Redesigning Johnston High

State funding may move low-performing school to the head of the line

When Austin ISD located its spiffy new international school at Johnston High School, community leaders howled, "What about the neighborhood kids?" Now, AISD has an answer: The district is applying for, and expects to receive, an Innovative Redesign Grant from the Texas Education Agency to make Johnston not only the "pride of the Eastside," but the "vanguard" of further change to come. The district is already spending the year discussing how to reinvent all its high schools, and the grant will bump Johnston to the front of the line.

Many will no doubt welcome change. Johnston is one of the poorest-performing schools in the district – the school qualifies for the TEA grant on the basis of its poor test scores, which make Johnston students eligible for transfer to better-performing schools under the federal No Child Left Behind law. (Only 12 of the school's 900 neighborhood students have exercised that option this year; another dozen have requested transfers for the spring.) However, many claim Johnston's problems go beyond the academic; on Monday a Johnston teacher announced she was filing suit against the district for discrimination against African-Americans at the school.

While the district has yet to finalize the innovative details of the redesign, the plan will focus on a tougher curriculum and will likely require students to choose a "major." Johnston principal Tabita Gutierrez, who will lead the grant team, will give specifics at the school's annual winter community program this Thursday, Dec. 9, at 5:30pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Johnston High School, Austin ISD, international school, Innovative Redesign Grant, Tabita Gutierrez, No Child Left Behind

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