Citywide Education Progress Report

Key Takeaways: June 2018

Across San Antonio’s 17 school districts and dozens of charter campuses, there are promising signs of change and improvement. San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) is taking the biggest and most public steps by partnering with nonprofits, charter organizations, and local businesses to improve low-performing schools, offer specialized career training to students, and streamline transportation. There are early signs that other area districts are following SAISD’s lead. As San Antonio’s districts and charter schools move forward, the challenge will be to coordinate with one another and ensure that families are part of the improvement strategy. As schools innovate and offer new options to families, school systems need to provide supports to ensure equitable access, which may include further streamlining information and enrollment systems.


System Reforms

Is the education strategy
rooted in the community?

Variety of groups Good
City engages families Developing
Broad support Developing
System is Responsive Developing

Do students have access
a high-quality education?

Array of school models Good
Strategic school supply Developing
Transportation is working Developing
Enrollment is working Developing
Families have information Developing

Is the education system
continuously improving?

Right teachers Developing  
Right leaders Developing
Equitable funding Little in Place

Each indicator is scored with a rubric on a 4-point scale. We added the scores for the indicators to get an overall goal score. An arrow shows increase or decrease from the 2017 score.

Looking Deeper

Challenges Ahead

Collaborating citywide to address school funding and quality

Families in San Antonio face a complex web of options. The city has inter- and intra-district choice, as well as charter schools. This complex landscape also makes it challenging to pursue a coordinated strategy. Nonprofits, civic officials, charter schools, and districts must coordinate to ensure cohesion of services and vision, and some of this work is already in place. A new nonprofit, City Education Partners, is helping to coordinate efforts across charter schools and districts, and a cross-sector coalition has been meeting to discuss streamlining school application and enrollment. But what is missing is a task force that holds regular meetings focused on priority issues with district, charter, nonprofit, and civic leaders. Others engaged in citywide education work, like those involved in pre-K and higher education, should be included, both to lend their expertise and to help build a neutral forum. Interviewees noted several issues that would benefit from citywide collaboration—notably inadequate state funding, especially for persistently low-performing schools. Other issues ripe for systemwide collaboration include more school enrollment coordination across district and charter sectors and the creation of a family-friendly school performance guide that includes schools from both sectors.

Making sure parents are informed and included in strategy discussions

Involving families in reform work is a significant challenge for San Antonio, given the 17 districts in the city and segregation that has historically separated communities from one another. SAISD, by law, holds forums to involve families in school closure. However, more work is still needed across three areas: educating families about school quality and their school options, developing avenues for families to be included in school redesign and closure decisions, and closing the feedback loop so families understand how their input is being used. The nonprofit Families Empowered, which helps families navigate the choice process, has extended its work to San Antonio. However, more supports are needed, including a consolidated school guide with all district and charter schools in the city. To better involve families in school closure and redesign, City Education Partners or SAISD’s newly formed Family and Community Engagement (FACE) office can establish norms and procedures. The FACE office can also coordinate with the city’s many direct-service and community organizations to gather input from families and communicate how community input is being used in strategy decisions.

Transforming SAISD’s central office to support school innovation

SAISD created an Innovation Office that oversees twelve Innovation Zone schools and supports the development of new school designs. The district also has a plan to improve struggling schools. In order to move forward on improving school fit and quality, SAISD should consider two recommendations: pursuing per-pupil funding with budget flexibility, and transforming the central office to support school-level decision making. By weighting funds at the school level, students who need more support will have those dollars follow them no matter what school they attend. SAISD must also reassess central office spending and overhaul how it distributes funds to individual schools, so schools can have more flexibility to adjust curriculum, programs, and staffing to meet student and school model needs. The district must plan for what will happen when schools with low enrollment have fewer funds to support students, including those with high needs. And, SAISD must fully prepare school leaders and district program managers for their new roles within a more autonomous system. Some central office departments, like Curriculum and Instruction, Budgeting, Human Resources, and Professional Development can reorient to focus on school support rather than on compliance.


