- RSS Channel Showcase 2639221
- RSS Channel Showcase 3631900
- RSS Channel Showcase 9548480
- RSS Channel Showcase 8161797
Articles on this Page
- 06/13/13--14:05: _Thank You for a Ban...
- 06/20/13--14:26: _These Teachers Give...
- 07/10/13--13:59: _Anderson IB Student...
- 08/09/13--11:28: _A District-Wide AIS...
- 08/09/13--13:18: _Congratulations on ...
- 08/21/13--10:00: _Welcome Back, AISD!
- 08/24/13--11:01: _Back to School Bash...
- 08/26/13--05:33: _Start your engines!...
- 08/26/13--07:11: _Ringing in the New ...
- 08/26/13--07:34: _Surprise Stops at R...
- 08/26/13--07:53: _Good Morning to our...
- 08/26/13--08:11: _Apples for Everyone...
- 08/26/13--08:49: _Good Morning at Gul...
- 08/26/13--10:45: _Lamar Middle School...
- 08/26/13--12:01: _Murchison Draws a C...
- 08/26/13--13:26: _Bravo to Blackshear
- 08/26/13--14:57: _Crockett Cougars Rule!
- 08/27/13--05:30: _Doss Elementary—A L...
- 08/27/13--09:44: _A Culture of Servic...
- 08/27/13--10:40: _On the Road with th...
- 06/13/13--14:05: Thank You for a Banner Year!
- 06/20/13--14:26: These Teachers Give Great Advice
- 07/10/13--13:59: Anderson IB Students Stand Out!
- 08/09/13--11:28: A District-Wide AISD Performing Arts Center is Going Up at Mueller
- 08/09/13--13:18: Congratulations on a Job Well Done!
- 08/21/13--10:00: Welcome Back, AISD!
- 08/24/13--11:01: Back to School Bash Attracts Thousands of AISD Students
- 08/26/13--07:11: Ringing in the New School Year with the Reagan Raiders
- 08/26/13--07:34: Surprise Stops at Ridegetop and Lee Elementary Schools
- 08/26/13--07:53: Good Morning to our Rosedale Raccoons!
- 08/26/13--08:49: Good Morning at Gullett ES!
- 08/26/13--10:45: Lamar Middle School--Putting the "fine" in Fine Arts
- 08/26/13--12:01: Murchison Draws a Crowd
- 08/26/13--13:26: Bravo to Blackshear
- 08/26/13--14:57: Crockett Cougars Rule!
- 08/27/13--05:30: Doss Elementary—A Local School With A Global Mindset
- 08/27/13--09:44: A Culture of Service and Creative Learning at Perez ES
- 08/27/13--10:40: On the Road with the Rodriguez Roadrunners
This week, the Superintendent's Teacher Advisory Group held its last meeting of the school year. As usual, these teachers offered excellent feedback and advice, especially in the area of English Language Learners.
The discussion centered on how we can support ELL students after middle school to ensure success throughout high school, and the proven strategies that ensure all students demonstrate high academic achievement and develop confidence and character.
A particular thanks to Webb Middle School teacher Alicia Brown-Forbes for her extraordinary leadership and preparation that allowed us to focus at this meeting on English Language Development Academies. These academies provide immigrant youth instruction using a communicative approach to learning language and rigorous, relevant content using a world class curriculum to ensure all students demonstrate high academic achievement and develop confidence and character in high school and beyond. I look forward to exploring how to scale up this outstanding work in AISD.
This year, our conversations have focused on strengthening teaching, learning, and existing programs to benefit all students and on accomplishing the four goals delineated in the district’s strategic plan. This year, topics included discussion of the district calendar, STAAR and EOC testing, the Instructional Management System (SchoolNet), the Curriculum Navigation System, Culturally Responsive Instruction, RTI, Dual Language, and meeting the needs of English Language Learners.
What an exciting summer! The sun felt even brighter and warmer when we heard from Anderson High School about the success of its International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Congratulations to the 29 Anderson seniors who graduated this year with IB certification. With an overall 93.5% completion rate, they surpassed the international average of completing the program certification process, which is 75%.
This year, Anderson senior Amanda Meriwether completed the program with a perfect exam score---a rare accomplishment and the school’s first-ever perfect score!
The IB program at Anderson supports our district’s Strategic Plan goals by preparing students for college, career and life in a global economy. Students not only hone academic skills that prepare them to succeed in college, but they also develop an advanced understanding of intercultural relationships that prepare them for the ever more globally connected economy they will encounter in college and beyond.
