Scott Ball / Rivard Report
San Antonio charter schools received grades from the Texas Education Agency on Thursday that evaluate the previous year’s performance and show whether district and campus performance grew, declined, or remained flat.
In most cases, local charter school districts improved year-over-year. However, five charter districts – including KIPP Texas and Great Hearts Texas, which last year operated a total of 10 campuses in San Antonio – received lower grades than in the previous year. Great Hearts Texas fell from an A to a B, while KIPP Texas got a B for the second year in a row.
Heritage Academy, School of Science and Technology, and Southwest Preparatory School also were graded lower this year. Southwest Preparatory had the most dramatic stumble, dropping two letter grades from a B to a D.
Overall, 22 of the state’s 179 charter districts got Ds and eight got Fs.
Basis Texas, which operates three campuses locally, was the area’s top-performing charter, scoring an A for the second year in the row.
Charter districts operate much like traditional public school districts, acting as a central organizer of individual campuses.
Charter districts can be spread throughout different locations, however. For example, IDEA Public Schools and KIPP Texas both have campuses located in other Texas cities. For that reason, the district scores may reflect student performance in schools beyond just San Antonio.
Ten charter campuses in the area failed state standards, scoring Fs on the State’s letter grade report card.
Review campus and district grades here.
Public schools in Texas are awarded letter grades, with As assigned for scores 90 and above, Bs for scores 80-89, and so on. The State uses three main categories to assess campuses and districts.
Seventy percent of a score comes from either achievement – Commissioner of Education Mike Morath refers to this as what students can do – or progress, or how much students grow each year. The better score is used for the 70 percent.
For elementary and middle schools, both progress and achievement are based entirely on results from the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), an exam that students take beginning in third grade. In high school and at the district level, this category also includes indicators related to college, career, and military readiness and graduation rates.
The remaining 30 percent comes from a category called “closing the gaps,” in which the state evaluates how specific student groups, such as English language learners, are performing.
Should a campus fail to pass state standards for five consecutive years, the campus could be subject to closure. Charter districts are also subject to closure if they fail state standards for three consecutive years.
No San Antonio area charter school district received a failing grade, although individual campuses did.
However, two of KIPP Texas’ six San Antonio area schools received F scores, including KIPP Esperanza Dual Language Academy and KIPP Un Mundo Dual Language Academy.
In a written statement, KIPP Chief Operating Officer Sehba Ali said the district was proud of its overall B rating and would take the A-F results seriously. Over the summer, KIPP Texas has engaged in 450 hours of professional development for its personnel, Ali said.
Ali did not specifically address what would be done to improve performance on the two F-rated San Antonio campuses.
Three of Southwest Preparatory School’s six campuses received Fs, including Seguin Elementary, Southwest Prep Northwest Elementary, and the Southwest Preparatory School located on Austin Highway.
Southwest Preparatory Superintendent Sherry Head acknowledged that her district’s elementary schools faced struggles. Head said her district will reorganize grant funding to offer additional supports to younger students.
Last year, the district was ranked a B, so Head is confident Southwest Preparatory can get there again.
“Starting right now, we are at our retreat planning and working in professional learning communities and we’re already looking at the data and looking at curriculum,” Head said. “Accountability is important, and we want our students to do the best they can. It is high-stakes testing and a lot of pressure on elementary.”
Great Hearts Texas operates five campuses in the state and four in San Antonio. All but Great Hearts’ newest school, Great Hearts Western Hills, received an A. The State awarded the Western Hills campus an F.
Dejah Behnke, Great Hearts vice president of advancement, said her district was not surprised by the outcomes, but also not excited about the F grade.
“We did see early after the school year was over that the scores didn’t look good and you know while in a school’s first year a campus tends to score lower on standardized tests,” Behnke said. “In [Western Hills’] startup year, we saw that our students scored particularly lower than we expected even in the first year of school.”
Great Hearts is planning targeted training and development aimed at growing academic outcomes in the coming year. The district implemented a leadership change at Western Hills and added a central office position focused on instruction.
Two San Antonio campuses operated by Jubilee Academy failed state standards. Lake View University Prep and Highland Hills received an F grade for the second year in a row.
Jubilee officials did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.