Outside equity assessment at AISD could evaluate hiring practices, past closures

Chief Equity Officer Stephanie Hawley speaks to trustees at a board information session Aug. 10. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Chief Equity Officer Stephanie Hawley speaks to trustees at a board information session Aug. 10. (Courtesy Austin ISD)

Chief Equity Officer Stephanie Hawley speaks to trustees at a board information session Aug. 10. (Courtesy Austin ISD)

Last November, Austin ISD trustees voted to close four school campuses as part of a district-wide school changes plan, a move that capped off a process that Chief Equity Officer Stephanie Hawley at the time said was inequitable, flawed and lacked transparency.

Local residents called for a equity report evaluating the school changes plan, and asked the district to conduct an external equity assessment on district practices.

While an internal equity report on school changes was released by Hawley's office a week after the vote, an external assessment has not been conducted.


Now, almost 10 months after the school changes vote and a year after Hawley was hired into the district to create an equity office, the district is moving closer to hiring an outside group to conduct such an assessment.

“This is something we’ve discussed for some time," Superintendent Paul Cruz said at an Aug. 10 board work session, discussing a future request for proposals for an assessment. “What we want to do [tonight] is get board feedback and guidance for our approach to an equity assessment.”


Jacob Reach, the district’s chief of staff, said the district in 2015 began a self assessment on equity across the district due to a letter it received from a local civil rights group, which raised concerns about achievement gaps.

Hawley said that the self-assessment gave her office a jumpstart on evaluating the district when she arrived last summer, highlighting some of the district’s strengths and challenges and what some solutions to the inequities seen in AISD could be.

“An equity assessment is part of that solution,” she said Aug. 10.

Hawley said an assessment would look at the root causes of inequities and offer the district best practices as potential solutions.

“It’s not just enough to uproot bad practices, but [we have to ask] what good practices can we put in. That’s what an assessment does,” she said.

According to a presentation by Hawley, a future assessment would, among other things, look at student access to advanced and culturally-inclusive curriculum, the effectiveness of culturally proficient teaching and data on student suspensions in AISD.

There is no timeline for when the report will be delivered, but on Aug. 10 Trustees brainstormed additional aspects of the district to evaluate through an assessment. Ideas included assessing:

  • the district's human resources department and district hiring practices;

  • school policing, discipline and the Alternative Learning Center;

  • equity in special education support;

  • transportation resources and how it impacts access to schools and curriculum in different communities;

  • boundaries and past school closures and consolidations; and

  • the impact of COVID-19 on different communities.


Cruz said the equity office will continue to refine the scope of an equity assessment, and make sure the office works hand-in-hand with both the board and the district's new superintendent, Stephanie Elizalde, while creating an official request for proposals. Elizalde is expected to officially be hired by the district Aug. 11 and to begin serving as superintendent by the end of August.
By Nicholas Cicale
Nick has been with Community Impact Newspaper since 2016, working with the Lake Travis-Westlake and Southwest Austin-Dripping Springs editions. He previously worked as a reporter in Minnesota and earned a degree from Florida State University.


MOST RECENT

The 15,000 square-foot building is located on Signal Hill Road. (Nicholas Cicale/Community impact Newspaper)
First look: Upscale wedding venue The Arlo coming to Texas Hill Country

Owners Ron and Lisa McGuire purchased the 9-acre property in 2004. The Arlo opens in March and is booking for the 2021 and 2022 wedding season.

Photo of a SpaceX sign
Elon Musk's SpaceX is coming to Austin

Job postings on the SpaceX website say the company is breaking ground on a "state of the art" manufacturing facility in Ausin.

Austin ISD and other districts in Central Texas are waiting for further TEA guidance on mask requirements. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Austin ISD, other Central Texas school districts await TEA guidance on updated mask mandates

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas. (Courtesy Office of the Texas Governor)
Gov. Greg Abbott lifts statewide mask mandate, business restrictions in Texas

With vaccine distribution increasing, Gov. Greg Abbott said "people and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate." Some local officials are pushing back, saying the relaxed restrictions are coming too early.

Photo of a woman receiving a vaccine
Travis County vaccine providers receive 46,540 doses week of March 1

Seton Medical Center in Austin received the largest allocation this week, with over 14,000 doses.

The latest data from the Austin Board of Realtors shows that inventory in Southwest Austin continues to be historically low. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Southwest Austin home prices have increased by 36.8% over the past two years

The latest data from the Austin Board of Realtors shows that inventory in Southwest Austin continues to be historically low.

Matthew McConaughey, see, here at SXSW 2019, will be one of this year's virtual SXSW speakers. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
SXSW's virtual festival, the PGA Tour returns and more events in Austin this month

From Amplify Austin Day beginning 6 p.m. on March 4 to Bill Gates discussing his new book, "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster," here are eight events happening this month in the Austin area, including both in-person and virtual options.




Ice covered utility lines across Austin. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
SHARE YOUR STORY: How did you survive the Texas freeze?

We want to hear how the winter storms affected you.

Q2 Stadium
Austin FC preseason scrimmages planned for late March start

Preseason matches for Austin FC will be held in South Austin ahead of the team's inaugural MLS season.

Lawmakers began hearings Feb. 25 to hear from energy executives about what led to dayslong power outages following a Feb. 14 winter storm. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin weekly roundup: The storm is over, but the questions are just beginning

In hearings last week, a state senator from the Houston area called the power and water outages in Texas "the largest trainwreck in the history of degregulated electricity."

Samsung's proposed $17 billion chip-making plant would dwarf other recent megaprojects that sought tax incentives in the region.
Samsung’s request to pay no property tax on $17 billion plant tests Austin’s incentive policy

Samsung is asking for 100% property tax reimbursement over 25 years, which would mark the most aggressive corporate tax break in Austin history.

A new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could help expand vaccination availability in Travis County, according to local health officials. (Courtesy Pexels)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean additional supply, easier distribution rollout in Travis County

If approved, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a valuable weapon against the ongoing pandemic, according to local health officials.