Austin, Texas Charter Schools
A Popular Education Option in Austin
Published on: November 08, 2019
Boy writing on paper with pencil, sitting at wood desk
Photo By: Annie Spratt

Educational alternatives are everywhere in Austin Texas and one of the fastest-growing areas is charter schools. These unique schools are public schools with a twist with a lot of freedom in terms of curriculum and philosophy that are appealing to many parents. For example in Austin alone there are charter schools for specific skills like gymnastics or technology as well as numerous opportunities for self-directed and experiential learning.

A good resource for information is the Texas Charter Schools Association (; parents can search for schools and get more information (see listing of National Educational Resources in this section). Another resource is the Austin CEO Foundation which has sections on charter public and private schools (see sidebar in Education section for more information). Visit for more information or call 512-291-9120.

There are more than 390 charter schools statewide that educate more than 120000 students and about 100 in Austin. The following is a sampling of Austin’s charter schools.

American YouthWorks (AYW) Charter School

Mission/Philosophy: A fully accredited public high school the focus of the AYW Charter School is to “recover youth who have dropped out of school are at risk of dropping out or who are seeking a different way of learning.” AYW was the first charter school in the U.S. named a National Service Learning Leader School and has been recognized as a national model charter school by the U.S. Department of Education.

Austin Can! Academy Charter School

Mission/Philosophy: The focus of the Austin Can! Academy is on “at-risk 16- to 21-year-old students who have been unsuccessful in traditional educational settings” and to “empower young disadvantaged Texans and their families to break the cycle of failure poverty hopelessness and economic dependency through education and training.”

Austin Discovery School

Mission/Philosophy: At Austin Discovery School “caring sharing helping and empathizing are actively encouraged. Taking the time to teach children to be caring individuals is not at the expense of academics but will enhance academic success through increasing the student’s comfort level thereby increasing their brain’s learning capacity.”

Cedars International Academy

Mission/Philosophy: A public free tuition charter school that offers a small private school environment in northeast Austin Cedars International Academy features small class sizes low student/teacher ratios a warm diverse community and heavy parental involvement. Cedars offers a differentiated curriculum for students of all ability levels including accelerated academic programs to match student readiness. In addition to traditional academic subjects students receive instruction in art music Spanish gardening technology and physical education. Cedars encourages a strong community spirit by emphasizing the basic school values “The Three B’s“: Be safe Be respectful. Be Responsible.

Eden Park Academy

Mission/Philosophy: Classes are inspired by Howard Gardner’s” Theory of Multiple Intelligences” with a curriculum that includes “integrated thematic instruction individual learning plans instruction that recognizes that children are differently gifted instruction based on real-world experiences smaller classrooms and an extended day program.”

Harmony Schools of Excellence

(Includes Harmony Science Academy – Austin; Harmony School of Science – Austin; and Harmony Science Academy – North Austin)

Mission/Philosophy: With a motto of “rigor relevance and relationships” Harmony Schools offers a competitive academic environment to “encourage a lifelong love of learning.” There are 14 campuses across Texas including the three Austin Harmony Science Academy locations which promotes local and international science math and computer technology fairs competitions and Olympiads. The Texas Education Agency has also recognized the schools as Exemplary campuses.

KIPP Austin Public Schools

Mission/Philosophy: Founded in July 2002 KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Austin Public Schools is a charter school district of free open enrollment college-preparatory public schools that “empowers a new generation to transform their futures and make a difference in their world.” KIPP Austin College Prep open since 2002 is a middle school that serves grades five through eight; KIPP Austin Collegiate is a high school that serves grades 9-12. In 2009 the district opened its second middle school KIPP Austin Academy of Arts & Letters which serves grades 5-8 and also operates two elementary schools: KIPP Austin Communidad (K-4); and KIPP Austin Connections (K-4).

NYOS Charter School Inc.

Mission/Philosophy: NYOS (“Not Your Ordinary School”) Charter Schools Inc. operates NYOS Elementary and NYOS Secondary which offer limited student/teacher ratios in all classes modeled lifelong learning individualized learning plans for each student the same classroom and teacher for multiple years (called “looping”) and a year-round school calendar. NYOS Charter School “ensures that every child realizes their maximum potential through the mastery of an innovative curriculum that corporate outside world and creates highly motivated critical thinkers prepared for the world of work and a successful life.”

Premier High School of Austin

Mission/Philosophy: A partnership with Austin Community College the national Premier High School program offers dual enrollment through the Early College Start Program and participates in an Advanced Placement Grant as well as the Texas Science Technology Engineering and Math Grant (T-STEM Grant).

Star Charter School

Mission/Philosophy: To provide an educational environment which exceeds the standards for public education and to foster a desire for advancement and achievement among all of our students and teachers.

Texas Empowerment Academy

Mission/Philosophy: The Texas Empowerment Academy was founded as a mechanism to provide children with an innovative alternative for educational excellence in grades K– 9. Since its inception The Academy has “grown into a jewel in East Austin where primarily African-American students of all labels (i.e.“at risk” “special education” “gifted and talented” “economically disadvantaged” “Title I” and all those other students that other school districts had written off as “unteachable”) have been able to thrive at both academic and social excellence.”

Trinity Charter School

Mission/Philosophy: Headquartered in Austin Trinity Charter Schools operates four Texas campuses all of which serve troubled youth who have severe emotional and/or behavioral difficulties.  These children have been placed in a psychiatric hospital or at secure residential treatment centers due to the intense level of care they require. The Austin campus – New Life – serves female students in 4th through 12th grades in a safe and therapeutic learning environment.

University Charter School

Mission/Philosophy: The University Charter School (UCS) educates students at 15 residential treatment centers and 2 day schools at elite gymnastics facilities. “By meeting each child at his or her instructional level and providing a challenging curriculum designed to accelerate instruction the educational staff at UT-UCS provide students the opportunity to work toward high school graduation personal growth and successful integration into the adult workforce.” Instruction is a self-paced independent learning environment.

University of Texas Elementary

Mission/Philosophy: The University of Texas Elementary School is a research-based demonstration school in the heart of East Austin with an 8-year track record of success serving urban children. Founded in 2003 as part of the UT System’s Every Child Every Advantage initiative to support P-16 education UT Austin operates UT Elementary as an open-enrollment campus free to students with a lottery-based admission system. The school pre-kindergarten class has 20 students and all other grades kindergarten-through-fifth have two classes of 20.