Arati on the Issues
There is an inequity in discipline rates and academic rates, while many of our schools are economically and racially segregated. For example, gaps between black, hispanic, and white students — as measured by test scores, enrollment in advanced coursework, and college enrollment — are huge.
• Continue growing social emotional learning programs to allow students to change behaviors through open dialogue and expose them to new ideas, cultures, and resources.
• Hire more African-American and Hispanic teachers who may reach students in different ways, while working with adults to identify and reduce their biases.
• Re-visit boundary lines to see if and how they are increasing segregation, and consider altering them.
• Put innovative programs (including Montessori Pre-K) in our underenrolled schools to build a pipeline of new students and to attract students from charter schools.
Teacher turnover is high in our most academically struggling schools. We talk a lot about teacher quality, but not much about principal quality, which is a key factor in teacher satisfaction.
• Hold principals accountable for good, uplifting management practices that create positive work environments for teachers.
• Recognize and reward the principals that are successful; support and hold accountable those who are not.
• Continue the PPfT program, which blends appraisal, compensation and professional development.
Preparing for Real Life
There is a huge gap between the coursework students take and workforce needs. 40% of new jobs in Austin require a computer science background. Yet, only 5% of high school students in AISD express an interest in studying computer science.
• Develop a districtwide K-12 strategy with industry partners to provide a pipeline of workers prepared to fill the workforce needs of our region.
• Increase classroom and internship opportunities in high-need fields like computer science, green technology, and big data.
Many of our students face bullying, discrimination, housing insecurity, and mental illness. Our students need to feel safe in our schools if they are to achieve academically.
• Continue investing in social and emotional learning programs and wraparound services that get to the root cause of academic challenges.
• Ensure AISD does not rent out facilities to organizations that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people or other marginalized people that violate our “No Place for Hate” principles.
• Hold adults in our schools accountable when they discriminate, whether intentionally or not, against marginalized students and staff.
AISD has a very narrow definition of accountability. Our students are more than a test score — and we need to continue expanding its definition of accountability beyond test scores.
• Expand superintendent scorecard to include more outcomes beyond test scores for college readiness (such as remediation rates in the first year of college), career readiness (such as enrollment in high need workforce courses like computer science), and life readiness (such as discipline rates by race or student voter registration rates).
• Include metrics in the superintendent’s report card, such as principal quality or teacher turnover, that lead to high student outcomes.
• Explore authentic assessments that rely on rubrics to grade student learning on tasks (such as planning a community garden or programming a robot) that are realistically contextualized.
We need to be more proactive to make sure our students continue to thrive. The district needs to establish more of a big picture look at our budget, and compare competing priorities to make tough budget decisions.
• Develop strong budget decision-making criteria so our decisions are good for children and defensible to the community.
• Increase revenue via relationships with the business community.
• Continue exploring tax swaps with the city, collaborating with similar districts (like Plano ISD) to lobby for “taxparency” and more ways to lower our tax burden.
•Establish excellent programming and pipeline programs to increase our enrollment, particularly in areas threatened by charter schools and private schools.
• Support the city’s affordable housing bonds and other measures that will help AISD families stay in AISD.
• High return on investment programs like Pre-K – some studies show that every $1 invested in Pre-K has a $7 return throughout a child’s education.
• Search relentlessly for additional sources of revenue.