IDEA Public School students participate in a small group instruction, a fundamental of IDEA's elementary academic model. Photo courtesy of IDEA.
Students at IDEA Public School, a charter school, participate in small-group instruction. Credit: Courtesy / IDEA Public Schools

A fresh academic school year brings new challenges to students returning to class after the summer break. For economically disadvantaged students in charter schools, one of the biggest challenges might be performing well on math assessments.

Data released earlier this month by the Texas Education Agency shows economically disadvantaged students perform worse on major math assessments in charter school districts in San Antonio than in public school districts.

According to an analysis of the data by the Rivard Report, 63 percent of charter school districts reported that their economically disadvantaged students — those who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals — did not meet the math standard for their grade level, compared to 47 percent of traditional public school districts.

In San Antonio, there are 15 public school districts and 22 charter school districts.

Economically disadvantaged students in charter school districts in San Antonio did perform slightly better than public school districts on reading assessments, however. About 47 percent of San Antonio charter school districts report that their economically disadvantaged students did not meet the reading standard for their grade level, compared to 53 percent of traditional public school districts.

Economically disadvantaged children struggle because they face fundamental challenges to basic needs, such as access to food and safe environments, said Brian Gottardy, North East Independent School District superintendent.

Some are coping with violence in their homes or neighborhoods, and most economically disadvantaged children come to school with few previous educational experiences, are malnourished, or live in a chaotic environments, Gottardy said.

“As a result, they begin school behind their peers who have had more positive environmental experiences,” he said. “From the very beginning, they are at a disadvantage.”

The number of economically disadvantaged students in Texas schools is increasing. During the last decade, enrollment of economically disadvantaged students in traditional Texas public schools rose by 3.5 percent and dropped in charter schools by 2.4 percent. Overall, the percentage of students identified as economically disadvantaged in the state has grown by about 4 percent since 2008.

Emily Royall

Emily Royall

Emily Royall is the Rivard Report's former data director.