As we gear up for the 83rd Texas Legislature to convene in January 2013, TCTA offers you this series of “Session Prep” articles that provide the facts on hot-button issues you may discuss with your legislators. See also:
Session Prep: TRS benefits

Session Prep: Test-based accountability
Session Prep: Vouchers/tax credits
Session Prep: School discipline
Session Prep: Texas schools' success

Session Prep: Communicating with your legislators

Charter school performance:

Why it’s a hot issue

“School choice” proponents who support vouchers and charter school expansion are expecting a warmer welcome from the 83rd Texas Legislature than they received from Legislatures past. This is due to the overall political makeup of the Legislature and the fact that key legislators, including Sen. Dan Patrick, who is rumored to be a front-runner for chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee, have indicated they support such measures. Charter school performance, especially how it compares to that of traditional public schools, is central to the issue of charter school expansion.

How charter schools measure up

  • In 2011, 32 percent of charter schools compared to 3 percent of traditional public schools were rated using the Alternative Accountability System, a lesser standard, so a true apples-to-apples comparison cannot be made.
  • However, even under the lower standard, the 2011 Accountability System State Summary shows that 11.2 percent of charter campuses were rated academically unacceptable, compared to 5.9 percent of traditional public schools.
  • Charter schools have lower attendance rates and higher dropout rates than traditional public schools, according to 2001-2011 snapshot data from the Texas Education Agency. (The Class of 2010’s longitudinal graduation rate was 43.5 percent, compared with 86.1 percent for those in traditional public schools.)
  • That same data shows that a much smaller percentage of charter school students take the SAT and ACT exams than do traditional public school students (24 percent compared with 64 percent in 2011), and charter school students’ average scores are consistently lower.
  • The largest charter school study to date, done by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University in 2009, showed that only 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent showed gains that were worse, and 46 percent demonstrated no significant difference.
  • Research by Michael Marder, co-director of the UTeach Program at the University of Texas at Austin, on the 140 secondary charter schools revealed that only five charter operators serve low-income students and perform well, with 30 charter schools performing comparably to traditional public schools and more than 100 performing “dramatically” worse.

TCTA testimony on charter school expansion

During an Aug. 24, 2012, Senate Education Committee hearing on school choice issues, TCTA provided testimony that emphasized the need for careful consideration of quality and performance issues in any expansion of charter schools in Texas. Get the details.

TCTA’s stance on school choice

High-performing charter schools are among several appropriate "school choice" options, along with intra-district transfers, magnet schools and other currently available options. TCTA remains opposed to school choice in the form of private school vouchers, tax credits or other approaches that redirect public funding to private schools.