oral argument on the case on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.  The high court could issue a decision at any time, as it does not have any particular deadline by which to issue a decision in the matter. Stay tuned for this very important decision regarding charter school revocations and due process rights!

TCSA Comments on Proposed SB 1882 District-Partnership Rules

On behalf of our members, TCSA recently submitted public comments on the proposed rules concerning district-charter partnerships under Senate Bill 1882 enacted by the 85th Texas Legislature.  TCSA’s main comment regarding the proposed district partnership rules was that the Commissioner does not have the rule-making authority under SB 1882 to impose additional eligibility and performance requirements on partnerships between districts and open-enrollment charter schools. TCSA commented that the purpose and intent of SB 1882 was to incentivize and increase the occurrence of district-charter partnerships. By constraining the flexibility of ISDs and open-enrollment charter schools, the proposed rules will impose greater risk to charter schools considering a district-charter partnership and will likely limit the participation of charter schools in such partnerships. Instead, the Commissioner and TEA should be less prescriptive and create resources, guidance documents, or sample contracts for ISDs and open-enrollment charter schools to develop a partnership that meets their individual needs. Read TCSA’s comments to the Commissioner in full here.

One of the benefits of membership with the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) is representation at the Texas Capitol. On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, TCSA’s Bruce Marchand appeared before the House Public Education Committee to advocate on behalf of public charter schools and students. Below is the testimony he provided to the Committee to support students and public charter schools impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Interim Charge: Recommend any measures needed at the state level to prevent unintended punitive consequences to both students and districts in the state accountability system as a result of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.

Good morning Chairman Huberty and members of the Committee. My name is Bruce Marchand and I am the Director of Charter School Growth and Development of the Texas Charter Schools Association, or TCSA. TCSA represents 172 public charter holders and approximately 675 campuses that educate nearly 300,000 public charter school students.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate today on the discussion related to recommendations on measures needed to prevent unintended punitive consequences in the state accountability system as a result of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. While TCSA is a strong proponent of school accountability, we also recognize that the impact of Harvey on our public schools and students in those regions is unprecedented.

And, while we do not support a complete waiver from the state’s accountability system for this school year, we do encourage a state effort to recognize and make an accommodation in the academic accountability system for those schools and students impacted by Harvey.

Therefore, TCSA’s proposal is to exempt students, who are identified through TEA’s PEIMS crisis codes as students impacted by Harvey and other recent hurricanes, from the school’s district and campus accountability subset for the 2017-18 school year. Again, this is not a recommendation for exemption from testing, but simply the one-year exclusion of these impacted students from a campus and district or charter holder accountability subset.

TEA established PEIMS crisis codes to track students impacted by Harvey (5A-C) and any other hurricanes (06) – such as Irma and Maria to identify these affected students:

5A – This specific code indicates a student was enrolled or was eligible to enroll in an LEA impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and the student enrolled in a different LEA during the 2017-2018 school year.

5B – This specific code indicates a student was enrolled or was eligible to enroll in an LEA impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and the student enrolled in another campus in the same LEA during the 2017-2018 school year.

5C – This specific code indicates a student is identified as homeless because of Hurricane Harvey but has remained enrolled in their home campus during the 2017-2018 school year.

06- Indicates that a student enrolled in a Texas public school during the 2017-2018 school year as a result of being displaced from their residence by Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, or any other hurricane labeled as such by the National Hurricane Center, other than Hurricane Harvey.

As for precedent, in 2006 students who were displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita were tested in the state assessment system but their results were removed from the accountability subset, as noted in Appendix I of the 2006 accountability manual. As justification for this approach, I would refer you to a March 24, 2010 study conducted by Student Assessment Division at TEA that examined the performance of students who were identified in the 2005-2006 school year as being displaced by Hurricane Katrina or “Katrina students”. This study examined the performance of these displaced students for three years and found that in the first year after the storm that Katrina students tested in Texas (2006), the percentages of these students passing was far below the passing percentage of all Texas students in reading and mathematics.

Hurricane Harvey has caused similar conditions for Texas students. The living conditions as well as the educational programs of displaced students due to Harvey have been severely disrupted. Many schools have spent, and continue to spend, considerable resources addressing not only the academic needs of these students but also the socio-emotional needs brought about by students’ suffering and displacement.

