Austin ISD approves turnaround plan for lowest rated schools

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District board of trustees approved plans to improve 11 campuses that have been given the state’s lowest rating, “Improvement Required.”

The schools, in varying stages of the process, have been trying to bounce back from the state’s lowest rating over the past two school years.  The district said a target improvement plan is required by the state for any school that didn’t reach the target on the STAAR Assessment test.

The following schools received Improvement Required in the 2015 preliminary ratings by the Texas Education Agency:

  • Brooke ES
  • Govalle ES
  • Norman ES
  • Rodriguez ES
  • Widen ES
  • Dobie MS
  • Martin MS
  • Mendez MS

The following campuses earned the top rating, Met Standard, in 2015, but were rated Improvement Required in 2014:

  • Ridgetop ES
  • Eastside Memorial HS
  • LBJ Early College HS
  • Travis HS

According to the district, principals looked at specific areas where students were struggling to develop and refine their Targeted Improvement Plans.

Brooke Elementary School

The improvement plan for AISD listed Brooke Elementary School only had 16 percent of students meet STAAR testing requirements in 2015.

Associate Superintendent for area one elementary schools, Ariel Cloud, said while students performed very well on the math portion, writing was a major problem. “The teachers are receiving much more professional development than a general school would receive, they’re receiving a lot more support from the district,” said Cloud.

The district said specifically, part of the issue is teaching students how to write with, “explicit grammar instruction and the mechanics of writing.” There was a big focus on creative writing and including a lot of details in the past decade, but Cloud said now the test is geared towards focused writing. It’s considered the same type of writing used for college applications and job interviews.

She said it’s a technique not everyone grew up with, and they want to make sure teachers have what they need to help students. “It’s been a case of providing professional development for our teachers to make sure they’re comfortable with teaching it that way, also not just in English but in Spanish too,” said Cloud.

She said the other issue was science vocabulary and the need for students to not only understand it, but write it down. Cloud said there’s a push for cognitive demand.

The school is hosting educational nights for parents at Brooke Elementary so they too can learn what’s being taught in the classroom so they can help at home. They’re also showing parents examples of STAAR questions so they understand what they’re kids are going through.

Cloud also mentioned it’s important for parents to read with their students to expand their vocabulary.

Monday night, the board will also voted on the superintendent’s evaluation, and considered changes presented to his contract. Texas Education Code requires the board conduct an evaluation of superintendent performance at least once each year and within 15 months of the previous evaluation.

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