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SAT & ACT: Paving the Post-Secondary Path in Austin ISD

By Avani Chhaya

AISD lags behind other large districts but exceeds the state in number of students taking SAT / ACT

Austin ISD has a lower rate of high school students taking the SAT and ACT compared to other large school districts in Texas, as of the most recent data available. In the class of 2016, about 74 percent of students took the standardized tests, according to the Texas Education Agency. The SAT and ACT, entrance exams for many universities, are meant to inform college-readiness.

By Avani Chhaya

*The report did not include data for Dallas ISD in 2015.

Numbers are rounded

Gatekeepers to four-year college admission

With most four-year universities still requiring these standardized test scores, the SAT and ACT are traditionally considered to be gatekeepers to acceptance to four-year colleges and universities, limiting students’ options beyond high school for those who do not take these exams.

For those Texas high school seniors looking at freshman admission to an in-state college next fall, 13 Texas universities made the list of 1,250 best global universities featured in U.S. News & World Report. All 13 universities from this list require freshman students to take either the SAT or ACT, in order to apply to the undergraduate program. Without taking one of these standardized tests, a high school applicant will not be considered in the admissions pool for the upcoming school year.

It is important to note that incoming college students can take the TSI (Texas Success Initiative) assessment instead of the SAT and ACT, if they are planning on attending college in Texas. This standardized test determines college-readiness in reading, writing, and math. Not all students, however, need to take the TSI test. A few of the exemptions include students meeting the SAT and ACT requirements or completing college-level English and math courses.

Rank & SAT/ACT Requirements for Texas Undergraduate Universities

Rank University SAT ACT
32 The University of Texas at Austin
81 Rice University
118 Texas A&M University
234 University of Texas at Dallas
341 Baylor University
382 University of Houston
448 University of Texas at San Antonio
462 University of Texas at Arlington
466 Southern Methodist University*
487 Texas Tech University
627 University of North Texas
907 University of Texas at El Paso
1233 Texas State University

Source: 2017 U.S. News & World Report

*These schools listed above require either the SAT or ACT scores to be submitted.

*Southern Methodist University does not require music, theatre, dance, art or film applicants to submit test scores.

College graduates exhibit better outcomes

According to The College Board, college graduates are more likely to earn more money, lead healthier lifestyles, volunteer and vote compared to their counterparts who have only graduated from high school. Taking the SAT or ACT is one of the steps high school students can take to advance their futures and jumpstart their careers.

A barrier to advancing your future may be the cost of these exams. The SAT costs $46 and $60 with the essay section, while the ACT costs $46 and $62.50 with the writing portion. You can apply for a SAT fee waiver or an ACT fee waiver if you meet certain eligibility requirements, including enrollment in a free or reduced lunch program or if your family falls within a specified income range.

To remove one of the biggest hurdles to students applying to a four-year university, school districts can offer free, in-school SAT or ACT exam sessions. By both picking up the cost and mandating these assessments, school districts can increase the number of students, particularly those who come from low-income backgrounds, going to college, as reported in Education Week. In the 2014-2015 school year, Dallas Independent School District administered the SAT for 11th graders and the ACT for 12th graders during the school day and covered the cost on behalf of their students. As a result, 100 percent of students in that district took the SAT and ACT in 2016, increasing the chances of those students enrolling in an institution of higher education. According to Dallas ISD, testing during the school day allows students to continue meeting family and job responsibilities on the weekend and does not require additional transportation for testing. In Houston ISD, juniors are able to take the SAT during a school day for free, an initiative started in 2010. According to a HISD News Blog post, there is a significant increase in the number of students taking the SAT from 4,920 students in 2010 to 9,480 students in 2012. In addition to the overall participation, Houston ISD reports an increase in students from specific racial and ethnic populations taking the SAT compared to previous years. There was a 76 percent increase in African-American students, a 134 percent increase in Hispanic students, a 32 percent increase in White students, and an 18 percent increase in Asian-American students taking the SAT exam in Houston ISD.

Austin ISD, however, does not cover the cost of the SAT or ACT exams for juniors or seniors. Offering free sessions of these college-entrance exams will increase the percent of students taking these exams and increase the likelihood of students directly enrolling in a four-year university, paving the path for a brighter and better future.

Other Good Reads:

January 22, 2018 Meeting Follow Up

1.      Public Comment

2.      Consent Agenda & Considerations:

  • Consent Agenda passed 8-0 with Trustee Teich off the dais
  • Items pulled for separate vote

3.      Superintendent’s Report:

Austin Independent School District School Board.

