School Redesign Lacks Rigor

AISD reforms scrutinized by trustees

AISD officials on Monday presented to the board of trustees a draft plan for the first stage of a high school "redesign" to instill greater academic rigor and career relevance to AISD's 12 high schools. The plan, inspired by a Southern Regional Education Board audit that showed AISD's academic rigor to be lacking and its career education in shambles, would develop three-course career "majors" at each school for the fall of 2005.

But trustees were frankly underwhelmed, indicating they'd need to see significant modifications before signing off on the proposed plan to provide specific career training at individual campuses, such as an HVAC program at Reagan or "hospitality" program at Johnston, as well as broad "academic" majors in math/science or the humanities at every school. For one thing, many felt that academic rigor, such as the SREB recommendation to require four years of math, was falling through the cracks. Moreover, trustee Cheryl Bradley complained that disadvantaged schools were once again getting the short end of the stick: For example, LBJ high school would have only health science, journalism, and foreign language majors (in addition to the across-the-board math/science and humanities majors) while Anderson, which serves a much better-off population, would have engineering, architecture, biotechnology, pre-law, and more. "It's hard for me to want to move forward," said Bradley. "There's an inequity here. Someone must have seen it. Why wasn't it addressed?"

Bradley also expressed concern that two forums the administration had held in November to solicit community input on the plan weren't nearly enough, an opinion shared by trustee Robert Schneider. When Mark Kincaid, head of AISD's career and technology program, responded by saying the district would do more to get local businesses on board, Schneider said businesses aren't trustees' constituency, nor their main concern. "What we need is more community involvement," he said. "Our business is to teach kids. That's our number one priority."

The administration plans at least two more forums to discuss the plans in the coming months.

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AISD, Mark Kincaid, career and technology education, high school redesign, Robert Schneider, Cheryl Bradley

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