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VIDEO — From Competitors to Collaborators: What One Texas Superintendent Learned When He Welcomed Top Charter Networks to Town and Raised the Bar for Students

September 26, 2018

Texas might be the birthplace of some of the United States’ highest-performing networks of public charter schools, but they were relatively slow to take root in San Antonio. Just six years ago the largest nonprofit charter schools enrolled just 800 students. When a local philanthropist saw what was happening in one of the new schools, she organized a push to attract as many schools as possible from odds-beating school networks like KIPP, IDEA, Basis, and Great Hearts.

Because of this, when Pedro Martinez took the top job overseeing the San Antonio Independent School District, serving one of the poorest neighborhoods in one of America’s most economically segregated cities, he had to find a way to compete not just with more affluent neighboring school districts but also with charter school networks that were attracting wealthy and disadvantaged students alike.

As part of a broader strategy to disrupt concentrations of students in deep poverty by integrating San Antonio ISD schools according to family income, Martinez invited teachers and principals to open schools featuring the same dynamic and attractive themes that were attracting families to his charter-sector competitors. He also took a further, controversial step and invited a handful of charter school operators and other outside groups to form partnerships with the district, taking over schools where specialized expertise or intensive turnaround efforts were merited.

Here, The 74’s Beth Hawkins describes the collaborations and outlines the reasons why partnering with groups most district leaders would perceive as competition could help San Antonio ISD stanch enrollment losses and better serve some of its most fragile students. Read more about the district’s broader school integration effort, and the staff Martinez recruited to help. (Click here to read The 74’s special report)

Video Produced by James Fields