In Texas, charter schools were authorized in 1995 in an effort to improve student learning, increase options for students and families within the public school system, create professional opportunities that attract new teachers to the public school system, establish a new form of accountability for public schools, and encourage innovation in learning methods (Texas Education Code, §12.118). As of 2012-13, Texas educates 178,826 students in charter schools (approximately 3.5% of the public school student population) in 202 open-enrollment charter schools operating 552 charter school campuses across the state.
(Annual Evaluation of Open-Enrollment Charter Schools 2012-13 School Year for the Texas Education Agency, p.8).
This is the second of a mulit-part series on Texas’s open-enrollment charter school system. Texas charter schools were established in 1995 to:
(1) Improve student learning;
(2) Increase options for students and families within the public school system;
(3) Create professional opportunities that attract new
teachers to the public school system;
(4) Establish a new form of accountability for public schools; and
(5) Encourage innovation in learning methods.
In this second blog, the focus is on two of the five legislative intents for the creation of open-enrollment charter schools: (1) improve student learning and (2) increase options for students and families within the public school system.
Has the presence of charter schools increased options for students and families within the public school system?
Yes. Even one open-enrollment charter school would require an affirmative answer and Texas has more than one open-enrollment charter school.
Has the presence of charter schools improved student learning?
The answer is yes and no; yes, but not for all of their students, and no for some students. The results are uneven.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA), in January 2014, created a study of its open-enrollment charter schools that began operations in 2012-13. The report that followed was the Annual Evaluation of Open-Enrollment Charter Schools 2012-13 School Year. In its Discussion of Findings (p. 67), the authors reported uneven results.
The six open-enrollment charter schools that began operations at nine campuses in 2012-13 served very different populations of students. All but one campus demonstrated significantly lower scores and rates of satisfactory performance on STAAR Reading/ELA and Mathematics, while most campuses had significantly lower rates of student disciplinary infractions. One campus (Austin Achieve Public Schools) stood out from the others as demonstrating significantly higher performance on reading and mathematics standardized tests while also having significantly higher rates of student disciplinary infractions.
Uneven results (nationwide) for open-enrollement charter schools were reported in an article titled Sam Walton’s Granddaughter Has Plans To Fix Public Education In America.
While charter school growth has been explosive, the results are uneven. According to a major Stanford study, certain demographic groups that the Waltons have been targeting, including black students, those living in poverty and those who are English language learners or had disabilities, did better in charters than traditional public schools. But overall 25% of students in public charters outperformed local school districts in reading and 29% outperformed in math–but 19% and 31% did worse respectively (though those numbers are better than four years ago). Thus, choice without improvement doesn’t achieve much.
Uneven results are observed in the 2014 Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR).
Let’s look at two charter schools’s* results: Charter A Met Standard and Charter B Needs Improvement.
TAPR documents that some Charter A students (70%) passed STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, Index 1) and some (30%) did not. [Report definitions can be found at Texas Academic Performance Reports .]
The TAPR documents that some Charter B students (55%) passed STAAR (Index 1) and some (45%) did not.
With STAAR (Index 1) as a measure, some students in Charters A and B passed at the state’s minimum required passing standard, and some did not. Also, given the results of Index 2 (student progress) some students in Charters A and B demonstrated progress and some did not.
Yes, Texas’s open-enrollment charter schools increase options for students and families within the public school system.
Yes, some students in Texas’s open-enrollment charter schools are academically successful and some demonstrate progress, but not all of their students are successful or demonstrate progress. The results are uneven.
The same uneven results found in Texas’s open-enrollment charter schools are found in its traditional public schools. “Uneven results” is not a critique of Texas’s schools, it’s a fact – a fact that does not differentiate Texas’s open-enrollment charter schools and its traditional public schools.
The third installment in this series, Observations and Opinions on Texas Open-Enrollment Charter Schools: Costs, explores some costs associated with Texas’s open-enrollment charter school system.
*The two schools were selected because they were among the first open-enrollment charter schools on the list of Met Standard and Needs Improvement (respectively) that were rated in all four indices. Others could have been chosen, in fact, all charter schools could have been chosen and the conclusion would remain unchanged: uneven student learning results. The two schools should not be criticized for their results.