AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, the nonprofit group Children at Risk released its list of its top public schools in Texas.
The Texas nonprofit analyzed 438 public schools in the Austin-area. Round Rock ISD schools took most of the slots for Top 5 elementary and middle schools. When it comes to high schools, Austin ISD had four schools in the Top 10. Three charter schools, Harmony Science Academy, NYOS Charter and Chaparral Star Academy also topped the high school list.
The schools are measured by the following:
- Achievement Indicators: Performance on STAAR Reading and Math tests
- Performance Indicators: An adjustment of achievement indicators to eliminate bias toward campuses with low percentages of economically disadvantaged students
- Growth Indicators: The improvement over time on standardized test scores in Reading and Math
- College Readiness: Graduation rates, SAT/ACT participation rate and scores, and AP/IB participation rate and scores
Blackshear Fine Arts Academy
Not every school will have a professional violinist come in to teach youngsters how to play the strings. But at Blackshear Elementary, the staff here say the discipline and the listening skills learned in fine arts help discipline and enforces listening in Math and English. Every student here gets daily instruction in things like music, dance, photography or stage performance.
Rick Garner, Principal at Blackshear says, “You can apply some of those lessons to our classroom lessons as well.”
Despite having 70 percent of the students here qualify for free and reduced lunch, the staff and students can still be recognized across the country.
“You don’t want to write anyone off. You come into it saying, ‘we’re going to get there,'” said Garner.
Since they turned the school around two years ago, word must have spread. This year they have an increase in 90 students from the year before. Garner believes it’s because of the fine arts program and community partnerships through the likes of Ballet Austin, Kids Acting Foundation and the Hispanic Alliance.
“We would have a very, very difficult time without our community partners,” said Garner.
On Monday, Blackshear Elementary received the Gold Ribbon award from Children at Risk. Gold Ribbon Schools represent the top schools with a high concentration of economically disadvantaged students.
While they still spend the majority of the day on traditional classroom instruction, Blackshear Elementary reopened as Austin ISD’s first public elementary fine arts academy in the fall of 2014. Just one year later it was one of 28 Texas schools given the Blue Ribbon award, which is the U.S. Department of Education’s national award for education excellence.