We are so proud of these hard working seniors and congratulate them for their commitment to success. Keep it up!
|AISD Trustees and district staff break ground on the new Performing Arts Center.|
|The Anderson High School Drill Team performed as if it were a cool fall day---not!|
|The All City Marching Band performed together for the first time in more than five years!|
For the 2012-13 school year, 110 schools met the standard and 55 schools earned 89 Academic Achievement Distinction Designations which recognize outstanding performance in student progress or academic achievement in English Language Arts or Mathematics. Eleven of the 55 schools earned distinction designations in all three areas.
This news further demonstrates that the district is successfully making the transition from TAKS to STAAR. AISD leads comparable, urban school districts and exceeds the state average on student achievement. Our district also outperformed the state on student progress, according to the TEA's performance framework.
Of the 110 schools that met the state's new accountability standard, 107 received a rating of Met Standard and three received a rating of Met Alternative Standard. The TEA rated 11 schools as Improvement Required: Eastside Memorial, Lanier, LBJ, and Travis high schools; Dobie, Garcia, Martin and Pearce middle schools; Rodriguez Elementary School; Rosedale and Travis County Day School.
This year, the changing accountability measurements led to some unfortunate outcomes:
• The TEA also rated the district's Rosedale School, which serves students with profound disabilities, as not meeting the new standards. Because of the nature of their disabilities, most of the Rosedale students were only able to participate in Level 1 STAAR Alternative tasks, which is the reason the school received the Improvement Required rating. This rule will no longer apply in 2014.
• Finally, Martin Middle School missed the target for only one index—Index 3—by only one point. Rodriguez Elementary also missed only one index—Index 2.
In AISD, we are shifting the focus away from a culture of testing-which can be punitive and narrowly focused on test results-to one that emphasizes academic standards of excellence and the strengths and interests of the whole child with art programs, athletics, health and wellness initiatives and social emotional learning.
District and campus ratings are not official until November after the state appeals window closes and districts are notified. For more information, visit the TEA's website at http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/.
Congratulations to our staff and students for their hard work. I’m looking forward to another successful school year in 2013-14!
|Adam Miller, who teaches social studies and history at Crockett High School, did an amazing job of illustrating the twenty-minute video in an informative and entertaining way.|
Our District’s Priorities
Our Board-approved five-year strategic plan includes goals for the district, and each year the Board gives us a road map to reaching those goals by setting its priorities for that year. For this year, the goals are: cultivate Whole Child, Every Child, build a College-Ready Culture, deliver effectively the current Portfolio of Options, invest in human capital and strengthen our Systems.
When we say “Whole Child, Every Child” we mean shifting the focus away from a culture of testing—which can be punitive and narrowly focused on test results—to one that emphasizes academic standards of excellence and strengths and interests of the whole child with art programs, athletics, health and wellness initiatives and Social Emotional Learning. And, it’s our goal that the No Place for Hate initiative will reach every campus and every department in the district by the end of the school year.
A College-Ready Culture means ensuring students get as much mileage as they can out of their AISD education and are prepared for life after graduation. To do this, we know students need to be in class every day, getting a solid foundation of knowledge. It means creating access to rigorous programming for all students and offering alternative pathways to graduation.
Our third priority is to deliver our current Rich Portfolio of School Programs. We do this by expanding our dual language programs, and implementing in-district charters—like the one at Travis Heights Elementary and others at Lanier and Travis High Schools that provide alternative pathways to graduation, much like our Twilight Programs. We also rely on Pre-K Centers and signature programs throughout our vertical teams.
Fourth, we invest in Human Capital, because student success depends on attracting and retaining the best talent in Texas. Further, research shows that when students have a quality teacher they do achieve at high levels.
Our fifth priority is strengthening Systems, which means providing strong supports for our academic work. This includes budgeting, implementing the 2013 bond program, developing the Facility Master Plan, and using information in our data warehouse to eliminate the achievement gap.
Areas of Focus for the 2013-14 School Year
For the upcoming school year, we will focus on these four areas:
Competitive Salaries: This year we will maintain last year’s temporary 3 percent salary adjustment, which is pensionable. On top of this increase, we also plan to provide for every employee the equivalent of an additional 1.5 percent increase based on current annualized salary, that is not pensionable, and will be paid in two lump sums. If we can identify an additional $2.4 million in budget savings, we will provide every teacher with an increase of at least $1,000.
Balance the Budget: We will fill our budget gap by drawing nearly $18 million from our reserves and identifying savings of up to $12 million through cost containment strategies such as the current hiring freeze, deliberate vacancy and lapsed salary savings, waste and contract cost reductions. NOT through layoffs.
Implement the 2013 Bond Program/Facility Master Plan: In May, voters approved nearly $490 million in bond funds for the district. As a result, every school in AISD will benefit.
