There is much to celebrate with the latest Texas Education Agency (TEA) academic accountability ratings that were released last week. More charter campuses than ever, 538 in all, achieved Met Standard or Alternative Standard accountability, while the number of charter holders meeting standard increased to 85 percent, a 4.8 percent increase over the years from 2013-2017.

The gap between the performance of ISDs and charters is closing rapidly as well. Using an “apples to apples” comparison that removes “not rated” campuses from the denominator for ISDs and charters, 91.4 percent of all charter campuses achieved Met Standard in 2017 while 95.7 percent of ISD campuses did the same, a 4.3 percent difference. That’s a great deal of improvement since the year 2013 when, using this same methodology, the Met Standard difference between charter and ISD campuses was 11.8 percent. The same improvement is seen comparing charter holders to ISDs, with a 6.7 percent difference in Met Standard ratings between the two groups in 2017, compared to an 11.2 percent difference in 2013.

The recently released Stanford University Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) study confirms this improvement in performance indicators. The 2017 CREDO analysis of Texas charter school academic data reveals that Texas charter students gained about 17 extra days in reading each year compared to students in ISDs, with math performance about the same. This is significant as the 2013 CREDO study found that Texas charter school students were losing about 17 days of instruction in reading and 23 days in math compared to their ISD counterparts. Also noted in the most recent CREDO study is the fact that Texas charter schools educate more economically disadvantaged students (72 percent to 60 percent) as well as higher percentages of traditionally underperforming populations, including Hispanic and African American students.

Achievement at the highest levels is particularly noteworthy, as 40 charter campuses received all available academic distinctions this year, up from 32 campuses in 2016. This amazing accomplishment represents six percent of the 675 charter campuses evaluated and mirrors the performance of ISD campuses where 427 out of 6,904 campuses (6.1 percent) received all available distinctions.

So what’s in store for the future of Texas academic accountability? Most importantly, the implementation of HB 22 mandates that beginning in August 2018, all Texas ISDs and charter holders will be evaluated on three domains: Student Achievement, School Progress, and Closing the Gaps. Based on performance in those domains, a rating of A, B, C, D or F will be assigned to each domain as well as an overall letter grade for the ISD or charter holder. Campuses will begin to be evaluated on the A-F system beginning in 2019. In the meantime, Commissioner rules will need to be written to provide guidance on how the new accountability system will roll out. As we receive more information, we will keep you informed and provide the training and support you need to understand and successfully navigate this new system.

As each of you begin your new school year, please know that the Texas Charter Schools Association is here to support you in every way to provide you, your students, staff, and parents with the highest level of quality support and advocacy. Please let us know how we can help you to accomplish your mission for success as we all work together every day to provide a quality public school choice option to the students of Texas!