Here’s how Austin ISD plans to “turn around” performance at Burnet Middle School

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Following the second-consecutive assignment of an “improvement required” rating by the Texas Education Agency, Austin ISD has outlined improvements to student and staff performance needed at Burnet Middle School.

A campus turnaround plan is required by state law for schools that have received a failing grade two years in a row. Some of the highlights of Burnet MS’ plan, scheduled for implementation in school year 2018-19 and 2019-20, include:

  • Implementation of a multi-year schoolwide literacy plan
  • Restructuring the coaching model so coaches have increased accountability for student outcomes
  • Implementation of a multi-year schoolwide behavior management program
  • Development of a teacher instruction and professional development plan, ensuring all teachers have the training and development needed to guide student success

Focusing on the schools which feed into Burnet is also part of AISD’s strategy, according to Terrence Eaton, district associate superintendent for middle schools. AISD staff will work with elementary campuses to ensure reading comprehension strategies are aligned across schools, and a literacy camp will be offered to incoming sixth graders prior to the start of the school year.

Trustee Yasmin Wagner questioned whether a summer camp would be sufficient in correcting literacy issues and urged staff to intervene at earlier grade levels.

“If we are waiting until a child in fifth grade is struggling with literacy, a summer camp may not have the significant impact we are looking for,” she said. “It makes me wonder why we wouldn’t look at diving down deeper, like third grade or below, to address those [students]in the feeders more directly.”

Significant staff turnover, including three new principals in two years, has resulted from the school’s failing grade, according to district documents. To address this trend, at least 180 minutes of professional learning per week will be implemented to ensure teachers feel confident in communicating subjects to students, especially English Language Learners and students in special education.

Overall, trustees were supportive of what they called a new “strengths-based” approach to improving campuses. Specific attention will be placed on promoting a positive school climate through transitioning students from being disciplined to self-disciplined and self-regulated.

“This is the first time I have listened to a turnaround plan where I felt excited for kids,” trustee Amber Elenz said. “This does not seem oppressive, but positive, and I appreciate the strength-based approach. This is very different than what I’ve seen in [my]five years [serving on the board].”

Trustees are scheduled to vote on the turnaround plan Feb. 26. Once approved, the plan will be submitted to the TEA.

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Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 and covers Austin ISD for the publication's three Austin markets. She is also the editor of the Southwest Austin edition.
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