Choose to Succeed is a non-profit organization working to radically improve San Antonio’s educational results by attracting the nation’s best public charter schools to San Antonio. Our mission is to ensure that every family has access to exceptional, tuition-free, public education options.
Two charter management organizations currently have a presence in San Antonio:
Two other charter management organizations are Texas-approved charter school operators and will be opening in Fall 2013 and Fall 2014:
Two other charter management organizations are applying for their Texas charters and intend to open schools in the Fall of 2014.
What is a charter school?
A charter school is one type of public school created under the Texas Education Code. Because they are public schools, charter schools are:
- Prohibited from having religious affiliations or religious curriculum; and
- Nonselective, (if more students sign up than can be accommodated, enrollment is decided by randomized public lottery; charters are required by law to serve disabled students and to provide all the same accommodations as any public school).
Unlike traditional public school districts:
- Many charter schools will serve the entire metropolitan area so students do not have to live near a good school to go to one.
What is a CMO (Charter Management Organization)?
A CMO is a central office that helps to support and replicate a group of affiliated charter schools to maintain fidelity to the school model and to ensure consistent quality across the network of schools.
Choose to Succeed: Replicating Our Nation’s Best CMOs in San Antonio
There are a number of mature, replicating high performing charter management organizations (CMOs) around the country that have over the last year been deciding where to replicate next. Some are considering expanding into states with friendlier charter laws and city leaders who value their performance and embrace them, even as they continue to expand in their home regions. Most of them are serving thousands of students in many schools, and they have done the educational equivalent of curing cancer.
The best CMOs give students about 4 extra years worth of education by the time they finish high school as compared to traditional public schools. In low-income populations, which many CMOs focus on, this is enough to close the achievement gap. For example, Rocketship Education’s low-income Hispanic students in San Jose, CA, catch up to their affluent peers in Palo Alto by 5th grade. No other educational intervention has been able to close the achievement gap at scale. In middle-income populations, the results are equally astounding. For example, BASIS Schools’ average charter school student has 9 AP credits by the end of 11th grade. Essentially, these organizations are providing most of their students about 1.5 years worth of learning in every school year. Until recently, this was thought to be impossible because our traditional public education system couldn’t do it. It turns out not to be impossible, just really, really hard. Great organizations do great things, including in education.
In 2011, the Brackenridge Foundation and other community leaders began approaching a number of these great organizations and ultimately five agreed to join KIPP San Antonio–another great CMO–in San Antonio, contingent on the funding community pledging their startup costs (about $58 million total) and the Texas Board of Education granting Texas charters to the four CMOs from out of state. If these two things happened, these six CMOs projected they could build over 80,000 high quality charter school seats for San Antonio children by 2026–roughly 1/4 of the city’s current public school enrollment.
Since then, local individuals and philanthropies including the Brackenridge Foundation, The Ewing Halsell Foundation, the Najim Family Foundation, David Robinson, Graham Weston’s 80/20 Foundation, the Brown Foundation, and the San Antonio Area Foundation’s High Performing Charter School Fund have given and pledged over $30 million in start up costs and the State Board of Education has awarded charters to the two CMOs that applied in 2012, Great Hearts and BASIS. IDEA has opened in David Robinson’s Carver Academy, and its second campus will open in 2013. BASIS is opening its first campus in 2013, and Great Hearts will open it’s first campus in 2014. Rocketship and Carpe Diem have applied for charters in 2013.
If these CMOs perform here as they have elsewhere, we project this will more than double the number of college graduates San Antonio produces every year as well as move the needle correspondingly on every other measure of student achievement–SAT scores, high school graduation rates, literacy, and state test scores. It would vault San Antonio into the company of the five best-educated states in the nation for college completion. Based on the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch each of our charter partners is currently serving and their growth projections for San Antonio, we predict that low-income students will represent a majority of the students our Choose to Succeed partners serve, at least 75%.
If we can get these CMOs to build schools here, we have plenty of reason to believe they will succeed both because of their track records and because half of them are Charter School Growth Fund grantees. The Charter School Growth Fund is a national investor for Gates, Dell, Walton family and other big foundations, which selects the best CMOs nationally and helps them achieve rigorous cost control, fast growth, and excellent student results.
Because of this and their national rankings, these CMOs bring substantial national philanthropy and federal grants with them wherever they choose to go. The cost to local funders to build a seat in these schools varies from as low as $100 per seat for Rocketship to about $2,500 per seat for KIPP (average is about $1000), and the cost depends on both the educational model and the age of students served. (E.g. elementary costs less than high school.) This cost per seat is a one-time start-up cost, after which the seat is sustainable on public funding (and parent donations in one case).
A quick ROI comparison:
Building a seat in an IDEA school costs local philanthropists $1500, exactly the same cost as supporting a volunteer mentorship through a well respected nonprofit that Brackenridge has supported. An IDEA education increases a child’s chances of earning a college degree by 500%. In contrast, the mentorship (according to the group’s own study) increases the child’s chances of earning a college degree by 27%. After the $1500 investment, the IDEA seat is sustained by public funds. The philanthropist gives $1500 once, and the seat goes on to give child after child a college prep education, while the volunteer mentorship has to be funded again and again forever at $1500 per year per child.
When you aggregate that ROI to 80,000 seats, you move the needle radically citywide at a price we can afford.
Click here to see what world class public education looks like. It’s amazing.