In light of these circumstances, and the challenges faced by public schools in ensuring these students are mastering grade-level TEKS, and the evidence as noted in the Katrina study that many of these students may well perform below state standards in their tested areas as compared to their non-affected peers, it is logical that students who are identified by these specific PEIMS codes should be excluded in the 2017-2018 accountability subset for public schools. To be clear, the students would still test. It is important for schools to have the data necessary to assess the progress of students. Our recommendation is simply that testing results of these specific students, similar to what TEA has done in the past, be excluded in this school year’s rating.

With that I conclude my testimony, thank you again for the opportunity, and welcome any questions.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has just posted the RFQ announcing the need for qualified external reviewers to score Generation 23 charter school applications. The application packet can be found here. The deadline to apply is Monday, December 11th.

What is an independent external reviewer of charter applications, and what do they do?

As most of you know, the Texas charter authorization process consists of four major components: external review, a panel interview by TEA staff for applicants who were successful in external review, recommendations for approval of charter applicants by the TEA commissioner, and ratification of those recommendations by the State Board of Education (SBOE), where the proposed contract to charter is upheld or vetoed by the SBOE.

Those individuals selected as independent external reviewers will attend a day of training at TEA, tentatively scheduled for January 10, 2018, where they will be trained in the scoring process. Upon completion of the training, reviewers will be assigned applications to score – usually between 8 and 10, depending on the number of applicants as each application is scored by five reviewers. Typically reviewers will have about 30 days to complete the scoring of their assigned applications. Thanks in part to the efforts of the Texas Charter Schools Association, applicants who receive a cumulative score of 80 to 84 percent may request an additional sixth review of their application to allow for the opportunity to raise their score to the 85 percent cut score minimum to proceed in the authorization process.

Why is it important for you as a charter leader to consider this opportunity?

As charter leaders, we have very little say in the charter authorization task with one notable exception: the external review process. And as charter leaders, if we don’t take the opportunity to add high levels of competence and collective years of educational expertise to the authorization effort, we are at risk of undermining the foundation of the charter growth movement – the creation of more high-quality seats to provide a world-class public education to the students of Texas.

Successful reviewers need to have a solid background in curriculum and instruction, operations, finance, personnel, governance, and charter law in general. That sounds like a description of many of our great Texas charter school leaders. The hours are long and the pay isn’t great, but the cause is worthy.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the process. Thanks ahead of time for considering making a difference in the Texas charter application review process!

On behalf of our members, TCSA recently submitted public comments to Education Commissioner Mike Morath on matters impacting students at public charter schools: New Instructional Facility Allotment and separately, the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook. 

NIFA

RE: Proposed Amendment to 19 TAC Chapter 61, School Districts, Subchapter CC, Commissioner's Rules Concerning School Facilities, §61.1034, New Instructional Facility Allotment

The Texas Charter Schools Association (“TCSA”) is the statewide membership organization for effective charter schools of all types, proudly representing nearly 275,000 students at more than 675 open-enrollment charter school campuses.  We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments in response to the Proposed Amendment to 19 TAC Chapter 61, School Districts, Subchapter CC, Commissioner's Rules Concerning School Facilities, §61.1034, New Instructional Facility Allotment (“NIFA”). TCSA’s comments address concerns that the proposed NIFA rules, without further clarity, may exclude schools that would otherwise qualify for NIFA funds. 

Definitions of New Instructional Facility

The proposed NIFA rules, under §61.1034(a)(3)(A) define a new instructional facility as a “facility that includes: a newly constructed instructional facility, which is a new instructional campus built from the ground up.” Additionally, the rules indicate that an instructional campus has “its own unique ID number.” Taking these two definitions together, TCSA is concerned that the NIFA rules limit eligibility to only campuses receiving a campus ID number for the first time, and excluding existing schools with existing campus ID numbers that are building new facilities to also be eligible for NIFA funds. To ensure that schools constructing new buildings for an existing campus ID number remain eligible for NIFA, TCSA recommends removing ‘new’ so that the definition under §61.1034(a)(3)(A) reads as “a newly constructed instructional facility, which is an instructional campus built from the ground up.”

Additionally, under §61.1034(3)(B) and (C), the definitions related to repurposing an instructional facility or leasing an instructional facility, may unintentionally limit a public school’s eligibility for NIFA funds to repurpose or lease a facility that was previously used as a private school. Under §46.001 of the Texas Education Code, and under §61.1034(a)(2) of the Texas Administrative Code, an instructional facility must be “used predominately for teaching the curriculum required by TEC §28.002.” The repurposed instructional facility and the leased facility definitions indicate that the facility must be “renovated to become an instruction facility for the first time” or “a leased facility operating for the first time as an instructional facility.” By using “for the first time” in these definitions, the definitions seem to limit a school’s eligibility for NIFA funds to renovate a former private school or lease a former private school facility. Private schools do not meet the definition of an instructional facility under §46.001, since they are not required to teach the “curriculum required by TEC §28.002.” To clarify, and to ensure public schools are eligible for NIFA funds to renovate or lease former private school facilities, TCSA recommends adding “as a public school” to the definitions of repurposed instructional facility and leased facility to read, in part, as follows:

            (B) a repurposed instructional facility, which is a facility that has been renovated to become an instructional facility for the first time as a public school.

