TEA’s latest school ratings show AISD a path forward

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin Independent Schools District’s accountability standards released Monday show a known story.  Most of the schools in the district “met standard” but the ones that didn’t have familiar demographics and locations.

For the third year in a row, Mendez Middle School was rated “improvement required,” which requires AISD to come up with a school turnaround plan to be approved by the Texas Education Agency and will have a dedicated officer charged with turning the school around.

But AISD has been here before. After three years of “improvement required,” Martin Middle School “met standard” this year. Assistant Superintendent for Middle Schools Terrance Eaton oversaw the board and TEA approved plan to improve Martin MS. The school hired two full-time teaching coaches in the areas that needed the most improvement: language arts and social studies. They partnered with E3Alliance to teach data-driven instruction that taught students in the same way. Those measures worked.

“It’s something that we look to every single year. But we know that we have to work harder in some situations,” said Superintendent Paul Cruz, who led a press conference in the school library to say the school is no longer in the hot seat.

Students were taught courses based on one unified system, so all the teachers knew which students needed work.

“Their bodies are going through changes. They are learning how to manage that,” said Eaton.

Now they want to implement that strategy at schools like Mendez MS, where students have made progress, but could not hit goals on achievement, performance gaps and post-secondary readiness. The system could help with students struggling with English.

“If they have challenges in learning the language, if we have a consistent way of teaching that content and the vocabulary is the same from class to class to class, it eliminates that challenge,” explained Eaton.

Pickle Elementary, Norman Elementary, Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy, Dobie Middle School, Burnet Middle School, and their international high school all require improvement. Many of them have students with families below the poverty line and qualify for free and reduced lunch, speak English as a second language and come from historically underserved areas of town.

About the TEA’s accountability system

Schools earn either a Met Standard, Met Alternative Standard or Improvement Required rating based on their performance in four key indices:

Index 1: Student Achievement provides a snapshot of performance across subjects.
Index 2: Student Progress measures year-to-year student progress.
Index 3: Closing Performance Gaps emphasizes the academic achievement of economically disadvantaged students and the two lowest-performing racial/ethnic student groups.
Index 4: Postsecondary Readiness emphasizes the importance of earning a high school diploma that provides students with the foundation necessary for success in college, job training programs, the workforce, or the military

The indices combine STAAR test results and graduation rates among other indicators.

The Met Alternative Standard rating applies to charter schools and alternative education campuses.

If a school hasn’t “Met Standard” for three years; state law says they must create a turnaround plan.
If they don’t make progress in five years, the school could be shut down.

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