Dear Sara Stevenson,
Thank you for your letter to the editor [“It's a Bad Idea
,” "Postmarks" online, Jan. 31] regarding Austin ISD’s partnership with IDEA Public Schools. I would like to take this opportunity to respond and clarify some misinformation.
Austin ISD pursued a partnership with IDEA because it wanted to provide a college preparatory choice to the families of Austin’s Eastside. IDEA has a proven track record of results and a commitment to preparing all
students, including those of underserved areas, for college and citizenship. For the past five years, 100% of our high school graduates have matriculated to the college or university of their choice.
Unlike the siphoning process that other charter programs may adopt, IDEA is an open-enrollment, tuition-free public school. What makes the IDEA system successful is our Whatever It Takes – No Excuses! philosophy. IDEA believes that every child can and will succeed if the adults in the system get it right and that is why all
of our middle and high school students follow a rigorous college preparatory curriculum and why every IDEA teacher is dedicated to their students' success.
For those who are unfamiliar with TEA ratings, an "acceptable" rating means that 25% of students do not meet minimum academic standards. In the 2011 academic year, Allan Elementary, O. Henry Middle School, and Eastside Memorial, all schools you mentioned, had a combined population of approximately 2,400 students. That equates to 610 Eastside students not meeting minimum academic standards – a statistic that is unacceptable. In contrast, IDEA schools were awarded an exemplary rating. In addition to that honor, IDEA has been added to the Texas Business & Education Coalition Honor Roll for 2011. TBEC honors schools that have the highest percentage of students performing at the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills “commended” level in every subject. Without aligning IDEA with AISD to form IDEA Allan, an opportunity of this caliber would not be available to East Austin students.
To clarify conflicting reports, IDEA Allan will offer the arts to primary students by incorporating art-based lessons into its daily curriculum. At IDEA, we have found that our campus pride, student motivation, and culture is derived from a singular goal of college readiness and that is more exciting than any football rivalry. We believe that IDEA’s culture of high expectations combined with investing time with IDEA families creates an unmatched sense of unity.
We understand that some may be uncomfortable with IDEA’s culture of high expectations, rigorous academic program, and commitment to get each and every student to and through college. This is why parents will have an opportunity to learn about IDEA’s instructional model and culture before making a choice to enroll their child. Once informed, we trust they will make the best decision for their family.