Today@Sam Article

SHSU To Open Charter School In Houston

Feb. 19, 2016
SHSU Media Contact: Julia May

The Texas State University System Board of Regents has authorized Sam Houston State University to establish a public, open-enrollment school district in the greater Houston area, developed through a university-based charter with SHSU, beginning in August.

The school will have locations in existing childcare facilities with classrooms for kindergarten through the second grades in the first year and plans to phase in another grade level each year until the school is operating PK-6 in the fifth year. 

Sam Houston State University was established in 1879 as a school with a dedicated mission of training teachers for public school. 

“We have always done a great job preparing teachers—it’s one of the things for which the university is well known,” said Stacey Edmonson, dean of the College of Education at SHSU. 

“Now we are going to be able to give our students an even richer experience by providing them with an opportunity to work with school children of all different types across a large geographic region,” she said.  

Charter schools are publicly funded and are held to the same accountability standards by the state as traditional schools are. 

“Because our charter school is a public school, the state requires that we administer all the same tests, and we will get an accountability rating, just like everyone else,” Edmonson said. “We believe in these processes, and we believe that there are already established and effective ways to help public school students be successful.”

However, charter schools typically have more flexibility than traditional schools, and the university plans to enhance the learning experience of children attending the SHSU school by trying new and different approaches, such as non-traditional grading, flexible grouping and project-based learning, according to Edmonson. 

“We sent personal letters to area superintendents to let them know of our intent,” she said. “We told them that we in no way want to compete with them or negatively impact them, but we believe that this gives us an arena to try innovative ideas. 

“If the ideas work, we can share the information with the districts, and we both grow from that experience,” she said.

“We had a very positive response from most of those we contacted,” Edmonson said. “We have a strong relationship with our ISDs in the area; they trust us, and that is very important to us. 

“Part of our job is to show them that we are making a difference in education and to provide the benefit of our experiences for them,” she said. 

Although there are already seven university-sponsored charter schools in the state, Sam Houston State University’s school is unique in that the school will not be located in the same city as the university. 

“Being in the Houston area will allow us to have a greater impact on children,” Edmonson said. “It’s also an efficient model because the biggest expense for education entities is facilities. Since we will be on childcare locations that are already in place, this allows us to use our resources in other ways.” 

Most of the buildings where the classes will be located have spaces that are unused during the school day. The university will lease the area for students to attend school, and the facility will have it at the end of the allotted time for afterschool day care. 

The charter school will not be associated with any early childhood programs the facility already has in place for infants to 4 year olds. 

Just like traditional public schools, the SHSU charter school will have access to Title I federal funding, and the school will provide breakfast and lunch for the children who are eligible. 

All teachers will be certified. Although the school is operated by SHSU, the teachers are not required to be Sam Houston graduates.

“However, those are the types of teachers we will want in these schools,” Edmonson said. 

“In addition, we will have lots of field-experience opportunities. Our aspiring teachers who are currently attending SHSU will be there working with the school children, so that our students will be exposed to that environment and the learning model there,” she said.

“We want our student teachers, our teacher candidates, to have the skills and abilities to work with all types of children from all walks of life. They get a certain kind of experience in the Huntsville schools, and we will always have that partnership,” she said. 

“But our students will now have additional opportunities for different experiences in suburban, as well as urban, environments. We want them to become good teachers in all three situations, because children come from everywhere,” she said. “It’s our job to ensure that our teachers can be effective with any type of student.” 

SHSU will hire a superintendent and the district will have a charter school board, which will initially be comprised of appointed members selected from the parents of children attending the school and College of Education faculty members.  Eventually, the board will be elected from the parents of the school children. 

All charter school hires will be employed by Sam Houston State University. 

“We are very excited about the charter school,” Edmonson said. “Not only are we able to expand what we are doing for our own students, but we will be able to impact and make a difference in the lives of children, and that’s what a College of Education is all about.” 

 

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