These funds will allow us to repair and renovate our facilities, upgrade technology, renovate science labs, expand and renovate libraries, purchase new buses, and improve energy conservation. We have committed to developing a facility master plan by next summer. It will serve as a long-range capital improvement plan and will also have to include the areas in the bond propositions that did not pass. We will need strategies for addressing over- and under- enrolled schools, career and technical education, special education, arts and athletics. As part of good stewardship it will mean possibly changing transfer policies and practices. School boundary changes are likely to be considered as well as we better utilize our existing school infrastructure.
Focus on Literacy: By intensifying our focus on literacy education, and devoting more brain power (mental resources and energy) and professional development to this area, we'll be able to beef up what we are already doing well to strengthen students’ literacy skills.
Literacy can lead our students beyond the terrain that high stakes testing measures, to help them develop habits of mind that will prepare them for a full life in whatever path they choose. By encouraging students to read, and giving them opportunities for sustained, silent reading in all subjects on topics that interest them, we can lead our students to deeper thinking, which does result in higher achievement. One part of our district’s focus on literacy is the importance of Free Voluntary Reading---giving students the freedom to choose what they want to read. Good readers are better writers and make the best thinkers.
AISD is one of the highest performing urban districts in the state and even the nation. We have continued to improve in the face of tougher accountability requirements, dwindling resources and changing demographics.
Take for example our attendance rates. For the third year in a row, attendance rates continue to rise, generating over $5 million for AISD, especially now that they exceed 95 percent.
And because our students are coming to school ready to learn, we’ve seen dramatic improvement in our graduation rates as well. Graduation is the bottom line in measuring the success of our school district. Over the past five years, our graduation rates have increase from its lowest at 74.3 percent in 2008 to an all-time high of 82.5 percent in 2012.
These gains for students who have typically had lower graduation rates are even more impressive when viewed over a four-year period. You can see increases like 7.1 percentage points for Special Education students, 13.9 percentage points for African American students, 14.7 percentage points for Hispanic students and English Language Learners closed the gap by a whopping 27.6 percentage points.
We are seeing results in closing our achievement gap every day at every level. Elementary schools exceeded the state passing rate in reading, math, writing and science at grades 3,4 and 5. Middle schools ranked first among the Big 8 districts in four areas. High schools are improving too. AISD students outperformed students in every other large urban district in 8 out of 11 End-of-Course Exams—ranking us number 1 or number 2 across every subject.
At the national level, AISD has consistently made gains and been among the leaders in the nation on performance. On the Nation’s Report Card, or NAEP, AISD students ranked first in 8th grade mathematics and second in 4th grade mathematics.
All of that work is making a difference for our students, whether they are still in AISD or have already graduated. After graduating, we’re seeing our more students going on to two- or four-year colleges or universities more than ever before. Last year, the post-secondary enrollment rates for AISD graduates went up an amazing six percentage points, from 62 to 68 percent.
This month we received the latest ratings from the Texas Education Agency which does tell some but not all of the story about our good work. Here’s what the headlines don’t tell you:
• AISD leads comparable, urban school districts and exceeds the state average on student achievement and outperformed the state on student progress.
• Further, our results exceeded the state’s target for the second year of STAAR in all four areas—student achievement by 28 points, student progress by 14 points, closing performance gaps by 15 points and postsecondary readiness by 6 points.
• And under the new accountability system, 110 of our 123 schools met the standard and 55 schools earned academic distinctions—that’s almost half of our schools.
• Finally, the percentage of AISD schools rates as “improvement required” is lower than the state average and the second lowest among comparable urban districts.
Austin is a dynamic, creative city that has, and deserves, a high quality public school system. Our accomplishments don’t just happen. Whatever it is that you as a member of the AISD staff do to support our students and families, you should know that our work is working.
Welcome back, and have a great school year!
I had a blast at the district's ninth annual Back-to-School Bash on Saturday, and I wasn't alone. Upwards of 7,000 people attended, according to AISD Police, for the opportunity to access the many resources offered through our schools and partners in the community.
Children and their families received backpacks loaded with school supplies thanks to A+ Federal Credit Union and The Neighborhood. Both partners donated generously to this effort, and then went above and beyond by sending volunteers to help us set up and run the event. We are also grateful to Seton Family of Hospitals for allowing us to provide immunizations, as well as Dell Children’s Hospital for providing 200 free safety seats that were distributed free to families, and the Esselor Foundation for supporting free eye exams.
