Austin ISD’s emphasis on social-emotional learning was the focus of this year’s State of the District address, given by Superintendent Paul Cruz at AISD’s second annual Inspire The Future Luncheon on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

According to Cruz, social-emotional learning—which promotes the development of empathy, positive relationships, responsible decision-making, social awareness and other characteristics—fits within the district’s mission to educate the whole child.

“We are one of the leaders in implementing social-emotional learning,” Cruz said. “I’m really proud of that.”

Cruz highlighted the district’s achievements by comparing AISD’s success rates to those nationwide in several key areas. Data from 2015 shows an 89.7 percent graduation rate, 95.4 percent attendance rate, and 89 percent of students applying to college—all of which surpass nationwide statistics. Cruz also emphasized the district’s goal to prepare every student for college, career and life in today’s economic and social climate.

“We are preparing students for their future, not for my past, or for your past,” he said.

AISD is committed to student equity, Cruz said, and must work to close achievement gaps among low-income and minority students through the use of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.

“I’m very proud of the great work we do for students every day, but we have achievement gaps and we need to address that,” Cruz said.

Investments in the district by organizations like the Austin Ed Fund, a nonprofit education foundation that supports AISD schools, are what Cruz said will help the district achieve its goals.

“You are making a big difference in the lives of our students,” he said. “The state of AISD is strong, and I’m very proud to serve as the superintendent of a phenomenal urban school district.”