January 22, 2018, Regular Board Meeting

KEY ITEMS: 2018 – 2021 Fiscal Forecast

7:25 PM   Public Comment

  • Up to 30 members of the community may speak for 2 minutes

8:35 PM Public Hearing

  • 2016-17 Annual Report

8:50 PM Consent Agenda

  • Academics & Curriculum
    1. 2017-18 Service agreement between AISD and Con Mi MADRE
    2. Affiliation agreement between Texas State University School of Social Work and AISD
  • Business & Finance
    1. AISD participation in the Texas Cooperative Liquid Assets Securities System Trust
    2. Service agreement with APIE to provide tutoring services for GEAR UP
    3. Contract for communications and community engagement services for 2017 Bond Program
    4. Agreement with Texas A&M Transportation Institute for Teens in the Driver Seat Program
    5. Contract for program evaluation and strategic budgeting services
    6. Contract for Cisco networking products
  • Facilities
    1. Contract for renovations at Widen ES, Allison ES, Akins HS, Joslin ES, and Zavala ES
    2. Contract for new elevators and accessibility enhancements at Austin HS
    3. Contract for repair of detention ponds at Overton ES, Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy, and the Delco Center
    4. Contract for firms selected for Blazier ES, Brown ES, Govalle ES, Menchaca ES, Doss ES, Murchison MS, and new Southwest ES projects
  • Human Resources
    1. Class size exceptions for Fall 2017
    2. SY18-19 Staff Development Minutes Waiver
  • Items for Separate Vote
    1. Agreement with the University of Texas for UTeach Outreach Programs
    2. Contract for 2017 Bond Program Management

9:20 PM Superintendent’s Report 

  • Approval of the 2018-19 Instructional Calendar
  • Update on bad weather days
  • FY2018- FY2021 Fiscal Forecast

Austin Independent School District School Board.

December 18, 2017, Meeting Follow Up

1.      Public Comment

  • Not all 30 slots were filled, many speakers absent
    • AISD Police raised concern about compensation structure—many new hires are making more than experienced police officers, and staffing—officers sometimes monitor large patrol areas alone.
      • Trustees Teich, Wagner, and Anderson asked Superintendent Cruz to give them an update on the AISD Police, as a result
    • Speakers raised concerns about school consolidations/closings

2.      Consent Agenda & Considerations:

  • Consent Agenda passed unanimously
    • Trustee Gordon was absent for the entire meeting. Trustee Elenz was absent after Public Comment. Neither participated in any votes.
  • Agreements with UT pass unanimously (IPSI, GEAR UP, and The Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue)
  • Agreement with City of Austin on land development ordinance for schools in the Barton Springs Zone passes 6-0-1, Trustee Wagner abstained.

3.      Superintendent’s Report:

  • Discussed frozen schools and transfer procedures for SY 2018-19
  • Board voted to approve the Scorecard to evaluate the superintendent, passed 6-1-0 with Trustee Mathias voting no.

December 18, 2017, Regular Board Meeting

KEY ITEMS: Superintendent’s 17-18 Scorecard, Schools Frozen to Transfers 18-19

 8:00 PM   Public Comment

  • Up to 30 members of the community may speak for 2 minutes

9:10 PM Consent Agenda

  • Academics & Curriculum
    1. Approval of Resolution for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Travis County 4-H
  • Business & Finance
    1. Contract with Vida Clinic for Elementary School Mental Health Centers
    2. Contract with American Institutes for Research for Evaluation Services for Education Innovation and Research Early-Phase Grant
    3. Agreement for the ACC Families as Partners Project
    4. Contract for Architecture/Engineering Design Services
  • Facilities
    1. Selection of Contractor and Award of Contract for Addition/Renovations at Harris ES, Pickle ES, Lee ES, and Barton Hills ES
    2. Approval of 2017 Educational Specifications
    3. Approval of the Additional Use of 2013 Bond Contingency Previously Approved by the Board to Address Additional Critical Facility Needs
  • Human Resources
    1. Appointment of Principal of Andrews ES, Gullet ES, Joslin ES, Pillow ES
  • Policy
    1. TASB Policy Update 107
  • Items for Separate Vote
    1. Agreements with UT – Institute for Public School Initiatives for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs & Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue for Technical Assistance in Restorative Practices Implementation for Education Innovation and Research

9:49 PM Superintendent’s Report 

  • Winter Break Message to the Community
  • Schools Frozen to Transfers for SY 2018-19
  • SY 2017-18 Scorecard

9:49 PM President’s Report 

  • Announcement of 2017 Board Continuing Education Credits

November 27, 2017, Meeting Follow Up

1.      Public Comment:

  • 22 of 30 slots filled, speakers voiced support for affordable housing at the Allan Center property and having registered nurses at every campus.