Recruiting Talent with Relocation Stipends

In the past, district and charter leadership in San Antonio have viewed talent as a competitive enterprise. However, a recent initiative uses a collaborative approach to teacher and leader recruitment. Educate210 pays teachers to travel to San Antonio for interviews and then offers a moving stipend to those who land jobs. The initiative collaborates with city agencies and local businesses to offer rent reductions and retail discounts. Relocation support, one of the key features of Educate210, is highly correlated with increasing minority representation in the teacher workforce.

This initiative is part of other efforts to address a key challenge in San Antonio: recruiting and retaining teachers and leaders. Other efforts include partnerships with the Relay Graduate School of Education and Trinity University. Combined, the organizations operate three lab schools that provide on-the-job training to teachers and leaders—district or charter.

The Educate210 online portal provides an innovative solution to attract talent. The portal can also provide data about who is applying to schools and what incentives matter most. Key next steps for San Antonio include projecting talent needs citywide and aligning training with the subject areas of highest need.

District Partners with Charter Schools and Organizations to Expand Options for Families

SAISD is pursuing a number of partnerships outside the district to ensure that students have the school model that will best serve their needs. The Texas charter school operator Braination specializes in serving students with social and emotional disorders. In 2017-18, the operator started managing a district school, renamed Afton Oaks, as a therapeutic day program serving secondary students.

Braination and SAISD negotiated a contract that outlines how they will combine their expertise and resources: SAISD provides the facility, transportation, and central office support, while Braination teaches students using its trained staff and vetted curriculum.

This is one of a growing number of partnerships between SAISD and nonprofit organizations. This includes partnerships with the charter operator Democracy Prep to turn around a struggling school, businesses like the Culinary Institute of America that provide career training, and local universities. Some, like San Antonio College at Fox Tech, offer certification, while others, like St. Philip’s College, operate dual-enrollment programs.

Student and School Outcomes

Although San Antonio’s graduation rates are on par with the state’s, the city has not made improvements in math proficiency rates, and it has fallen behind the state in reading proficiency rates.

► In 2014-15, the city’s graduation rate was on par with the state’s.

► Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, the proficiency rate gap widened between the city and state in reading. In 2015, the city’s proficiency rate was 4 percentage points below the state’s.

Data are for all charter and district schools within the municipal boundary. Performance data from the Texas Education Agency and graduation data from the EDFacts Initiative. See Methodology & Resources for more detail.


About San Antonio

The San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) is the most central and third largest of 17 districts in San Antonio. Under Texas SB 1842, in 2016 SAISD elected to become a District of Innovation.  As part of this effort, the district has developed an Innovation Zone and is developing partnerships with charter operators and nonprofits. The district has also improved transportation, enrollment, information to facilitate the choice process for families. The charter sector is partially coordinated with the district. A local nonprofit works with the largest charter management operators in the city. 

School Choice in the City

Most SAISD schools are part of a designated feeder pattern, but there are a growing number of open enrollment schools and nearly every campus accepts out-of-zone/district students. Most charter schools have an open enrollment policy, allowing students from any district to apply. The two largest San Antonio area ISDs (Northside ISD and North East ISD) allow for choice within the district, but not across districts.

Governance Model

All 17 districts in San Antonio are governed by a school board. SAISD authorizes charter schools within district boundaries, and the Texas Education Agency authorizes charter schools outside SAISD boundaries.

2015 District and Charter Student Body

Enrollment: 325,569 students
Race and ethnicity: 74% Hispanic, 15% white, 7% black, 4% other
Low-income: 65% free and reduced-price lunch

2017 School Composition 

Source: Enrollment data from EDFacts, 2014-15.
School data from researcher analysis of public records, 2016-17.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education is a research and policy analysis center at the University of Washington Bothell developing systemwide solutions for K–12 public education. Questions? Email