Parents with children attending San Antonio Schools are becoming very familiar with charter schools. The city of San Antonio is so large that it contains 16 separate public school districts. Among these the San Antonio Independent Schools District (SAISD) is investing heavily in charter schools. 12 of these San Antonio Schools’ district buildings currently house internal charter schools.
And internal charter schools differ from a traditional charter school model because they depend on local parents and school board members rather than the state. These San Antonio Schools require 80% approval of parents and staff to form an internal charter, whereas a traditional model must get approval from the State Board of Education. Both are funded with taxpayer dollars. The twelve San Antonio Schools have been awarded $4.7 million in federal grants to date.
The monies available for San Antonio Schools to start charter programs are what enables the administrators to provide specialized art, music, or science instruction. The most notable aspect of the San Antonio Schools’ charters is their successes so far. Many charter schools in both Texas and around the country have been forced to close their doors due to the inability to provide a proper curriculum, adequate financial records, or proof of academic success.
However, the three charters among the San Antonio Schools have a record of success behind them. Hawthorne Academy, with a focus on social studies, boasts “Recognized” status from the state, and a higher percentage of students passing the TAKS than its neighboring San Antonio Schools. An arts charter school, Austin Academy, shows similar results and attributes it to the fact that the arts are used to enhance the academic learning of its San Antonio Schools’ students.
While many of the San Antonio Schools are too new to be evaluated, the SAISD obviously feels confident that they are successful, because they will convert six more to internal charters this fall. In addition to this innovative model, San Antonio Schools are integrating specific skill sets into the curriculum. The Riverside Park Academy became a technology charter in 2004, a bow to changing times. San Antonio Schools are expected to provide the charter with funding to give students podcasting equipment, and teachers interactive 3-D imaging whiteboards.
Part of the success behind these San Antonio Schools’ charter programs is that they address the minority and lower-income population that makes up much of San Antonio. For educators of San Antonio Schools, the ability to provide a focus on the arts or on science amid the high-stakes testing environment can be refreshing. Teachers at the San Antonio Schools’ charter programs see their successes as proof that education requires exposure to many elements, not just a target focused on the ones to appear on a state test.