2.      Consent Agenda & Considerations:

3.      Superintendent’s Report:

November 27, 2017, Regular Board Meeting

KEY ITEMS: Surplus property sale & purchase of new property for administration building

 7:35 PM   Public Comment

  • Up to 30 members of the community may speak for 2 minutes

8:45 PM Consent Agenda

  • Academics & Curriculum
    1. Child Care Local Match Contribution Agreement
    2. Memorandum of Understanding with ACC to provide preparatory courses
  • Business & Finance
    1. 1st Quarterly Budget, Investment, and Tax Reports for Jul., Aug., & Sept.
    2. Approval of Family Resource Centers
    3. Resolution declaring the following AISD owned land as surplus and authorizing for sale: Baker Center, Doris Drive Land, Tannehill Lane Land, Millett Opera House, and Carruth Administration Center Property
    4. Approval of contract for the purchase of property for a future administrative center
    5. Agreement with Texas A&M Transportation Institute for Teens in the Driver Seat Programs
    6. 2017 Tax Levy
    7. Financial Audit for 16-17
  • Facilities
    1. Award of Contract for Energy Savings Performance, Renovations at Dobie MS, Roof Repair at Houston ES, and Solar Array Installations at Paredes, Galindo, Kocurek, and Boone.
  • Human Resources
    1. Routine personnel actions
  • Items for Separate Vote
    1. Cooperation Agreement with the City of Austin to financially support Literacy First
    2. Cooperation Agreement between the City of Austin and AISD: use of event space
    3. Approval of CodeNEXT Resolution
    4. Agreement with UT for UTeach Outreach Programs

9:15 PM Superintendent’s Report 

  • Bond Update

October 23, 2017, Meeting Follow Up

1.      Public Comment

  • Many speakers voiced support for dual language programming in schools

2.      Public Hearing on Improvement Plans

  • No one signed to up to speak

3.      Consent Agenda & Considerations:

4.      President’s Report

5.      Superintendent’s Report

October 23, 2017, Regular Board Meeting

KEY ITEMS: Consideration of Superintendent’s Evaluation & District ESSA Equity Plan

7:25 PM   Public Comment

  • Up to 30 members of the community may speak for 2 minutes

8:35 PM Public Hearing

  • 2017-18 Targeted improvement plans for Govalle ES, Burnet MS, Martin MS, and Mendez MS

8:50 PM Consent Agenda

  • Academics & Curriculum
    1. Pearson Online & Blended Learning K-12 USA Contract Renewal
    2. Improvement Plan for Govalle Es, Burnet MS, Martin MS, Mendez MS
    3. Innovative Course Approval, EMT
    4. Approval of District’s ESSA Equity Plan
  • Business & Finance
    1. 4th Quarterly Budget, Investment, and Tax Reports for April, May and June 2017
    2. Approval of Agreements for Tutoring, Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational & Physical Therapists, Educational Consultants, Restorative Practices for Academics, Translation, Transcription, Sign Language Services, and Residential Treatment Center for Students with Disabilities
    3. FY2018 – 19 Budget Development Calendar
  • Facilities
    1. Selection of Contractor for Renovations at Campbell ES, Covington MS, & Pecan Springs ES
  • Human Resources
    1. Routine personnel actions
    2. Appointment of Executive Director of Human Resource Services
  • Items for Separate Vote
    1. Building Use Agreement w/ UT Frank Erwin Center for 17-18 Graduation Ceremonies
    2. Approval of Agreement for Heart of Texas Writing Project

9:25 PM President’s Report 

  • Consideration of Superintendent’s Evaluation and/or Contract Amendment

9:30 PM Superintendent’s Report 

  • Dyslexia Awareness Month Update
  • Bond Update
  • Bond Methods of Construction

September 26, 2017, Meeting Follow Up

1.      Public Comment:

  • Most slots filled, comments addressed lack of affordable housing and the effect on student mobility
    • Cruz said that an affordable housing resolution will be discussed at the October work session
  • Speakers also voiced opposition to the bond

2.      Presentation of AISD School Financial Integrity Rating:

  • AISD received a superior financial integrity rating from TEA, the highest rating a school can earn (94 out of 100)

3.      Public Hearing on AISD School Financial Integrity Rating:

  • No one signed up to speak

4.      Consent Agenda & Considerations:

  • Consent agenda passed unanimously
  • Items for Separate Vote
    • Mobile Voting Sites for Bond Vote (motion passed)
      • Trustee Elenz and Trustee Wagner want to include a list of 19 schools to the list of polling places. They passed the motion strongly urging staff to add as many schools from this list as possible. Each mobile polling location costs $1,560 per day.

5.      Superintendent’s Report:

  • Bond Update
    • Cruz spoke about the modernization & reinvention projects the bond will facilitate, highlighting that projects & distribution of money will occur on both sides of I 35
  • Health Services Update