Naked City

AISD Gets a Mediocre Report Card

Austin Independent School District last Monday got its annual "report card," which overall found the district making progress toward its goals of providing an excellent education in a safe environment for all 78,000 of its students. The report is compiled by the District Advisory Council, a volunteer committee of parents, teachers, and community members, who analyze test score, graduation, and discipline data collected by the Texas Education Agency.

AISD didn't make the dean's list this year, but it's not sitting in the corner in a conical hat, either. In standardized tests, for example, AISD had higher TAKS passing rates than last year, but still lags the state in most areas. The district's passing rate ranged from two percentage points behind the state in writing (89% versus 91%) to six points behind in science (66% to 72%). The four-year graduation rate of 78.8% also lagged the state, which averages 84.2%.

AISD officials point out that the district, half of whose students are classified as economically disadvantaged, faces more challenges than many parts of the state; and when compared to the other seven large urban districts in Texas, AISD students outperform them all. But some trustees questioned whether comparing AISD to other urban districts gives the district more of a boost than it deserves – after all, most other urban districts in Texas have far more poor students to contend with. (Houston, for example, is more than 80% economically disadvantaged.)

This argument prompted some exasperation from Superintendent Pat Forgione, who insisted that what really matters is not how AISD stacks up to other districts, but how much it is improving. The four-year graduation rate, for example, is up from 72% four years ago. "This is a real success story, here," he said.

Others pointed out, however, that the data and numbers don't tell the whole story. "The issue I hear from a lot of parents is the issue that generates the data here – the testing and testing and testing," trustee Robert Schneider said. And Linda Velasquez, an Akins parent and District Advisory Council member, took issue with the district's 1.9% rate for disciplinary actions. "You guys are naive to think that these schools are safe," said Velasquez, explaining that because of her child's experience, she was particularly concerned about the prevalence of drugs on campus. "I'd have the dogs in there every day and wouldn't stop until they came up clean."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

education, Austin ISD, TAKS, Robert Schneider, Linda Velasquez, Pat Forgione, District Advisory Council

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