            (C) a leased facility operating for the first time as a public school instructional facility with a minimum lease term of not less than 10 years.

Potential Relief for Harvey

As a result of the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, many public schools throughout southeast Texas are currently, or will be in the future, rebuilding or renovating instructional facilities that were flooded. TCSA urges the Agency to review potential options of using NIFA funds to assist schools that need to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey.

SAAH

RE:       Proposed Amendment to 19 TAC Chapter 129, Student Attendance, Subchapter AA, Commissioner's Rules, §129.1025, Adoption by Reference: Student Attendance Accounting Handbook

The Texas Charter Schools Association (“TCSA”) is the statewide membership organization for effective charter schools of all types, proudly representing nearly 275,000 students at more than 675 open-enrollment charter school campuses.  We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments in response to the Proposed Amendment to 19 TAC Chapter 129, Student Attendance, Subchapter AA, Commissioner's Rules, §129.1025, Adoption by Reference: Student Attendance Accounting Handbook. Based on the changes from House Bill 2442 of the 85th Legislative Session, and the June 27, 2017 To the Administrator Letter (TAA), our comments focus on changes needed to the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook (“SAAH”) for clarity.

3.8 Calendar: Instructional Minutes v. Operational Minutes

House Bill 2610 from the 84th Legislative Session changed the requirement of 180 days per year to 75,600 minutes of instruction. During the most recent legislative session, House Bill 2442 sought to correct some of the unintended consequences of House Bill 2610. As part of the changes to school calendar requirements, House Bill 2442 changed “minutes of instruction”[1] to minutes of operation”.[2] However, the SAAH does not use these two terms consistently when referencing the 75,600 minutes requirement.

In section 3.8 Calendar, the SAAH starts by stating that schools “must operate so that it provides at least 75,600 minutes of instruction.”[3] In the following paragraph, the SAAH references the accumulation of “75,600 minutes of operation.”[4] Additionally, the TEA TAA regarding Minutes of Operation-Updates to House Bill (HB) 2442 states that schools are required to “provide 75,600 minutes of operation.”[5]

Though House Bill 2442 does not take effect until the 2018-2019 school year, if the Agency is going to implement the minutes of operation requirement, instead of the minutes of instruction requirement, we urge the Agency to amend the SAAH so all references to 75,600 minutes read as “75,600 minutes of operation” instead of “75,600 minutes of instruction”.

Charter Schools with Unique Programs

The SAAH addresses the minutes requirement for district and charter schools operating alternative education programs (AEPs). Under Section 10, the SAAH indicates that a school operating an AEP is eligible to receive full ADA if the district or charter school provides at least 43,200 minutes of instruction. However, the SAAH does not address minute requirements or waivers for other unique programs.

The June 27, 2017, TAA letter indicates that schools operating programs such as “dropout recovery campus, a day treatment facility, a residential treatment facility, a psychiatric hospital, a school program offered at a correctional facility, an alternative education program (AEP), a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP), and a school operating under Texas Education Code (TEC), §29.259” will receive full ADA funding so long as the school complies with the “four-hour instruction rule.”[6] The TAA goes on to say schools offering these programs do not need to submit a waiver and a school will automatically receive a waiver from the 75,600 minutes of operation requirement. Unfortunately, the SAAH does not provide any mention of such a waiver.

For clarity, and consistency, TCSA asks the Agency to include language in the 2017-2018 SAAH addressing the automatic waiver for school district and charter school programs serving students in all AEPs as well as hospitals, treatment centers, correctional facilities, and adult education programs under §29.259.

Charter Schools Operating Prior to January 1, 2015

Finally, the SAAH does not address automatic waivers for charter schools operating prior to January 1, 2015. Specifically, House Bill 2442 from the 85th Legislative Session allows charter schools operating prior to January 1, 2015, and campus or site expansions approved by the commissioner after January 1, 2015,[7] to receive full ADA funding as calculated prior to January 1, 2015. Though House Bill 2442 will not be effective until the 2018-2019 school year, the Agency decided to implement this change in the 2017-2018 school year through an automatic waiver.

According to the TAA regarding Minutes of Operation-Updates to House Bill (HB) 2442, charter schools will receive full funding if “they report 180 days of attendance and comply with the four-hour instruction rule.”[8] However, the 2017-2018 SAAH does not mention this option or automatic waiver. In order to ensure all charter schools are aware of the requirements and to remain consistent, TCSA urges the Agency to include the automatic waiver language, as well as the option to provide 180 days with the four-hour instructional rule in the 2017-2018 SAAH for charter schools operating prior to January 1, 2015, including any expansions approved after January 1, 2015.

Hurricane Harvey

TCSA recognizes and applauds the efforts of TEA in addressing the disruptive impact that Hurricane Harvey had on over 1.4 million schoolchildren in Texas. TEA’s guidance and continued leadership to assist schools to reopen and serve students is remarkable. Though TEA continues to issue guidance on a daily basis, to assist schools throughout the school year, TCSA recommends a section specifically dedicated to attendance, bad weather days, and funding as it relates to Hurricane Harvey. TCSA understands that the Agency is still developing solutions for schools, but a section in the SAAH providing contact information and already approved waivers would be helpful.

________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Instructional day is defined as the “portion of the school day where instruction takes place. The instructional day includes lunch, recess, intermissions, etc.” 2017-2018 Student Attendance Accounting Handbook, 273.

[2] Operational time is defined as “the time of when the first school bell to the last school bell (bell to bell).” Id. at 274.

[3] 2017-2018 Student Attendance Accounting Handbook, 68.

[4] Id. at 69

[5] TAA Correspondence, Minutes of Operation-Updates to House Bill (HB) 2442

[6] TAA Correspondence, Minutes of Operation-Updates to House Bill (HB) 2442

[7] House Bill 2442 allows a charter school operating prior to January 1, 2015 with an academic accountability performance rating of C or higher, to expand, with approval from the commissioner, and receive full ADA funding as calculated prior to January 1, 2015. 

[8] TAA Correspondence, Minutes of Operation-Updates to House Bill (HB) 2442

By now you have probably heard the buzz and excitement about the addition of five new charter schools that were officially announced by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) on Friday, June 23rd. Here’s a snapshot of the five new charters opening in August, 2018:

Bridgeway Preparatory Academy, which will be located in the Carrollton/Farmers Branch area of Dallas and eventually expand to Tarrant county with an initial PreK4 - 2nd grade enrollment of 286 and a maximum PreK3-5th grade enrollment of 1,560. Bridgeway plans to use the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) instructional model to provide individualized instructional approaches to all students with an emphasis on students with unique learning needs.

Etoile Academy, which will open in Harris County/Southwest Houston and eventually grow to two campuses with an initial grade 5 enrollment of 150 and a maximum 5th – 8th grade enrollment of 1,500. Etoile will focus on a rigorous, college preparatory curriculum focused on first-time college goers and educationally disadvantaged students.

Legacy the School of Sport Sciences, which will start with one campus in North Houston and eventually add an additional campus in Southwest Houston with an initial 6th – 10th grade enrollment of 550 and a maximum 6th -12th grade enrollment of 2,400. Legacy will offer a unique instructional approach that will feature a rigorous curriculum based on all aspects of the worldwide sports industry, athletics, and sports technology.

Valor Public Schools, which will begin with one campus in the Austin area and eventually operate three campuses in Travis County with an initial K – 9th grade enrollment of 574 and a maximum K-12th grade enrollment of 4,200. Valor will offer a curriculum that combines classical education with a technology-infused, STEM-based instructional approach.

Yellowstone College Prep, which will operate one campus in Houston with an initial 5th – 8th grade enrollment of 240 and a maximum 5th – 12th grade enrollment of 1,000. Yellowstone is unique in that it will share facilities with the existing Yellowstone Academy and will offer a rigorous college preparatory education to students living in Houston’s historic Third Ward.

The Current Charter Approval Process
So what does the approval process look like for a new charter in Texas? To put it simply, there are four steps after the charter application is submitted to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). I like to call them the “views”: TEA Internal Preview, Independent External Review, Stakeholder Committee Interview, and State Board Review.

TEA Internal Preview is the first step and happens immediately after the charter application is submitted, and is simply a process where TEA Charter Division staff checks each application for missing components and conducts a plagiarism check. Next, an Independent External Review is conducted for all applications deemed complete. External reviewers are selected from applicants who respond to a request for quotation (RFQ) from TEA, with the expectation that reviewers have a solid educational background and an in-depth knowledge of charter schools. Individuals selected are provided a day of training with TEA staff on all eight application components and 90 indicators and in procedures for accurately grading each section. Reviewers are generally assigned six to eight applications to score (each application is scored five times) with about a 30-day window to complete the task.

Next, the Stakeholder Committee Interview is conducted for applications that meet or exceed external review cut score, currently set at 85 percent. This is where TEA staff and State Board of Education members probe projected school staff and governing board members about every aspect of the projected school plan.

Finally, based on the recommendations of the interview committee, the TEA Commissioner will recommend charters to the SBOE for approval, who, in the State Board Review, ask questions of commissioner-recommended applicants. Based on a full board vote, the SBOE will either take no action and thus approve the commissioner’s recommendation or choose to veto any of the commissioner’s choices.

Strengthening the Charter Approval Process
The approval procedure is arduous, and TEA Charter Division staff and Deputy Commissioner A.J. Crabill do an excellent job holding applicants accountable for fidelity to their proposed mission and vision and the tremendous duty to educate Texas students and responsibly manage taxpayer resources. But like any task of great importance, there are opportunities to improve the current approval process. The main area that should be strengthened is the Independent External Review.

Currently, independent reviewers work with TEA staff, but there is no process in place for reviewers to talk with one another and establish inter-rater reliability regarding common applications they are scoring, and there is no procedure for identifying and mitigating large variations in scores on the same indicator. One suggestion to improve the process is to conduct score panel conference calls, facilitated by a TEA staff member, where reviewers discuss common applications they have scored and share comments they have written about each item and the score they have assigned to the indicator. This is important for several reasons. First, panel reviews eliminate the possibility that when scoring an indicator a reviewer might miss details imbedded in the application narrative and any accompanying attachments. Second, the possibility for wide variations in scores will be lessened, especially if reviewers are required to explain any differences greater than a 20 percent difference in an individual indicator score between reviewers. Finally, panel reviews tend to hold reviewers accountable, as reviewers would have to justify their scores to the rest of the review panel. Ultimately each reviewer would independently score their assigned applications, but the score panel conference call procedure would help to improve the overall consistency and quality of the external review process.

Current commissioner’s rules would allow for these changes in the external review process to take place. Although no process for scoring applications is perfect, with some minor adjustments the entire external review process, and ultimately the entire approval process, would be greatly strengthened. At TCSA, our goal is to support and strengthen a diverse set of high quality charter schools, and any adjustments to improve the approval process will help to ensure that only the best applicants will be selected to provide Texas students a quality public charter school education.

This summer, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) launched a new STAAR report card that gives parents a more in-depth look at their child’s academic strengths and where their child needs extra help so they can be an even stronger partner in their child’s learning. As you know, students in grades 3-8 are required to take the STAAR tests in math and reading, and then parents receive STAAR report cards in paper form. This year, parents will receive a paper copy of the Report from their school in June, July and/or during Back to School.

New This Year
In addition to the paper copy, the STAAR reports are online at TexasAssessment.com with more information than ever before.

  • On June 13th – the website went live with information on grades 9-12th.
  • On June 30th – the website went live with information on grades 3-8th.

We are encouraging parents to Log In & Learn More in July!

When parents Log In with their child’s unique access code, they will find more information on how their child performed, including where their child did well and where their child might need more support. There are also questions to ask teachers, and the information will help teachers tailor instruction and uncover gaps in student learning.

For the first time, once parents Log In – they will see actual test questions from the STAAR test, as well as their child’s answers and the correct answer if different. This will also be available in Spanish later in the summer.  

On the main page, parents will also find information on boosting reading levels and they can even access student reading level-specific summer reading lists and other reading resources.

For Spanish-speaking parents, it’s important to know the printed report will not be delivered in Spanish this year, but that will be changed for next year’s report. However, TEA is providing many web resources for Spanish-speaking parents this year – so it’s important to Log In & Learn More. There are translated materials available including sample STAAR report cards for each grade, videos and an explanation of the STAAR test.

Will you share the information broadly with charter schools across Texas and their networks of parents and through any channels including social media? If you have in-person opportunities with your community, please help parents walk through the site and access this important information about their child’s learning and progress each year. Thank you for helping us reach parents and encourage them to Log In & Learn More?

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently approved changes to the expansion amendment rules. The changes, which went into effect on June 8, amends 19 TAC Chapter 100.1033(b) and includes changes to how a charter school may request an amendment for relocation, expansion, and High-Quality Campus Designation.

