On Aug. 8, the Texas Education Agency released its 2011–12 test results as well as how districts performed against No Child Left Behind standards.

Although Austin ISD as a district did not meet Adequate Yearly Performance requirements for reading, mathematics or graduation rate, district representatives said they maintain a positive outlook.

Chief Performance Officer Bill Caritj said AISD performed well considering the number of schools in the district, the concerns about graduation requirements and the district's transition to the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test.

"The challenge is, the same standard applies to everyone, so the 87 percent proficiency standard for reading applies to every student group," he said.

In a statement, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said students have made gains despite increasing state and federal standards.

"We knew the district would face challenges this year, and we have continued to strengthen our curriculum and instruction so all of our students will be successful," she said. "Although it is clear that we still have work to do to reach every target of the federal accountability system, I am pleased by our gains in all subject areas and for nearly every student group."

According to the TEA, 28 percent of Texas districts met the standards.

How AYP works

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 sets performance standards for schools and districts throughout the United States based on testing data.

According to the TEA data:

  • In AISD, 85 percent of the 40,146 students taking the reading/English language arts test met AYP standards, but the district did not meet the 87 percent AYP performance target.
  • Eighty-three percent of the total 40,121 students in AISD met AYP standards in math. However, not all subgroups met the 83 percent AYP performance target.
  • Eighty percent of the overall student group, or 3,911 students, were in the district's graduating class of 2011. Not all subgroups met the requirements. Districts were required to have either a 75 percent graduation rate or a 90 percent attendance rate, depending on grade level.

Sixty percent of AISD schools met AYP standards, the district said.

Twelve AISD campuses will move into Stage 1 of the NCLB School Improvement Program this year because they missed AYP standards for two years in a row.

"For those schools, parents have the opportunity to transfer to a higher-performing school," Caritj said.

Addressing the gaps

AISD is expanding its dual-language programs to help students become proficient in both their primary language and English, Caritj said.

He said the district also added 400 model lesson plans focusing on English-language learners and students with disabilities.

"Our goal is to have aggressive interventions that involve specialists within the schools, and the whole point of that is to have fewer kids getting to the point where it feels like there's nothing else for them to do and no other resources," he said.

Additionally, AISD has partnered with groups such as Sylvan Learning Center and offers high-dosage tutoring at many campuses to address performance issues early in the education process.

AISD also is giving grants and support to the vertical teams—networks comprising a high school and the elementary and middle schools that feed into that school—of Eastside Memorial, Lyndon B. Johnson and John H. Reagan Early College high schools, Caritj said.

"There's probably not a vertical team in the district that's not receiving some attention," he said.

He also pointed to the district hiring Dr. Pauline Dow, formerly of the Ysleta school district in El Paso, as chief academic officer this summer, noting she will help the district improve how it meets the needs of English-language learners and students with disabilities.

AYP federal caps mean the NCLB program limits the number of proficient assessment results from alternate assessments that can count as proficient in AYP calculations. In AISD, Hispanic, African-American, and economically disadvantaged students missed math AYP standards due to the 2 percent and 1 percent federal caps, while special education students missed the AYP standards for math. In ELA, Hispanic students missed AYP standards because of federal caps, and special education students missed the AYP measure.

More information and complete AYP data are available at www.tea.state.tx.us/ayp/.