What is a charter school and how is it different than a traditional school?
Texas charter schools are tuition-free, open-enrollment public schools that have the flexibility to adapt to the educational needs of individual students. The State of Texas holds public charter schools accountable to higher standards for academic, financial, and managerial performance. Additionally, public charter schools are governed by oversight boards made up of parents, teachers, and community members.
Under Texas law, open-enrollment charters may only be operated by one of four types of entities: 1) public institutions of higher education, 2) private or independent institutions of higher education, 3) non-profit organizations, or 4) governmental entities. The UT University Charter School charter is held by The University of Texas Board of Regents, approved by the State in 1998.
Charter schools are held to the same standards as traditional public schools in terms of accountability for student learning of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), are required to administer standardized tests such as the STAAR, and are rated using the same criteria the Texas Education Agency uses for all public schools.
Although charters receive average daily attendance public funds per pupil to educate students, they receive no local funding from property taxes, as traditional public schools do, in accordance with state law.
For more information on charter schools in Texas, please see the Texas Education Agency’s website: https://tea.texas.gov/texas-schools/texas-schools-charter-schools/charter-schools
Do charter schools have admission policies? Can they “pick” who attends?
As a general rule, charter schools are open enrollment and must accept any student who applies. There are exceptions though. A charter is only allowed to serve students in the grades in its approved charter. The school may also only accept students who live in the charter’s approved geographic boundary. A charter also will have a cap on the total number of students it may serve. Due to the sensitive nature of some of UT-UCS campuses, those campuses restrict eligibility to youth residing at their facility.
What makes UT-UCS different from other public charters?
Each UT-UCS campus is located on and provided classroom and office space by its facility partner. UT-UCS operates in a variety of settings, including:
- residential treatment centers,
- psychiatric hospitals,
- residential homes for children who, for a variety of reasons cannot live at home,
- shelter housing for those escaping domestic violence or human trafficking,
- a medical facility for children who require specialized services due to brain injury or neuro-behavioral issues and/or who are considered medically fragile, and
- an elite gymnastic program
A current listing of all of our campuses is located on the right hand side of this website.
Most of our students are only with our district for a short time. Many of our facility partners serve young people for increments of 45 or 90 days resulting in a high turn-over rate, known in education jargon as a “mobility rate.” UT-UCS has a mobility rate (school year 2020-2021) of 90.6% which means that almost 91% of our students flow in and out of our district throughout the school year. For comparison, here are some mobility rates for other districts for the same time period: Austin ISD 14.3%, Houston ISD 16%, San Antonio 21.3% and the state average is 13. 8%.
As is the nature of our district, our partner facilities and the youth we serve, the overwhelming majority of our students have experienced trauma in their personal lives. All UT-UCS faculty are trained in “trauma-informed” educational practices including professional development centered on the the work of leaders including: Christian Moore, Kristin Sours, Pete Hall and Dr. Bruce Perry.
If you have a question that is not on this list, please email Dr. Nicole Whetstone, Superintendent, at email@example.com