RELOCATION
A charter school may now submit an amendment for relocation at any time, so long as the relocation is for the same administration and staff serving the same students. However, a relocation request cannot be for an address more than 25 miles away from the original campus. Additionally, TEA indicated in their comments that the definition of a site will also be changed to reflect the 25 miles limitation.

EXPANSION AMENDMENT STANDARDS
The new rules add several additional requirements that charter schools must meet to have an expansion approved by the commissioner. First, before requesting an expansion amendment, the governing board must consider a business plan that, determined by a majority vote, is financially prudent relative to the financial and operational strength of the charter school. According to TEA’s response to TCSA’s comments regarding the vagueness of the prudent standard, to meet the prudent standard, TEA is “requiring the governing board to determine the appropriateness of the expansion request in light of that charter school's business plan.”

TEA limited the timeline for an expansion amendment request to be submitted between February and April before the school year in which the expansion will be effective. In response to TCSA’s, and several charter holders’ comments, TEA amended the rules to allow the commissioner to grant an additional year to implement the expansion if the requestor can demonstrate a need for an additional year.

To obtain approval for an expansion amendment, the charter’s most recent district rating must be “academically acceptable,” and the most recent campus rating for at least 90% of the campuses operated under the charter school must be “academically acceptable.” Additionally, the charter school must be accredited and the most recent district financial accountability rating for the charter school must be satisfactory.

NEW CAMPUS EXPANSION
In addition to standard expansion requirements, charter schools must meet additional criteria to create an additional campus. The charter holder must provide evidence that each school district affected by the expansion was sent a notice to the district’s central office of the proposed location and address of any new campuses or sites, including proposed grade levels and likely maximum enrollment. Additionally, the charter school under which the new campus will be assigned must have at least 50% of the student population in tested grades, unless it is a charter school serving students in prekindergarten.

TCSA submitted comments encouraging TEA to allow charter schools serving lower elementary grades to have the same opportunity to expand. TEA partially agreed and added languages allowing charter schools that serve prekindergarten students to include the students in prekindergarten to count toward the 50% requirement if the charter school can demonstrate acceptable performance on a commissioner-approved prekindergarten assessment or monitoring tool and the addition of the prekindergarten students meets the required 50% threshold. The commissioner-approved prekindergarten assessments are those approved for the High-Quality Prekindergarten Grant under TAC § 102.1003.

ADDITIONAL SITE EXPANSION
The commissioner may only approve an expansion amendment seeking to add a new site if the charter school campus under which the proposed new site will be assigned currently has at least 50% of the student population in tested grades, and the site will be located within 25 miles of the campus with which it is associated. This type of expansion also has the same prekindergarten exception as expansion amendments seeking to add a new campus.

EXPEDITED EXPANSION
TEA amended the rules and changed a Quality Expansion to an Expedited Expansion. An expedited expansion amendment request will not be effective earlier than the start of the fourth full school year of the affected charter school. The request must be received between February and April before the school year in which the expansion will be effective, unless the school can demonstrate the need for an additional year. The request must be communicated via certified mail to the board of trustees of each school district affected by the expedited expansion and the members of the legislature who represent the geographic area affected by the expedited expansion. Additionally, the request must be submitted with copies of the most recent compliance information, and the charter school governing body must have a business plan that is financially prudent relative to the financial and operational strength of the charter school. Upon request by the TEA, that business plan must be filed within ten business days.

If a charter school is determined to be eligible for an expedited expansion amendment, they will be notified within 60 days of the date the charter holder submits a completed expedited expansion amendment.

NEW SCHOOL DESIGNATION
Additionally, TEA amended the rules and changed the “High Quality School Designation” to a “New School Designation”. The new school designation permits a charter holder to establish an additional charter school campus under an existing open-enrollment charter school. Charter schools that receive new school designations are eligible to participate in the charter school program (“CSP”) competitive grant process for federal funding.

The requirements for a new school designation are the same as those as the previous “High-Quality Campus Designation,” with a few additions. The commissioner may approve a new school if a charter school meets all requirements applicable to an expansion amendment and has at least one operational charter school campus in Texas for a minimum of five consecutive years. The charter school must be evaluated under the accountability rating system with at least 50% of the student population in grades assessed by the state accountability system.