AISD students travel to and from school in a variety of ways – the district transports about 22,000 students each way, while many of the rest walk, bike or get dropped off by their parents or guardians. No matter how our kids get back and forth from school, we rely on everyone in the community to help keep them safe. At the Back to School Bash, City of Austin staff and City Council Member Laura Morrison helped me and AISD Police Chief Eric Mendez remind our community about school safety. A group of Mathews Elementary students learned safety tips to follow when they go back to school.
For one thing, this means never passing a school bus when the flashing lights are on, which indicates that kids are getting on or off the bus, leaving them vulnerable to traffic. Always stop for the flashing lights – it’s not only a good idea, it’s the law. We also recommend that parents and guardians accompany all children under the age of 10 to and from schools and bus stops.
Thanks to everyone involved for helping our students kick the new school year off right! Special thanks to the City of Austin for their support of our families and schools. All told, more than 100 AISD departments and community organizations set up tables and exhibits to inform students and their families about valuable services and programs available to them.
What a great way to kick off the new school year!
It’s the first day of school at AISD, and more than 85,000 students across the city are packing up their backpacks, sharpening their pencils (or clicking their mechanical ones), and setting those cell phones to vibrate to prepare for another year. But before they take their seats or meet their teachers, many students first have to board the bus to school. Our bus drivers are some of the earliest risers in the district and are up before the sun to prepare for the first day of the 2013-14 school year.
So I started my day with them at the Southeast Bus Terminal--which welcomed employees today for the first time. AISD employs 420 bus drivers who help carry 22,000 students from their homes, to school, and back again, and it’s always a thrill to start the school year sending these folks off right—with breakfast tacos, fruit and coffee. After all, we always remind our students and families that a solid breakfast is a great way to start the day, and we want the same for our drivers, who are responsible for getting our students to school safely.
|This mother-daughter team of bus drivers have been with the district a combined 16 years. |
Thank you for all you do!
|Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Fryer and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Pauline Dow|
joined me in welcoming our drivers back to school.
Of course, it’s not all up to the drivers; those who share the road need to do their part, too. As we begin another school year, students and families should keep in mind the importance of school safety. No matter how our students arrive at school, remember:
1. Never pass a school bus when you see the flashing lights. It means that kids are getting on or off the bus, which leaves them vulnerable to traffic. So, please stop for the flashing lights – it’s not only a good idea, it’s the law.
2. We recommend that parents and guardians accompany all children under the age of 10 to and from schools and bus stops. This is the most important step you can take to ensure that your child arrives at school every day, safe and on time. The educators who care for your students during the school day will breathe easier knowing you’ll be there to drop them off or pick them up.
I want to send out a big thank you to all our drivers who make sure our kids get to school safely and on time. And I would like to remind parents, that another component of student safety is student health. Remember to ensure your child has the proper immunizations before starting school so all of our kids and be healthy and in class.
If the rest of the school year is as energetic and as positive as my morning with AISD’s transportation professionals, I know it will be a great one.
Let’s hit the road!
Under the leadership of principal George Llewellyn, Lamar Middle School has undergone a transformation over the past two years. I had a “we were there when” moment when Lamar welcomed 733 students this year, an increase of 150 students over last year’s enrollment. Students come from some 40 elementary schools throughout the city.
Many are drawn by the Lamar Fine Arts Academy, which lays the foundation for students who want to continue on to the fine arts program at nearby McCallum High School. In its second year, the Lamar Fine Arts Academy is one way the school has attracted the community back to the school. A few years ago, only a handful of sixth grade students from nearby Highland Park Elementary attended Lamar. This year, 55 sixth grade students came from Highland Park.
Close cooperation between Lamar and McCallum has strengthened programming throughout the school. For example, a McCallum robotics teacher spent a year at Lamar, training staff and introducing programming, and enrollment in robotics increased from 40 students to 150. McCallum teachers participate in joint planning meetings with Lamar teachers to make sure courses are aligned from middle school to high school.
At one of the school's four outdoor classrooms, Principal Llewellyn, in perfect Socratic method while donning some crazy patterned and colored socks, educated us on the Lamar story. He showed us an outdoor lunch area, which has outdoor speakers and features regular performances by the school's jazz band and other musical groups.
Then, we toured the campus, where I drank from one of the high-tech drinking fountains, which provides highly filtered water that tastes much better than the bottled kind (I know, I tried it!), and has a special spout for filling water bottles too. Thanks to the CATCH foundation for providing grants to fund the water fountains.
The fine arts were front and center, even on the first day of school. As we entered the building, we saw a hanging sculpture, made from plastic bottles, that imitate the popular Chuily sculptures--and sell for at least $50!
|The sculpture made from hanging bottles.|
|Sitting in on Mrs. Reed's dance class.|
Thanks to $200,000 in community grants, the school has been able to update its arts facilities, and we visited the improved areas, along with the jazz band and piano rooms.
