Charter and traditional schools find a common purpose in Texas


Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Richard Whitmire, a veteran newspaper reporter and former editorial writer at USA Today. Author of several books concerning our education system. Whitmire spent a year as a fellow with the Emerson collective, which allowed him to visit many of the top charter schools in the country. This research continued as a Kauffman fellow, and the result is his latest book, The Founder, in which he shared untold anecdotes about the leaders, advocates, philanthropists and partners who helped spark an education revolution across the country. He continues his work using a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

Charter and traditional schools find a common purpose in Texas

Charter-school operators and traditional school districts have long behaved like enemies. But an intriguing truce has emerged in an unlikely place: Texas. In the Lone Star State’s three biggest cities, charters and traditional district schools have discovered that collaborating to help their high-school graduates earn college degrees is a win-win.

Knowledge is Power Program, a national charter network founded in Houston more than two decades ago, helped eight charter operators in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston join forces with local public school districts. Together they formed a new organization, United for College Success. The group’s goal is to improve college graduation rates among alumni. In addition to sharing best practices, United for College Success has begun pressuring local colleges and universities to do more for their students, many of whom are the first in their families to pursue higher education.

This isn’t the only promising collaboration between charters and local districts. In 2015 KIPP San Antonio struck a deal with the San Antonio Independent School District, where the student population is 91% Hispanic and 6% African-American. More than 90% of kids in the San Antonio ISD are eligible to receive free and reduced lunch. By 2020, with KIPP’s help, the district hopes to boost the percentage of its students going to college to 80% from the current 50%. Both KIPP and the San Antonio district want to see half of the city’s graduates heading off to four-year colleges and 10% going to the top tier of schools ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Two years ago, 20% of San Antonio’s college-bound graduates were headed to four-year colleges. Only 3% were enrolled in selective schools.

Like most urban districts, San Antonio’s had never paid much attention to the college success of its graduates. Educators long viewed that as being up to students, parents and colleges—not high schools. But Mr. Martinez and his colleagues, to their credit, chose to take on the challenge, tapping into lessons learned from the now decade-old KIPP through College Program aimed at matching low-income minority students with the schools where they are most likely to succeed. The KIPP team follows each student until college graduation, making sure that everything from financial aid to course credits stays on track.

In New York and Houston, the percentage of KIPP graduates earning bachelor’s degrees within six years has risen steadily thanks to the Through College Program. In both cities, roughly half of the program’s graduates now earn their degrees in six years, up from about a third in 2011. Nationally only 9% of students from low-income families earn bachelor’s degrees in that time frame.

The San Antonio partnership, funded by a grant from Texas energy giant Valero, has already borne fruit. At Thomas Jefferson High, the pilot school where a KIPP adviser spent most of her time, 53% of 2017 graduates were accepted into four-year colleges, compared with only 26% in 2016. “We’re seeing a marked increase in the number of students who not only are graduating and going to college, but are being accepted to Tier One universities,” said San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez. KIPP has benefited as well from the chance to run their college-success playbook at scale, the kind you find only in big traditional districts.

There’s a reason why collaborations built around college success have proven popular with both traditional districts and charters. Unlike the annual enrollment competition, in which districts lose students and dollars to charters, only high-school graduates are involved. There are no losers, no lost dollars and no closed schools. In fact, traditional districts stand to gain.

Charters are public schools, and their operations are funded by taxpayer dollars. But in most places charter founders need to raise outside funding to launch their schools. For years, traditional school districts watched resentfully as philanthropists and foundations poured hundreds of millions of dollars into new charters. The imbalance prompted teachers unions to wage national revenge campaigns, accusing “billionaires” of “privatizing” public education.

Yet the sometimes hostile dynamic between charters and traditional districts shifts when the topic changes to fostering college success. In San Antonio, for example, Valero stepped up with a $3 million gift to KIPP’s college program, $700,000 of which was set aside for launching the collaboration with the San Antonio district. Early next month, Valero is expected to make an announcement of fresh funding for new, KIPP-trained college counselors for the district.

Much of what the college counselors do involves relatively simple data crunching. They look to see which universities in the San Antonio area have amassed a positive record helping low-income and minority students earn bachelor’s degrees within six years. St. Mary’s University, for example, has a far higher graduation rate for Hispanics than does the University of Texas, San Antonio. KIPP tracks college success data like that for hundreds of colleges, a repository of crucial information that San Antonio district counselors can now access.

Recently, the Houston Independent School District’s college-success program, Emerge, joined the United for College Success coalition with the charters. Among the questions they are exploring together: Is there a way to share the time-consuming task of checking in on students at their college campuses?

The participation of a large district such as Houston gives the coalition heft when pushing universities for changes to help first-generation college-goers. Collaborating with charter schools doesn’t bother Emerge founder Rick Cruz, a former fifth-grade Teach for America teacher. At the end of the day, he says, these are all our kids.  If only that attitude could spread nationally.


Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12 

The Real Spirit of a True American

Dear Friends.

This is a very inspiring life story of Quang Nguyen, Mr. Nguyen immigrated to the United States in 1975 from Vietnam at age 13. He graduated from California State University, at Long Beach with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Highly skilled and experienced in all aspects of marketing and design. Mr. Nguyen is a visionary and practical strategist. He has extensive experienced in higher education, in addition to the municipality and public sectors.