A charter school that is evaluated under the standard accountability procedures must have no campus with an “academically unacceptable” rating. Additionally the charter must have received the highest or second highest district rating for three of the last five years with at least 75% of the campuses under the charter also receiving the highest or second highest rating. The original proposed rules required all campuses to meet the highest or second highest ratings. But in response to TCSA’s comments, the rule was amended to reflect 75% of campuses.

Additionally, TCSA commented on the fact that the proposed rules removed schools under the alternative education accountability (AEA) from being eligible for the new school designation. TEA amended the rules and kept AEA campuses eligible for the new school designation. A charter school that is currently evaluated under the AEA must have received the highest or second highest AEA district rating for five of the last five years. Additionally, to be eligible, all rated campuses under the charter receiving an “academically acceptable” or higher rating in the most recent applicable state accountability ratings and have district-level assessment data corresponding to the most recent accountability ratings demonstrating that at least 35% of the students in the following student groups met the standard as reported: African American, Hispanic, white, special education, economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient, and at risk.

The commissioner cannot approve a new school designation if the proposed school is merely an extension of an existing charter school.

HIGH-QUALITY CAMPUS DESIGNATION
Separate from the new school designation, TEA created a High-Quality Designation. A High-Quality Designation is a separate designation that must be paired with an expansion amendment. This designation allows a charter holder to establish an additional charter school campus under an existing open-enrollment charter school according to federal non-regulatory guidance and makes the charter holder eligible to participate in the charter school program competitive grant process.

For the commissioner to approve a charter school to be a High-Quality campus, the charter school must meet all requirements for an expansion amendment and have been evaluated under the accountability rating system with at least 50% of the student populations in grades assessed by the state accountability system. The charter school must also be accredited and have received the highest or second highest district rating for three of the last five years with all the campuses operated under the charter also receiving the highest or second highest rating. Additionally, the charter school cannot be under any sanction by TEA and there must be no charter campus identified for federal interventions.

The commissioner must also make three written findings to approve a High-Quality Campus Designation: (1) the proposed school satisfies each element of the definition of a charter school; (2) the proposed school campus is separate and distinct from the existing charter school campus that was already established; and (3) the amended open-enrollment charter school includes a separate written performance agreement for the proposed school campus that meets federal law and TEA requirements.

To apply, the charter holder must complete an application approved of by the commissioner, the new charter school campus must serve at least 100 students in its first year of operation, and the commissioner must determine that the designation is in the best interest of the students of Texas.

We hope this information has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, please contact Christine Nishimura, TCSA Deputy General Counsel at cnishimura@txcharterschools.org or by calling 512.584.TCSA (8272), ext. 306.

Yesterday, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released the 2016 Charter Schools Performance Framework (CSPF) Reports for charter schools across Texas.  Provision for the frameworks is found in TEC §12.1181(a) which states, “The Commissioner shall develop and by rule adopt performance frameworks that establish standards by which to measure the performance of an open enrollment charter school.” The intended purpose of the Frameworks is to inform parents and the public of charter school performance and to inform charter renewal decisions made by the Commissioner.   TEA’s Charter Schools Performance Framework focuses on academic success, financial health and sustainability and operational compliance and effectiveness.

Academic Framework

The Academic Framework indicators are aligned to components of the 2016 Accountability Standards for Texas public schools and will change overtime to reflect changes made within the State’s academic accountability standards.  The 2016 academic indicators highlight district-level student performance on the STAAR Assessment as well as 4-Year and 5-Year longitudinal graduation rates.  The related data for all public charter schools, as well as traditional districts, can be found online in the Texas Academic Performance Reports (TAPR).  

The indicator targets found in the Academic Framework reflect the Index 1 and Index 4 targets within either the Standard or the Alternative Education Accountability (AEA) standards, based on the designation of the district and its student population.  The Index 1 Meet Standard targets are set at 60% and 35% for standard and alternative accountability districts respectively. Similarly, the 4-Year and 5-Year Extended Longitudinal Graduation Rate Meet Standard targets, which for AEA districts includes continuation and GED certification, are set at 60% and 45%.

Financial Framework

Indicators from the Financial Framework represent several of the indicators from Charter FIRST, which is the School FIRST (Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas) rating system for charter schools detailed in 19 TAC §109.1001. The indicators, that reflect the financial health and sustainability of the organization as well as the strength of the financial controls and management practices, may change over time to ensure continued alignment and to reflect any changes made within the Charter FIRST. 

