Fixes OK’d for AISD’s Low-rated schools

Four struggling schools to see new plans for improved performance

Fixes OK’d for AISD’s Low-rated schools

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees approved plans on Monday night to improve academic performance at four schools which received an "improvement required" – or "IR" – designation from the Texas Education Agency through the state's accountability system. When a campus is rated IR, the Texas Education Code requires the school district to develop a "Targeted Improve­ment Plan" with detailed strategies and goals aimed at improving the school's performance in the next year's ratings.

Widén Elementary, Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy, the Graduation Prep Academy at Travis Early College HS, and Rosedale School each received the lowest rating from the TEA.

District officials have appealed the rating for Rosedale, which exclusively serves students with special needs. Each of the others failed to meet state standards in standardized reading and math testing, and their improvement plans emphasize boosting scores through additional professional development for principals and teachers, as well as hiring "interventionist" staff who specialize in helping struggling students. The plans for Sadler Means and Widén also include strategies for improving "school climate," which can refer to how student behavior is managed within the classroom.

Discussion at Monday night's meeting touched on school-climate issues at Sadler Means; Trustee Ted Gordon, whose District 1 includes the campus, highlighted how in 2017-18, black students accounted for 60% of referrals for "disruptions" and 56% of referrals for "insubordination," though only constituting 22% of enrollment. "What is going on here?" Gordon asked staff. "The District 1 community had real hopes for the single-gender experiment ... and yet, we have African-American girls and Hispanic girls who are doing terrible, really."

AISD Chief Officer for School Leadership Michelle Cavazos responded that although the data appears to reflect a problem with African-American girls at the campus, the school's strategy to address the problem will involve "teaching the adults how to interact with" African-American students. "There is evidence that there is not a clear understanding from the adult perspective on how to address students who may be perceived to be acting out," Cavazos said. The Sadler Means improvement plan aims to reduce the referral rates of black students for disruptions and insubordination by 20% and 15%, respectively, by the end of this school year.

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Austin ISD, Texas Education Agency, Ted Gordon, Michelle Cavazos

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