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AISD drafts district scorecard

Friday, September 16, 2016 by Courtney Griffin

The Austin Independent School District board of trustees spent Monday night hammering out what success will look like for the district at the conclusion of the 2016-2017 school year. Preliminary talks focused on the potential use of new approaches to “desegregating” AISD schools, improving the quality of teaching at failing schools and utilizing hard data to create measurable metrics with clear failing or passing scores.

At the board’s dialogue meeting, trustees sat down with AISD staff; A.J. Crabill, director of governance for the Texas Education Agency; and Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City School to discuss the best ways to use data to measure a school district’s progress as part of its yearly scorecard.

Although the district has been using a scorecard for a number of years, this style of scorecard started with the 2015-2020 strategic plan. The scorecard shows how well the district is doing, and the superintendent’s evaluation is based on meeting a percentage of the overall scorecard. In a sense, it is one of the main steering documents for the school year.

Currently, the drafted 2016-2017 scorecard sets out nine broad goals and more than 50 subsequently goal-related measurable metrics regarding district growth and student achievement. While more common goals include statements like “All students will be prepared to graduate on time and ready for college and career” — a goal that mirrors one of Texas’ standardized testing measurements — AISD also includes goals around preventing unsafe student experiences and inequitable treatment by the district.

Every broad goal is backed up by a number of smaller metrics that are used to determine if the broader goals were achieved. These smaller metrics use TEA data, surveys or district data to track the markers of success. For example, trustees have determined that the percentage of high school students demonstrating proficiencies on a capstone project (a smaller metric) is one of many indicators showing that AISD students will be prepared for college and a career (one of the nine broader goals).

One of the new metrics trustees discussed lays out a better way to consistently show elementary school academic progress on standardized testing. By tracking both the ultimate passing rate for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (known as STAAR) exam and students’ yearly academic growth, which is also determined by STAAR results, trustees said they’ll be able to see how students are scoring against STAAR’s ultimate passing rate. In addition, they’ll be able to see how much progress students are making even if they have failed the STAAR exam.

Running numbers from the 2014-2015 school year, Board President Kendall Pace pointed out that Norman Elementary School’s data showed a clearer picture of students’ academic growth at the campus. Norman students, who collectively failed to meet state testing standards, showed more than a year’s growth in reading.

“To me, this tells me those kids were coming in significantly behind,” Pace said. “So (even with the academic growth), they are still not able to catch up.”

To better address the failing schools, such as Norman, trustees also discussed creating a metric to reflect how many highly effective teachers AISD employs and how many are situated on struggling campuses. The only problem is figuring out how to determine if a teacher is highly effective, they said.

Currently, AISD places first-year teachers, along with more seasoned teachers, at known failing schools.

Crabill said that the Dallas Independent School District recently began to measure the effectiveness of its teachers and principals; subsequently it has allowed only principals and teachers who have scored in the top 50 percent on the district’s effectiveness metric to work in failing schools. Crabill said that while principals were assigned two years prior, effective teachers were also “practically assigned” afterward. After all the reassignments were implemented, six of the seven campuses met state standards in one year.

“That (initiative) is something that either the board has the stomach to walk down that path, or it doesn’t,” added Crabill.

District 3 Trustee Ann Teich agreed with the spirit of Dallas ISD’s initiative. She suggested using some of the new information gathered in the new teacher evaluation system to help score effectiveness.

District 1 Trustee Edmund Gordon added that AISD also needs to create more metrics regarding desegregating the district’s schools and adding diversity to AISD’s faculty and administration.

“This may be controversial,” Gordon said. “But I think we need to say something about the schools’ segregation, both racial and socioeconomic. I don’t know how you put that in there, … but it’s going to have to be a growth factor or something like that because we’re completely segregated now.”

At-Large Trustee Gina Hinojosa suggested creating a metric ensuring diversity in AISD’s magnet and advanced academic programs because “it’s an easy place to start” ensuring integration within AISD.

Vice President Paul Saldaña added that AISD’s school transfer policies contribute to AISD’s segregated nature because “even though the majority of the students we serve are low income, we don’t offer bus transportation for transfers, so they’re stuck in whatever school they’re in. … In fact, out of the 83,000 students we have, less than 25 percent of our students actually ride the school bus.”

Gordon suggested looking at existing school boundaries as well. Trustees also suggested singling out the less diverse schools and setting an inclusion goal.

Although Pace admitted that there were many ways to solve the issue but “not many of them are popular,” the trustees asked Superintendent Paul Cruz to draft a plan to increase student diversity and present it to the board.

The board is set to vote on the scorecard in November.

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Photo by Max Klingensmith made available through a Creative Commons license.

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