Amid COVID-19 Spread, AISD Benchmarks Its Future

District changes dozens of its performance measures


Austin High School closed earlier this week after a rise in COVID-19 cases (Photo by Jana Birchum)

As Texas enters a new wave of COVID-19 infections and Austin hospitals take in patients from overwhelmed areas as far away as El Paso, Austin ISD's Board of Trustees met in person behind Plexiglas dividers to decide the district's future priorities. This week, the first AISD school closed its campus in response to COVID-19 – and that could be followed by more closures and limitations soon if Austin enters Stage 4 of our local risk-based guidelines.

Austin High School, which closed for three days this week out of an "abundance of caution," recorded seven new cases last week, out of 54 new AISD cases, Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde said at Monday's board meeting. Although there was no evidence of spread within the school building, she said, over 300 people at Austin High were ordered to quarantine last week. At press time, she planned to reopen Austin High today, Thursday, Nov. 19, although the state permits a slightly longer shutdown.

However, the bulk of the board meeting was devoted to negotiations over the district scorecard – a compilation of specific metrics against which the board of trustees grades the performance of the superintendent and the district. Although multiple amendments were proposed, the only one that passed was a minor formatting change moving three preexisting metrics to a new section specifically about student well-being. But the revised scorecard as presented by staff contains more than 30 changes to the district's top performance measures from last year, focusing on using data from state tests, retaining teachers and students, and emphasizing career readiness over advanced academics.

One area with substantially different metrics on this year's scorecard is special education. Trustee Arati Singh put forward and then withdrew an amendment about assessing special ed students with non-STAAR tests. However, Elizalde was concerned with the potential of decreased rigor without STAAR testing (a dismal 26% of special ed students meet STAAR standards) and the difficulty of implementing a one-size-fits-all special education measure. Metrics about dyslexia evaluations and reading performance from 2020-21's scorecard were dropped and replaced with the STAAR metric and one for special education discipline disparities.

Singh was the only vote against the final scorecard, because of the 3-4-1 failure of her proposed amendment to include a metric on direct-to-college enrollment for Black and Hispanic students, an area where she said Austin is well below the state average. Four metrics related to Black and Hispanic students in advanced academic programs were cut from the previous scorecard, and two were added about increasing dual-credit enrollment and industry certifications. Singh's amendment was strongly criticized by District 1 Trustee LaTisha Anderson, who said she was concerned about devaluing students who don't want to attend college and who choose to pursue careers instead. Elizalde also ­reiterated a message she delivered throughout the night: Just because it's not on the scorecard doesn't mean we don't care.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Austin Independent School District
AISD Students Can Learn From Home. Teachers Have Fewer Options.
AISD Students Can Learn From Home. Teachers Have Fewer Options.
Big mess on campus

Clara Ence Morse, Oct. 9, 2020

AISD Readies for School, Sports, Elections, and Red Ink
AISD Readies for School, Sports, Elections, and Red Ink
Students go back to class and sports Sept. 8 and more district news

Clara Ence Morse, Sept. 4, 2020

More by Clara Ence Morse
After Close Races, Candidates for AISD Board Face Off Again in the Run-Offs
After Close Races, Candidates for AISD Board Face Off Again in the Run-Offs
Winners in District 5, At-Large Place 8 to face decisions on remote learning, school closures alongside other trustees

Dec. 4, 2020

Stage 4 Risk of COVID-19 Shapes Austin's Holiday
Stage 4 Risk of COVID-19 Shapes Austin's Holiday
No-virus November

Nov. 27, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Independent School District, COVID-19, Austin ISD Board of Trustees, Stephanie Elizalde, Austin High School, Arati Singh, LaTisha Anderson, STAAR testing

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle