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Photo by Renee Dominguez/KUT

Austin ISD earns a ‘B’ rating from Texas Education Agency

Wednesday, August 17, 2022 by Becky Fogel, KUT

Austin Independent School District earned an overall grade of “B” from the Texas Education Agency’s school accountability system, which is based in part on standardized testing scores. TEA issued the grades on Monday for the first time since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The last time AISD was rated in 2019, the district also received a B. However, 71 percent of campuses within the district increased their ratings from 2019. Interim Superintendent Anthony Mays said that was a significant accomplishment in the face of Covid-19 and other learning disruptions.

“This was a challenge for teachers, principals and students, but look at what they accomplished,” he said. “They did this during the pandemic, then with remote learning as well as an ice storm – in case you forgot – and then coming back to class with incredible stress.”

Mays discussed the TEA ratings during a news conference at Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy, one of the campuses that saw improvement. The East Austin middle school is located in District 1, which Austin ISD Trustee LaTisha Anderson represents.

“I want to celebrate the whole school district, especially those schools that jumped from a D or an F to a C or a B,” she said.

Anderson said Sadler Means is one of five campuses in the district that jumped two letter grades. In 2019, the campus earned an F. In 2022, it earned a C.

The school’s principal, De’Sean Roby, said one reason for the improvement is that students at the school are encouraged to take ownership of their learning. Roby said they’re taught to realize they’re running a race against themselves and not other students.

“That was something that was important for them to understand, that the growth of the campus has a lot to do with them personally and their academics,” she said.

Two of those students are eighth-graders Penelope and Vanessa, who said they’re happy to be back on campus for the new school year.

Penelope said she was excited to see her friends and for “all the leadership opportunities that we have this year.”

Vanessa is looking forward to sports, cheer and robotics. She also encouraged younger students to consider attending Sadler Means.

“Y’all should come to this school,” she said. “It’s really fun. Y’all can join the robotics team. Y’all should try out for cheer.”

Texas’ public school accountability ratings are based on three categories. They include student achievement and school progress, both of which are tied to the results of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test. The other category is whether districts and campuses are closing learning gaps for historically underserved groups. Previously, the agency graded districts and campuses on a scale of A to F, but this year anything below a C was listed as “Not Rated.”

Under this system, 40 Austin ISD campuses earned an A. Five elementary schools and five middle schools were listed as “Not Rated,” including Barrington Elementary, Govalle Elementary, Burnet Middle School and Paredes Middle School.

Superintendent Mays said AISD will be providing more support to campuses that were not rated, such as data-driven instruction and coaching.

Overall, TEA rated 1,195 school districts and 8,451 campuses. Fifty-four percent of school districts earned a B, while 33 percent received an A. Among districts in Travis County, Pflugerville ISD and Del Valle ISD each earned a B, while Manor ISD earned a C. Ratings for all districts and campuses can be found at TXschools.gov.

Photo caption: Monday was the first day of school at Bertha Sadler Means, one of the schools in Austin ISD that jumped two letter grades this year. In 2019, the campus earned an F from the Texas Education Agency. In 2022, it earned a C.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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