My final day as TCSA Executive Director approaches and it is definitely bittersweet. The opportunity to serve as a leader in this vibrant and successful movement has been extremely rewarding. As most of you know, it also has been quite challenging.
As I reflect on our shared journey over the last nine years, I think one word expresses my feelings best: proud. I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished together. I think each and every one of you – whether a teacher, or a leader, or a parent or an advocate – should be proud as well.
We have come a long way baby!
When I started TCSA back in October of 2008, there were 90,000 students attending school at 374 charter campuses around the state. Last year, there were nearly 273,000 students on 675 campuses! On average, student enrollment at charters has grown at a rate of 12 percent annually and I have every reason to believe this phenomenal growth will continue for years.
In the early years, there were many challenges. Frankly, in the late 1990s there were charters granted to entities that never should have been allowed to educate our state’s youth. National studies showed that charter student performance lagged behind students in the traditional ISDs they left behind.
Over the last nine years, TCSA has maintained a laser focus on improving the quality of the sector. We have partnered with charter and school leaders across the state to improve governance, fiscal management, and operations. And, these improvements have allowed charter leaders to keep the eye on the ultimate prize: improving student outcomes.
And, yes, we have worked to ensure that charter schools that are not meeting the needs of kids or are not good stewards of taxpayer funds are shuttered.
We are seeing the results of this work. CREDO, out of Stanford University, released a report this summer that showed – in an apples to apples comparison – that charter students were outperforming their traditional ISD peers in Reading, and had completely closed the gap in Math. In fact, public charter students received the equivalent in learning of an additional 17 days in Reading. Over three weeks of additional learning!
The Texas Education Agency recently released its performance reports, once again showing that public charter schools serve higher proportions of students who are economically disadvantaged, African-American, Hispanic, and/or English language learners. These student groups outperformed their district peers in reading, writing, and social studies last year.
And, we are now seeing the results of this hard work pay off in a more charter friendly environment in Austin and elsewhere throughout the state. In the 85th Legislative Session the charter movement scored historic wins: Funding for facilities for the very first time; an additional $3 billion in Permanent School Fund Bond Guarantee capacity; and we were able to protect the funds for charters serving our most vulnerable youth, and charters that have implemented truly innovative programs.
So, yes, I am very proud of our work. I think you should be too.
And, I am fully confident no one will rest on these laurels. The work continues. The challenges remain. I can’t wait to see future results.
Thank you again for the honor and privilege of serving as a leader in this movement. There is no more important work than serving students.