IN-DISTRICT CHARTER SCHOOLS

In-district charter schools are SAISD schools that are given increased autonomy in return for greater accountability for student achievement. The SAISD Board of Trustees grants in-district charters to educators in order to create new schools or redesign existing schools. By empowering educators with the autonomy to design and run high-quality schools, SAISD will increase the number of best-fit school options that students can access, regardless of their academic abilities or geographic constraints. The Board authorizes in-district charters through the Annual Call for Quality Schools.

IN-DISTRICT CHARTER BENEFITS

  • Increased autonomy for campus leaders and teachers over time, talent, and resources, in exchange for greater accountability for performance.

  • Design best fit, innovative schools that meet the needs of students, families and staff.

  • Become a “choice school” that attracts new students outside of your attendance boundary and guarantees admission to neighborhood students.

  • Startup grant opportunities are available for all new in-district charter applicants. These competitive federal grants have awarded schools up to $800,000 over two years to support planning and start-up expenses related to the schools’ redesign.

IN-DISTRICT CHARTER FAQs

An in-district charter school is an SAISD school that has been granted a “charter” by the SAISD Board of Trustees. State law allows school boards to grant in-district charters to educators who are interested in creating new, high quality schools or redesigning neighborhood schools. In-district charter schools are subject to many of the same laws as regular district schools, such as laws on state accountability, special education, and student safety. However, the Board of Trustees has the ability to grant increased autonomy to in-district charter schools in return for greater accountability for student achievement. The theory of action behind in-district charter schools is that by empowering educators with the autonomy to design and run high-quality schools, SAISD will increase the number of best-fit school options that students can access, regardless of their academic abilities or geographic constraints. To learn more about in-district charter schools in the state of Texas, visit this Texas Education Agency website.

Create staff and community ownership. Participating in a strategic school design process through the Annual Call encourages school leaders to deeply engage with their campus staff, parents, and community. This type of engagement will create greater collaboration with your school community and lead to more long-term support for your campus.

Drive school autonomy. All approved in-district charters receive exemptions from specific district policies and procedures that will drive greater decision-making authority to the campus. This autonomy will allow schools to tailor their school to the unique needs of their students, staff, and families.

Attract and retain students. San Antonio families have a wide array of school options, both inside and outside SAISD. Creating an in-district charter school gives a campus the opportunity to differentiate itself from other schools, better meet families’ needs, and engage families who haven’t chosen that school in the past.

New in-district charter applicants may be eligible for federal Charter School Program (CSP) grants, which are one-time grants to support school planning and start up expenses like professional development and technology. (This is not a permanent infusion of school funding.) If a school has received a CSP grant in the past, it will not be eligible for another grant. This is a competitive grant, so the award is not guaranteed. Awards are typically in the range of $800,000 per school over two years.

Schools are also encouraged to fundraise on their own. It is possible, but not guaranteed, that the creation of a new school model through the in-district charter application process will open up additional opportunities to pursue grants and philanthropy.

All in-district charter schools will be accountable to the district’s unified enrollment policy and administrative procedures. Schools that currently have attendance zones will maintain those attendance zones, while also being able to offer seats to students living outside the boundary.

Other schools without attendance boundaries will be open to students living within and outside of SAISD while ensuring equitable access to historically disadvantaged students. Please see Administrative Procedure F51 and www.saisdchoice.com for more information on student enrollment.

MORE IN-DISTRICT CHARTER FAQs

HOW TO BECOME AN IN-DISTRICT CHARTER SCHOOL

Through the Annual Call for Quality Schools, the Office of Innovation seeks proposals from SAISD educators interested in redesigning existing schools, developing new school models, and revising existing in-district charters. School leaders will engage their campus staff and families in developing a comprehensive school plan that addresses the unique needs of the school and its community. This school plan will take the form of a charter application that will be submitted to the Office of Innovation for evaluation against a rubric. Applications that meet standard will be recommended to the SAISD Board of Trustees for approval.

The first step is to learn about what it means to become an in-district charter, and then engage with the school staff to gauge interest in pursuing the in-district charter. Begin discussing with your campus staff in the year before you apply.
After you’ve established that your school is interested, submit a Letter of Intent, which is a very brief, non-binding expression that your school is interested in applying to become an in-district charter or revising your existing in-district charter.
The Office of Innovation will provide targeted support to all applicant teams through topic-specific workshops, open office hours, and written feedback on each part of the application before the final application is due.

All approved in-district charter schools are eligible to apply for the federal Public Charter School Program Start-Up Grant. This is a competitive grant opportunity that awards eligible schools up to $800,000 to support school start-up costs such as instructional technology, classroom furniture, and professional development.

Completed applications will first be reviewed by an evaluation committee comprised of district staff and non-district education professionals. Applications meeting the district’s standard will be recommended to the SAISD Board of Trustees for approval.

The school will create a small applicant team that will answer the charter application questions and organize feedback from the school’s stakeholders into a coherent school design plan.

The content of the charter application must reflect the needs of the school’s various stakeholders (students, staff, families, community, etc.), therefore engagement with the community throughout the process is critical.

ACTIVE IN-DISTRICT CHARTERS

Academies

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Early Childhood & Elementary Schools

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Middle & High Schools

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ACCOUNTABILITY: SCHOOL PERFORMANCE REVIEW & PLANNING

In-district charter schools must meet state and federal accountability requirements in the same manner as all other SAISD schools. Additionally, the SAISD Board will approve a rigorous performance contract for each in-district charter school. These performance contracts will include goals on student achievement, fidelity to the school’s charter application, staff and parent engagement, and financial sustainability.

The district will annually monitor and publish school results for all in-district charter schools at a public board meeting in the fall during each school year. The public will also have access to the performance data for all in-district charter schools. On a 3- to 5-year performance contract cycle, the board will review performance contracts at a public board meeting to determine whether the school’s charter will be renewed, placed on probation, or revoked. Additionally, the board may place a charter on probation or revoke the charter if it finds that the campus (i) violates applicable state or federal law; (ii) violates the student achievement provisions of the charter; (iii) after two years, the school is rated as “Improvement Required” or is in the bottom 5% in comparison to all district campuses based on academic performance; or (iv) the campus charter fails to meet generally accepted accounting standards. This district’s annual school performance review and planning cycle will ensure that all in-district charter schools utilize their autonomy in a way that leads to improved student achievement.