Pearce Repurposed: But For How Long?

Commissioner Scott decides not to remove the axe from East Austin school

Pearce: Because certainty really wouldn't help anyone
Pearce: Because certainty really wouldn't help anyone (Photo by Jana Birchum)

At last night's AISD board meeting, trustees were informed of some pretty bleak and surprising news: Pearce Middle School won't get a new PEIMS (Public Education Information Management System) number. That means that, after Commissioner Robert Scott ordered and approved a repurposing plan creating a completely new school on the old campus, he'll treat it like the old school for accountability purposes.

Short version: If Pearce doesn't make Academically Acceptable next year, then Scott can close it, or hand it over to whatever private operation he's been talking about in veiled terms.

Explaining Scott's decision, TEA Communications Director Debbie Ratcliffe said, "It keeps a sense of urgency about the process. If the clock starts over, it can be another five years before things start to turn around."

AISD's Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Ann Smisko called the announcement "a surprise" to everybody at AISD. SHe added optimistically, "It really doesn't impact us until, at the end of the year, when results come out. So our next step is to implement the repurposing plan with fidelity."

But here's the kicker. Eastside High was repurposed under the old accountability system, which reset the accountability clock and gave them five years to turn everything around if it was needed. It was: Eastside didn't make Academically Acceptable status this year, in part because it's in a rolling repurposing that was going to take two years. The Pearce repurposing is under the new standards, which were supposed to be less punitive on campuses and communities. Interesting to see how Scott will sell another year in limbo as being less punitive.

Here's AISD's full press release on the announcement:

The Austin Independent School District has been advised that the Texas Commissioner of Education will not assign a new PEIMS* number to Pearce Middle School. Texas Education Agency staff has advised the District that the previous accountability history of Pearce, as an Academically Unacceptable campus, will stay with the newly repurposed and reopened school. The impact of this decision is that the five-year accountability clock will not "restart," as has been the case with other "AU" campuses, notably Eastside Memorial High School on the Johnston Campus. The Commissioner’s decision means that Pearce could be subject to additional sanctions, including closure, if the campus does not meet state accountability standards in 2010.

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AISD, Pearce Middle School, Texas Education Agency, House Bill 3, Debbie Ratcliffe, Robert Scott

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