What is a charter school and how is it different than a traditional school?
Charter schools are tuition-free, open-enrollment public schools. In effect, a charter school is a one-school public school district that operates independently of the district board of education. Charter schools are held to a set of guiding principles, governance structure, and accountability measures (the charter) they enter into with state and local entities. The UT Elementary charter is held by The University of Texas Board of Regents, approved by the state in 2003.
The charter leaders can make hiring and curriculum decisions that work best for its campus rather than using curriculum from an administrative office of a large district. Charters are still 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 public average daily attendance funds per pupil to educate students, they receive no facilities funding, as traditional public schools do, in accordance with state law.
What makes UT Elementary School different from other public charters?
As the first university-sponsored charter school in Texas, UT Elementary School was created to be a model and research demonstration school, meaning that we strive to share effective teaching methods with educators across the country. Our mission is to not only serve the students on our campus with a high-quality education, but also to put into practice the proven-effective research about teaching and learning that comes from UT Austin faculty. We also help to train and mentor future educators from the university.
Our student demographics are 87% ethnic minority. Seventy percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch and most of our students will be first-generation college students.
How do I enroll my child at UT Elementary?
First, confirm that your family resides in an eligible zip code: 78702, 78721, 78722, 78723, 78741, 78744*, 78724* (*Must be Austin ISD or Del Valle ISD). Second, gather appropriate documents, including the student application. Paperwork can be submitted to UT Elementary School (2200 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702) between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Complete application details can be found here (hyperlink to how to apply). The school lottery occurs in TBD. Each grade, kindergarten through fifth has two classes of 22 students (44 per grade).
Eligibility for enrollment at UT Elementary is based solely on a family’s residence within our geographic service area. Our students are admitted on a first-come, first served basis, or by lottery when applicants exceed available slots. No tuition may be charged. Charter schools are public schools and therefore cannot choose which students attend.
How many students apply versus how many are admitted by the lottery?
The number of applicants is generally higher in the lower grades. There is also a sibling rule in order to keep families together, which means that a child whose sibling is already enrolled has first priority. There are times that we have had so many siblings that only a handful of spots were available via the lottery. Each grade, kindergarten through fifth has two classes of 22 students (44 per grade).
In recent years acceptance rates through the lottery system versus number of applications has varied from approximately one-third of applicants to one-half of applicants being granted admission. That said, we encourage as many interested families as there are to apply.
Where do your students go after elementary school?
Most of our students go on to other charter schools or magnet schools, such as the Ann Richards School for Girls, East Austin Charter Prep, KIPP, Fulmore Magnet Program or Kealing Magnet Program. Some go on to attend private schools if scholarships are available, and others go on to their assigned Austin ISD middle school.
How involved are your parents and are there volunteer opportunities available to parents?
We encourage all of our UT Elementary parents to invest in their children’s success. This means regularly communicating with teachers and school staff and staying up to date on projects, assignments, and progress.
All parents are also highly encouraged to join the Little Longhorn League (L3), the supporting organization for the UT Elementary School, and regularly participate in school activities, which promote a sense of community among the UT Elementary School students, parents, and staff.