By: Avani Chhaya
With information readily available at your fingertips, it is easy to feel overwhelmed at the deluge of facts and figures about high schools in Austin ISD. We have distilled all of that high school information to the three important facets, impacting a high school student: attendance, discipline and college-readiness. Attendance has large budget and academic ramifications. In addition, disciplinary data shows which campuses are suspending their students at higher rates, highlighting disparities for our students of color. With the aim of high school to prepare students for life beyond the secondary level, the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) Assessment gives a glimpse at one of the college-ready components for students.
Students in Central Texas miss 2.4 million days of school every year, according to E3 Alliance.
If a student is absent from class, it results in a loss of learning and a loss of state funding for the school. According to Austin ISD, missing school once a week is equivalent to missing out on a full year of learning every five years. E3 Alliance goes on to state that a student’s absence costs $38 per day, losing $20,000 every week in a high school, totaling over $91 million a year for our schools across the Central Texas region. With higher expectations and an increase in the workload at the high school level, it is much harder to academically catch up if a student is continually absent from school. High school campuses are expected to meet the AISD’s annual high school target of 93.8 percent for attendance. A sample of how districts monitor attendance across campuses can be seen in the High School Dashboard 2017-2018
In 2017, the AISD school board voted to ban home suspensions and expulsions for preK to 2nd grade students with similar ban resolutions passed in Dallas, El Paso and Houston school districts, along with a bill at the state level banning suspensions.
In reference to the Student Code of Conduct, the state law allows a student to be suspended for up to three days, and there is no limit on the number of times a student is suspended in the semester or school year. The suspended student will have a conference with the school’s administration to explain the situation.
Austin ISD’s Summary of Equity Work indicates that several student groups experienced a higher rate of home and in-school suspensions in 2016. While male students were suspended at a higher rate than female students, special education and economically-disadvantaged students were punished with a home suspension, which was higher than the district average. Middle school rates of home suspensions were higher than high school and elementary school. In addition, there is a clear inequitable gap between students in different racial and ethnic groups. African-American and Hispanic students experienced home suspensions at a far greater rate than their White counterparts. These trends continue to persist with in-school suspensions as well.
Some campuses in Austin ISD, such as Akins High School, are implementing restorative practices to lower the suspension rate. Through a partnership with Life Anew, Akins implements a system of check-ins and classroom circles to build the school community, as well as lessen the occurence and frequency of conflict.
In a 2015 AISD report, seven sixth grade students were asked about the circling techniques at Martin Middle School, as part of the restorative practices program with Life Anew. Circling is where students sit in a circle and confront a problem directly with their classmates, teachers or family members. This strategy is meant to build empathy, perspective-taking, trust and dialogue among a classroom community. While the students spoke of their positive experiences with this circling technique, they mentioned how circling with a shy or disrespectful peer poses challenges.
3. Texas Success Initiative (TSI) Assessment
Students planning on attending college in Texas can take the TSI, which is a standardized test determining college-readiness in reading, writing and math. The district and state scores below represent the number of graduates who scored at or above the set criteria for English Language Arts (ELA) and Math out of the total number of graduates with subject scores. According to the Texas Education Agency, high school students are considered college-ready with a score of at least 351 in ELA and at least 350 in Math. In the most recent school year, only 25 percent of students are college-ready in ELA and only 20.3 percent in Math in Austin ISD.
TSI Scores in ELA & Math for District and State From 2014-2016
|ELA in 2015-2016||25%||22.6%|
|ELA in 2014-2015||10.7%||10.6%|
|Math in 2015-2016||20.3%||18.1%|
|Math in 2014-2015||6.9%||7.1%|