“High Hopes” for AISD: State of the District

The curtain rose on the 2011 State of the District address at McCallum Arts Center to reveal Superintendent Carstarphen standing in the rain, produced through the wizardry of McCallum theater team members.

Holding an umbrella and wearing a rain coat and boots, she welcomed more than 200 guests to the tune, “Singing in the Rain” performed by the McCallum First Edition Choir.

The song was a fitting opening for the address, which detailed how the district has dealt with legislative, budget and testing squalls. “It’s been stormy at times this past year, but the clouds are starting to clear,” Dr. Carstarphen said as she outlined the district’s successes, focusing on student performance.

She highlighted key accomplishments, including:

  • For the second year, at least 80 percent of all students met or exceeded state standards in every subject.
  • More students are applying and are ready for college than ever before.
  • Achievement gaps have narrowed by half since 2003.
  • The district has made steady academic progress over the past year and throughout the history of the TAKS testing program, which is being replaced this spring by the new STAAR assessment system.

“I am very proud of our district and our outcomes,” Dr. Carstarphen said about the great strides the district has made. “We kept our attention on students and boosting their academic performance. Our commitment to students did not budge.”

She applauded team members throughout the district for working together to reach these achievements, especially while AISD maintains the second lowest tax rate compared to surrounding districts.

Although the district has weathered severe budget challenges during the past year, Dr. Carstarphen announced the district is on sound financial footing. This year, there will be no layoffs and no declaration of financial exigency, she explained, so AISD staff can feel secure in their jobs and focus on the work of educating children.

Even with all of the bright notes, Dr. Carstarphen did not shy away from addressing the challenges ahead.

Together, team members throughout the district are working to:

  • Improve educational outcomes by boosting early literacy and graduation rates and by meeting the needs of the growing population of English Language Learners;
  • Improve special education performance to meet federal standards for Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP;
  • Use the Facility Master Plan Framework to create a plan for the use of facilities throughout the district; and
  • Transition successfully from TAKS-centered test preparation to the “Whole Child” model under STAAR.

As the event concluded, guests joined Dr. Carstarphen and McCallum students to sing “High Hopes”–a fitting closing note to a presentation sounding with optimism for the future of AISD.

To see additional photos and watch a video, please visit Dr. Carstarphen’s blog.

To see the State of the District Address, please visit www.austinisd.org/sod.