The Financial Framework indicators found within the 2016 Charter Schools Performance Framework reflect performance on the 2016 Charter FIRST indicators. Information used to determine a school’s FIRST rating comes from the Annual Financial Report and audited financials for the prior fiscal year. Consequently, financial data used to determine performance ratings on the 2016 Charter Schools Financial Framework indicators listed below reflect the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

  • Timely Submission of Annual Financial Audit
  • Administrative Cost Ratio
  • Unmodified Opinions
  • Material Weakness in Internal Controls
  • Default on Debt
  • Total Variance
  • Material Non-Compliance

Operational Framework

The Operational Framework is an aggregation of compliance-related indicators that monitor program, governance, and reporting compliance.  These indicators include third-party and self-reported data as well as program monitoring data from TEA:

  • Teacher Qualifications
  • Special Education Program Requirements
  • BE/ESL Program Requirements
  • CTE Program Requirements
  • Governance Reporting
  • Training Requirements
  • Criminal Record Reporting Requirements
  • Community & Student Engagement
  • PEIMS Reporting
  • TREx Usage
  • Certificate of Occupancy Requirements
  • 501(c)(3) Status

For additional information, please contact Laura Kelly, Director of Quality Services or join us for our upcoming webinar on Tuesday, June 27th at 10 a.m.

On March 30, 2017, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced the results of the external review process for Generation 22 charter applicants. Of the applications submitted for external review, nine of the 26 evaluated (37 percent) met the 85 percent cut score requirement and will proceed to the next step in the approval process, an interview with TEA Charter Division staff and members of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) Committee on School Initiatives, held during the week of May 8-11. Applicants who successfully navigate the interview process are recommended to the TEA commissioner for a charter contract, pending final SBOE action.

The number of charters moving forward this year is significant in that last year only four of the applications reviewed (15 percent) met the cut score requirement.

The charter applicants moving forward this year are:

  • Bridgeway Preparatory Academy – proposing 2 campuses in Dallas and Tarrant counties with an initial PreK4 - 2nd grade enrollment of 286 and a maximum PreK3-5th grade enrollment of 1,560
  • Etoile Academy - proposing 2 campuses in Harris County/Southwest Houston with an initial grade 5 enrollment of 150 and a maximum 5th – 8th grade enrollment of 1,500
  • LEAD International Academy - proposing 1 campus in Tarrant county with an initial K – 8th grade enrollment of 1,275 and a maximum K -12th grade enrollment of 1,875
  • Legacy the School of Sport Sciences - proposing 2 campuses in North Houston and Southwest Houston with an initial 6th – 10th grade enrollment of 550 and a maximum 6th -12th grade enrollment of 2,400
  • North Bound Education Public School - proposing 3 campuses in Dallas and Tarrant counties (Fort Worth and South Dallas) with an initial K – 8th grade enrollment of 1,248 and a maximum K – 12th grade enrollment of 2,028
  • Oasis Academy of North Texas - proposing 3 campuses in Southwest and Northeast Dallas county and south Tarrant county with an initial K - 2nd grade enrollment of 180 and a maximum K - 5th grade enrollment of 1,080
  • South Texas Trade Academy - proposing 3 campuses in Hidalgo, Willacy, and Cameron counties with an initial K-1, 6th, and 9th grade enrollment of 300 and a maximum PreK4 - 12th grade enrollment of 2,000
  • Valor Public Schools - proposing 3 campuses in Travis county with an initial K – 9th grade enrollment of 574 and a maximum K-12th grade enrollment of 4,200
  • Yellowstone College Prep - proposing 1 campuses in Houston with an initial 5th – 8th grade enrollment of 240 and a maximum 5th – 12th grade enrollment of 1,000

At the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) we are pleased to note that five of the nine finalists participated in TCSA’s Charter Application Development Services. Utilizing our team of charter development experts, applicant development clients receive assistance in various phases of pre-application development, in-person/phone/email consultation, an extensive and detailed written critique of the charter application components including the education plan, assessment and evaluation, community, operations, students, personnel, governance, and the financial plan. Development clients meet with the TCSA review team to discuss the written critique, consider suggestions to improve the application, and evaluate strategies for moving forward to ensure the best possibility that the plan will survive the rigorous external review process. In addition, development clients have access to discounted model policies, codes of conduct, and other TCSA support services as well.

If you are thinking about applying in the next round (Generation 23) of charter applicants this September, now is a great time to consider engaging the TCSA Charter Application Development team as there are a limited number of client spaces available. For more information about application development services as well as our first-step Charter Start trainings, please contact TCSA’s Directors of Charter Growth and Development, Bruce Marchand and Elliott Nguyen, for more information. We want to help you in your successful mission to create more public school choices for the students of Texas!

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