The Real Spirit of a True American

The town of Prescott Valley, AZ, hosted a Vietnam Veterans Day Freedom Rally. Quang Nguyen was asked to speak about his experience of coming to America and what it means.

He spoke the following in dedication to all Vietnam Veterans. Thought you should read what he had to say:

“35 years ago, if you were to tell me that I am going to stand up here speaking to a couple thousand people, in English, I’d laugh at you. Every morning I wake up thanking God for putting me and my family in the greatest country on earth. I just want you all to know that the American dream does exist and I am living that American dream. I was asked to speak>> to you about my experience as a first generation Vietnamese-American, but I’d rather speak to you as an American.

If you hadn’t noticed, I am not white and I feel pretty comfortable with my people.

I am a proud U.S. citizen and here is my proof. It took me 8 years to get citizenship, waiting in endless lines, but I earned it, I got it, and I am very proud of it….I don’t see myself as entitled to anything, but the chance to succeed.

I still remember the images of the Tet offensive in 1968, I was six years old. Now, you might want to question how a 6-year-old boy could remember anything.

Trust me, those images can never be erased. I can’t even imagine what it was like for those young American soldiers, 10,000 miles away from home, fighting for freedoms, on my behalf.

35 years ago, I left South Vietnam for political asylum. The war had ended. At the age of 13, I left with the clear understanding that I might not ever get to see my siblings or parents again. I was one of the first of the lucky 100,000 Vietnamese allowed to come to the U.S. Thankfully, my family and I were able to be reunited 5 months later, amazingly, in California. It was a miracle from God.

If you haven’t heard lately, this is the greatest country on earth, I am telling you that right now. It was the freedom and the opportunities presented to me that put me here with all of you tonight.

I also remember the barriers that I had to overcome every step of the way. My high school counselor told me that I could not ever make it to college, due to my poor communication skills. I proved him wrong. I entered and finished college.

You see, all you have to do is to give this little boy, and anyone like him, a challenge and an opportunity and encourage him to take it and run with it, then, get out of his way. Well, I took the opportunity and here I am, today.

This person standing tonight in front of you today could not exist under a socialist/communist environment. By the way, if you think socialism is the way to go, I am sure many people here will chip in to get you a one-way ticket out of here. And if you didn’t know, the only difference between socialism and communism is an AK-47 aimed at your head. That was my first-hand experience….one I will never forget.

In 1982, I stood with a thousand new immigrants, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and listening to the National Anthem for the first time as an American. To this day, I can’t remember anything sweeter and more patriotic than that moment in my life.

Fast forwarding, somehow I finished high school, finished college, and like any other goofball 21 year old kid, I was having a great time with my life. I had a nice job and a nice apartment in Southern California….all a dream come true.   In some way and somehow, I had forgotten how I got here and why I was here.

One day I was at a gas station, I saw a veteran pumping gas on the other side of the island. I don’t know what made me do it, but I walked over and asked if he had served in Vietnam. He smiled and said yes. I shook and held his hand. That grown man began to well up. I walked away as fast as I could and at that very moment, I was emotionally rocked. This was a profound moment in my life. I knew something had to change in my life. It was time for me to learn how to be a good citizen. It was time for me to give back.

You see, America is not just a place on the map, it isn’t just a physical location. It is an ideal, a concept….a set of principles worth fighting for.

And if you are an American, you must understand this concept, you must accept this concept; most important, you have to fight and continually defend this concept….or it will be taken away from you.

This is about Freedom and not ‘free stuff’.. And that is why I am standing up here.

Brothers and sisters, to be a real American, the very least you must do is to learn English and understand it well. In my humble opinion, you cannot be a faithful, patriotic citizen if you can’t speak the language of the country you live in. Take this document of 46 pages – last I looked on the Internet, there was not a Vietnamese translation of the U.S. Constitution. It took me a long time to get to the point of being able to converse and until this day, I still struggle to come up with the right words. It’s not easy, but if it’s too easy, it’s not worth doing.

Before I knew this 46-page document, I learned of the 500,000 Americans who fought for this little boy. I learned of the 58,000 names inscribed on that black wall at the Vietnam Memorial. You are my heroes. You are my founders and my sponsors.

When I see all the groups of protestors, with their signs and slogans–some, not even legal immigrants of this great country–I cannot help but think how little they really comprehend or understand it’s constitution, its founding principles, or it’s tenets of freedom……paid for by others who did believe and understand. They think, just because they’re here and they can protest, that they’re entitled to everything you have. They are not, nor will they ever be! Citizenship for those not born here has to be earned, not demanded. All too often, those things freely granted are taken for granted and not fully appreciated, versus those things earned and paid for.

At this time, I would like to ask all the Vietnam veterans to please stand. I thank you for liberating my life. I thank you for your services, and I thank you for giving me the freedom and liberty I have today. I now, ask all veterans, firefighters, and police officers, to please stand. On behalf of all first generation immigrants, I thank you for your services on our citizen’s behalf, and may God bless you all as you defend and protect patriotic citizens and protestors, alike.”

Quang Nguyen


Quang Nguyen, Founder, President, Creative and Art Director, Principal Strategist
Caddis Advertising, LLC

“God Bless America”
“One Flag, One Language, One Nation Under God



Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12