Public Notice: Failing Grades for Texas
School districts beset by pandemic, state rules
I've spent a good amount of space in recent weeks excoriating the Austin Independent School District board and administration for their public process and decision making, and ... well, look it up. But it's also worth noting every once in a while that I'm really rooting for them to do better, and that this is an institution that we as a society really need to succeed. And also that the district and every one of its staff are under enormous pressure in advance of the new school year starting in a few short weeks – not only from the pandemic and the challenges it brings, but also from our own political leaders: a Texas GOP, which treats public schools with a disregard bordering at times on outright scorn. And don't even get me started on Betsy DeVos.
Next week is the Chronicle's Back to School issue, where we'll go into a lot more detail on the nuts and bolts of what that's really going to mean, but for now, I'll leave you with two thoughts based on recent developments:
• Gov. Greg Abbott's recent announcement that the state will temporarily waive its requirement that 5th and 8th graders must pass the high-stakes standardized STAAR test in order to move ahead isn't nearly enough. Those tests are pointless and discriminatory in the best of times; under current circumstances they're an expensive distraction from the teachers' very difficult jobs, that "will only serve to measure the digital divide that the pandemic has amplified," as a recent press release from Sen. José Menéndez put it. If Democrats gain a Texas House majority in November's election, expect this issue to be high on their agenda.
• Recently released guidelines for how the state counts enrollment – and thus calculates the per-student funding that every school district gets from the state – are strict, complicated, and make it easy for distance learners to be undercounted. Again, more on this next week, but the plea for now, even as parents scramble to set up "learning pods" and tutoring sessions: Make sure your student is actually enrolled in their school (and then later, is being recorded as present in daily attendance).
The ACC College Destination Center is now offering 1-on-1 virtual support sessions to answer questions about Austin Community College enrollment, financial aid, career placement, and more. Fall classes (mostly online) begin Monday, Aug. 24; registration is underway. For more info, see www.austincc.edu/fall.
Save the date: Saturday, Aug. 8, is the 50th anniversary of the Armadillo World Headquarters opening and also the day of the auction sale at Threadgill's Old #1: a treasure trove of Armadillo memorabilia, vintage Texas bar fixtures, neon signs, and more. See the 500-piece catalog at www.burleyauction.com.
So you want to be a City Council Member? Amazingly, there's just a couple more weeks to get your ballot on. The filing deadline for the Nov. 3 city of Austin ballot (including Council Districts 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10) is Aug. 17.