We are approaching the end of another full and exciting school year for public charter schools and our movement. Reflecting on the year’s successes and challenges helps measure our progress as a sector. Here are some highlights from the 2016-17 school year.
One indication of our success as a sector is our student enrollment growth. More Texas families want options within public education as demonstrated by the nearly 250,000 students at 629 campuses across the state. In fact, our sector’s trend is a 13 percent increase annually over the last five years and we fully expect this growth to continue. As this school year concludes, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is gathering final counts and we’re anxious to see the release of 2016-17 charter school data later this summer.
Part of our growth includes Compass Rose Academy in San Antonio and Goodwater Montessori Public Charter School in Georgetown, which will begin instruction in August 2017. Congratulations to these charters!
In early October, we had our most well attended Texas Charter Schools Conference ever. More than 1,600 participants from public charter schools across the state gathered together in Austin for training sessions and the opportunity to share best practices. We also had top notch speakers including Governor Greg Abbott, Dr. Steve Perry, and Andre Agassi.
Charter operators, teachers, and staff went back to their campuses after the conference and continued to provide students with an innovative public education, and the following month, the Texas Education Agency released the final 2016 academic accountability ratings.
We learned that Texas public charter schools continue to serve higher proportions of students who are economically disadvantaged, African American, and/or Hispanic. These students outperform their peers at school districts in reading. Further, English language learners at charter schools outperform their school district peers in every subject!
One clear example of producing great outcomes is Rise Academy. This charter was chosen last November as one of only two schools in the entire state to be recognized with the prestigious National Title 1 Distinguished School Award. We thank all of our charters for their hard work in making sure that students learn and achieve great outcomes. We know that you strive for excellence.
Another success for our movement includes Barbara Gervin-Hawkins’ victory in the November general election. She is the first charter operator in the Texas House of Representatives, serving District 120 and charter school students across the state.
Following a well-earned break, charter school students, teachers, and staff returned to campus in January and the state’s 85th Legislative Session also began. Also in January, the TEA released preliminary A-F ratings for all schools.
Shortly thereafter, the newly elected president appointed charter supporter, Secretary Betsy DeVos, to the U.S. Department of Education and included a request for a $168 million increase for charter schools in his 2018 budget.
The Charter Schools Program Grants allow for new and expanded charters across the country. We are excited for the Texas CMOs who applied for the Charter Schools Program Grants for Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools and look forward to the Department’s announcement of new awardees. Texas charters, we’re rooting for you!
While part of our team has been tied up at the Texas Capitol pushing for charter school priorities, we know that you have been working hard at your campus. We’re thrilled you were able to take time in between STAAR tests and classes to attend the 2017 Texas Public Charter Schools Rally. Due to you, it was the largest rally we’ve hosted to date. Thank you for traveling and coming to the Capitol to advocate for your students and public charter schools!
Charters have been breaking new ground to increase outcomes for students, including developing new charter-district partnerships that share best practices. Recently, San Antonio ISD trustees approved a partnership that allows the John H. Wood Jr. charter school district to manage SAISD’s alternative school for students with emotional or behavioral disorders. We hope to foster new partnerships like these moving forward to benefit students.
Another milestone for the charter school movement has been the application process for Generation 22 charters. The TEA conducted interviews for nine applicants last week, and we look forward to the announcement of the new Generation 22 charters later this summer!
We’re also thrilled that another Texas charter network is receiving national recognition for their work in providing an excellent education to students. This month, Harmony Public Schools was announced as a finalist for the Broad Prize and we couldn’t be more proud of this charter. Many of the TCSA team will be at the National Charter Schools Conference cheering for our Harmony brethren when the winner is announced in June.
It has been another great school year for public charter schools and we know how hard you have worked to provide students with a quality public education! This list of successes is by no means exhaustive and we know there are hundreds of examples of the incredible work happening at each and every one of your schools. As you are closing out the school year, we wish you a safe and happy summer break.