As part of a partnership with the University of Texas, Lamar has adopted drama-based instruction throughout the curriculum. We got to see it in action, even on the first day. I participated in a getting to know you activity in Mrs. Natalie Reed's intermediate dance class where one person stood in the middle of a circle and told the others one thing she enjoys doing. Other members of the group would switch spots with their classmates in the circle if they shared that interest. During this activity, I learned that Chief Schools Officer Paul Cruz loves middle school, and Chief Academic Officer Pauline Dow loves flying in airplanes.
|Here I am, taking a quick break in "The Retreat."|
|Principal Llewellyn shows off his socks.|
Next we visited Mrs. Debbie Walker's culinary arts math class. She uses cooking to teach a variety of skills-- from measuring ingredients to balancing a budget when purchasing groceries for recipes. Guess what is the most interesting meal the students have prepared---Spaghetti tacos! Apparently they were quite good. Next time I'll swing by when cookies are on the menu!
|Mrs. Debbie Walker, who teaches a culinary arts math class.|
Bonjour to the students in Mrs. Williams' French class. She grew up in Bolivia and France – bringing much enthusiasm to her teaching! The classroom is painted light purple and features posters illustrating cultures and languages around the world, including a poster featuring a young Ricky Martin in Menudo...and I will admit I LOVED Menudo when I was in middle school.
|Thank you for your service to Lamar, Mrs. Castillo!|
It was great to meet 29-year veteran Mrs. Castillo, who teaches sixth grade and has been teaching at Lamar since she was 24 years old. She said the campus is like home to her!
After only an hour, it feels like home to me, too!
After lunch, we toured the school, including Mrs. Owens' video production class, and, in a nearby classroom, we played an ice breaker game called "Would You Rather?" (I can't wait to do it with our principals and central administrators at Expanded Cabinet!) Students and teachers were beaming with excitement about the new school year and pride for their school, but my visit did shed some light on how so many families want their students to be Murchison Matadors that we’re running out of places to put them all.
Murchison’s functional capacity is at 1,374 students; however, the enrollment this year is about 1,500 so it fills really full especially in the "common areas" such as the cafeteria, library, etc. We are fortunate that there is indoor courtyard space to accommodate the overflow, but that's only when the weather is good.
I learned a lot about the promising things our students are accomplishing, and I have trust that our community and staff will continue to work with me and think creatively to help this Austin school continue to achieve great things.
|Dr. Dow and Dr. Cruz greet students.|
Principal Jenkins and her staff members, students and families have a lot to celebrate this school year. The campus has an outstanding accountability rating and earned the maximum number of academic distinctions a school can earn from the Texas Education Agency this year.
I began Day 2 of the Back-to-School Tour at Doss Elementary, a northwest Austin school with a real connection to both the global and the local community. Let's start with the local one.
Doss partners with local organizations, like Austin's Mellow Johnny's bike shop, to help run the Boltage program, an initiative that encourages students to walk or bike to school. The students and parents at Doss have truly embraced the program, as I saw hundreds of kids making their way to school on their bikes—so many, in fact that there were hardly enough bike racks to hold them all. Based on the parents' and students' enthusiasm for biking to school, I wouldn't be surprised if Doss once again led the nation in total miles walked or biked to school. Keep it up Owls!
Later, I had the opportunity to see the portables on campus, as well as new furniture AISD provided to Doss this year. Doss benefited from the 2013 Bond Program like all other AISD schools, but I could easily see the school needed Proposition 2 for construction of new classrooms to get relief from overcrowding. Of the 830 students at Doss, half are in portables. In three to four years, they anticipate the school will be between 145 to 155 percent capacity. For next year, we will work with the Doss school community to identify potential strategies to mitigate this space issue for next school year. For the longer term, this will be a priority for my staff and me as we continue to develop a Facility Master Plan for the district.
Then we transitioned to the class of Ms. Gustafson, Doss' Teacher of the Year. Students there shared their good news of the day with me and we discussed efforts being made at the campus to support their No Place for Hate designation.
From there we went to the gym where 5th graders were exercising their bodies and their team building skills. It's good to see the focus on health flows through every element of campus life.
Whether the students at Doss are exercising their bodies or their minds, it's clear the smaller world continually connects with the bigger world outside the walls of this innovative elementary school.
Miss Nelson is Back! That’s the name of the book that Ms. Briceño’s third grade students at Rodriguez Elementary selected for me to read, and you can see how much they loved the story! Miss Nelson is a favorite in this class!