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AISD Uses Results from Rigorous, National Review in Aim for World-Class Standards

Broad Foundation Ranks Several Key Areas Among Nation's Top

Austin, TX— As part of its drive to achieve the community's vision for the Austin Independent School District to become nationally recognized as an outstanding school district that instills a passion for life-long learning in all students, the district is pleased to announce the results of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation's diagnostic audit, which ranks AISD among the nation's top performing districts in several areas, notably strategic planning and financial resource systems.

"We asked for the toughest assessment in the country to help the district make the right next steps and focus our limited resources to ensure we are on the right path to achieve excellence for our kids and families," Meria Carstarphen, superintendent said. "We welcomed the opportunity to continue to review the district—candidly and openly—against world-class standards."

AISD is one of only two "promising practice" districts throughout the United States selected by the Broad Foundation for the diagnostic audit and among only 14 districts the foundation considered.

"Austin is setting an example for the nation. AISD is a terrific school district, striving to become world class," said Shelley Billig, vice President of RMC Research, an education consulting company that collaborated with the Broad Foundation in conducting the review. "The district opened itself to an outside, critical eye that affirmed both the district's clear and impressive strengths and a few areas that need more attention. We have full confidence that the strong leadership in the district will continue its path to improvement and that AISD will become one of the nation's leading school districts."

In December, AISD invited the Broad Foundation to conduct a rigorous review of the district's practices and procedures based on the high standards the foundation uses to assess finalists for its $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education. Each year, the prestigious prize honors one urban school district that demonstrates the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement, while reducing achievement gaps among low-income and minority students.

The Broad Foundation assessed the district's policies and procedures against 33 indicators, which are associated with excellent student achievement outcomes, including: performance on state assessments, closing the achievement gaps between student groups, increasing graduation rates, and preparing students for college and career success.

In order to assess schools with diverse student populations and characteristics, the Broad diagnostic team visited two high schools, two middle schools and two elementary schools. They collected data from approximately 75 documents and 270 individuals, meeting with principals, teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders.

“In the rigorous Broad evaluation framework, school districts participating in the diagnostic audit are held to the same high standards as finalists competing for the prestigious Broad Prize,” Billig explained. “In this context, therefore, ‘meeting expectations’ on an indicator demonstrates excellent performance, while a designation of ‘exemplary’ distinguishes the district’s practices as among the best in the nation.”

According to the diagnostic results, several AISD policies and practices are among the nation’s best, earning Broad Foundation ratings from “approaching exemplary” to “exemplary,” including:

Strategic Planning

  • The district strategic plan is regularly monitored for implementation, evaluated for effectiveness, and revised to respond to changing priorities (exemplary).
  • The strategic plan is developed using a systematic planning process that engages relevant stakeholders and has strong stakeholder support (approaching exemplary).
  • The district strategic plan is long range and visionary, specifies strategic objectives and the strategies to achieve each objective, and is articulated through school improvement plans (approaching exemplary).

 Assessment

  • The district provides a cohesive, comprehensive system for assessing and reporting student performance (approaching exemplary).

 Performance and Accountability

  • The district holds schools accountable for academic performance and intervenes as needed to ensure high performance (approaching exemplary).

 Operations and Support Systems

  • The district is financially sound (approaching exemplary).
  • The district uses its funds efficiently, and seeks additional external sources of funding to support strategic plan implementation (approaching exemplary).

“Austin is fortunate to have Meria Carstarphen and a strong team of educators, leading and reforming the district to benefit all students,” Tony Befi, vice-chair of the board for Education/Talent at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, said. “Real improvement is happening, and board cohesion and leadership stability are essential moving forward. Parents and business leaders should be proud Austin has leaders who have the courage to open their organizations to outside review and to subject themselves to this level of scrutiny. Considering Austin’s #1 and #2 ranking on the National Assessment of Education Program, the Broad Foundation review reinforces the fact that AISD is on track as a national leader in urban education.”

According to the diagnostic results, AISD’s policies and practices ranged from “Meets Expectations” to “Exemplary” on 28 of the 33 indicators. The diagnostic team also identified the remaining five indicators
as “Areas of Concern,” indicating that the district should examine practices that fall short of the criteria
for excellence. There were no AISD policies and practices that earned the lowest rating of “Areas of Need,” which would signify issues that require urgent attention.

According to the diagnostic results, the following AISD policies and practices were designated “Areas of Concern”:

  1. Implementing evidence-based instruction as standard practice;
  2. Providing effective instructional supports for all students;
  3. Supporting and evaluating the effectiveness of professional development;
  4. Board of Trustees working collaboratively, efficiently, and effectively to fulfill responsibilities for district governance oversight; and
  5. Implementing a district system and culture that promote positive relationships between and among district and school staff.

“The Broad Foundation's findings are certainly an indication that AISD has a strong foundation and is well on its way to being an even more high-performing urban school district,” Mark Williams, president of the board of trustees, said. “Yet this review has also identified opportunities where the district administration and the Board can improve our effectiveness.  I am looking forward to working with my board colleagues, as well as the superintendent and her team, to provide greater support to our educators and students and to be collaborative partners in the success of our district.”

The results of the Broad audit reinforce AISD’s commitment to continue to examine and improve its practices related to teaching and learning, district leadership and operations and support. Many such interventions are underway as the district addresses its strategic plan priorities, which include improving student academic performance, eliminating achievement gaps among student groups, transitioning from a testing culture to a whole-child-centered approach and ensuring that every student graduates ready for college and the workforce. (See Attachment: Achieving the District’s Vision: Draft District Response to Broad Diagnostic Audit.)

AISD will continue to review the findings of the Broad audit in more detail during the next few months to help shape and define its work for the upcoming school year.

To learn more about the Broad Foundation’s diagnostic audit and to download copies of the reports and supplementary materials, please visit the AISD website at www.austinisd.org.

For more information, please contact the Department of Public Relations and Multicultural Outreach at 414-2414.