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Webb Middle School
Questions Raised at Community Forums
1. Isn't it shameful that most of the schools in Austin are low performing? How is changing the name of the school going to help that?
AISD schools are performing better than ever and receiving recognition for it. For example, on January 24, 2007, 69 Austin schools received 165 acknowledgements under the Gold Performance Acknowledgement (GPA) system of the Texas Education Agency. The acknowledgements recognize campuses for high performance and/or improvement in areas critical to the academic success of students. AISD Trustees also recognized the principals of these honored schools at their January 22 Regular Board Meeting. GPAs are awarded to eligible campuses that met the acknowledgment standards on one or more of the following measures:
2. If Garcia is low performing after 3-4 years will they close it?
This is a decision that can only be made by the Commissioner of Education. If there are no changes to current statute and the Garcia campus is rated Academically Unacceptable for 3+ consecutive years, the Commissioner of Education could take any of several possible actions: appoint a monitor; appoint a conservator; order the school closed; or, order the school to be turned over to a management entity at district expense.
3. Why are you closing Webb and not Pearce or Dobie?
The standards against which every public school's performance is being rated are those of the state accountability system. Webb has not met the state accountability system standards for three consecutive years, and has missed an increasing number of measures over time -- though it must be acknowledged that the standards have become more stringent over this same time period, and the school's performance has improved in many places, as well. Neither Dobie nor Pearce have missed state accountability system standards for three consecutive years, so the sanctions faced by these two schools, as prescribed in statute and administered by the Texas Education Agency, do not call for potentially closing the school this summer.
4. If St. John's is one of the 100 Best Communities to raise a child, why is Webb being closed?
Webb is being considered for closure or repurposing in some way because state accountability law and rules prescribe such action after several years. Rather than risk waiting to see what the Commissioner of Education decides, and having relatively little time in which to carry out her decisions, the district is choosing to engage the entire Webb community in making difficult decisions that are in the best interests of students, staff, and ultimately the community. Taking action now, in a planned and thoughtful way, should allow teachers and parents alike to support their students' transitions to new settings. It allows district personnel to supply student information to receiving schools, so that instructional planning to meet the new students' needs can take place over the summer. Delaying and having to act in haste over the summer risks leaving students feeling lost and alienated, leaves the receiving teachers grasping for help in planning for instruction, and risks the current Webb teachers' jobs as well.
There is also the matter that state accountability decisions are based on a narrowly prescribed view of school performance. Characteristics that make a community a great place for children are much more broad than a consideration of these academic measures, including difficult-to-measure factors like the social climate, family engagement in community activities, and so on.
5. Have we compared Webb's data to other schools to see the impact of Webb students' mobility on their scores?
Comparative data are available but do not answer the question about the impact of Webb students' mobility on the receiving schools' test scores. Until firm decisions are made and student reassignment occurs, it will not be possible to prepare accurate analyses of possible impact on the receiving schools -- because there is no way to know which students to attribute to each of the receiving schools.
6. Please explain the reasons behind the drop out data for Webb?
There were 13 official dropouts, total, out of 631 students who had been cumulatively enrolled at Webb in 2002-03; and there were 12 Hispanic dropouts out of 483 Hispanic students who had been cumulatively enrolled at Webb in 2002-03. Remember that in the 2004 state accountability cycle, the state did not announce its new, much more stringent dropout standards until several months *after* the data collection cycle had been completed, so school officials had no warning that the dropout counts were going to result in an Academically Unacceptable rating for Webb.
7. What percentage of AISD's Hispanic graduates are getting into college?
For 2004 (the latest year for which data are available), within one year of graduation 33% of AISD's Hispanic students had enrolled in college, compared to 67% for White students and 47% for African American students.
8. Has Webb established a plan for closing the achievement gap that provides for parental involvement?
According to state law, each campus is required to prepare an annual Campus Improvement Plan (CIP), which must be approved by the Campus Advisory Council. The main focus of the CIP is student achievement, particular addressing achievement gaps. In addition, each CIP must include provisions for enhancing parental involvement.
9. Why don't all schools have enough textbooks to send home with students?
All campuses receive textbooks in an adequate number to assure that every student can have a book. Sometimes the textbook is only used for reference and the teacher keeps a class set. Any parent wanting his/her child to have a copy of a book for home use is welcome to check one out from the campus.
At Webb, the staff uses class sets of books and some staff members hand out books to students individually. There was a time at the beginning of the school year when not enough books were available for a subject but that is no longer the case. Some of Webb's books are available in both English and Spanish.
10. What alternative learning styles were addressed at Webb?
Alternative learning styles have been addressed in the different classes at Webb through the use of the following methods-
Science: Hands-on learning through laboratory-based experiments is used to make the concepts taught in the classroom come alive. Webb follows state guidelines that 40% of science teaching is derived from lab-based approaches while 60% is textbook based.
Social studies: Social studies teachers incorporate the History Alive program into their lesson plans. This program uses project based learning to engage the students in learning the material.
Language arts: The 90-minute language arts block is broken into three components: computer-driven, teacher-driven and student-driven. Students spend 30-minutes per class period rotating among these three sections, each of which uses a different format to present the material.
Math: Many of Webb's students already function at grade level in math. Those students at or above grade level are permitted to go to the AVID program where they address learning college preparatory skills such as note taking and spend time focusing on career selection and planning.
Special education: Students in special education attend regular education classes in math and language arts. When in the special education classroom, they are taught at grade level through the use of alternative formats.
11. What tutorials are Webb students receiving at present?
Webb students have the opportunity to participate in both before and after school tutorials as well as a Saturday academy program. To encourage participation in these programs, students are awarded tickets for attendance. Students use these tickets to participate in a raffle for prizes at the end of the 6-week period.
Participants in the school's mentoring program are now encouraged to spend their time with the students discussing academics.
12. What standards are you using to compare the information that you are giving us? How are you comparing Webb's TAKS scores?
Webb's performance is compared to accountability standards established by the Texas Education Agency each year. That is how the state has determined that the school is considered Academically Unacceptable. For more information about these standards, you are welcome to review the State Accountability Manual on TEA's web site at this location: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/2006/manual/index.html
13. Why not bring in more experienced teachers to Webb?
Webb is using many different avenues to attract the best and most experienced teachers to its campus. Methods used by administrators to find and recruit experienced teachers have included posting newspaper advertisements, using the district hiring system, and going on recruitment trips with HR.
Major strides have been made in both teacher recruitment and retention. Improved recruitment resulted in this school year beginning with Webb fully staffed so that no substitute teachers were necessary to fill classroom vacancies on the first day of school. Teacher retention has improved as well. This year, no teachers resigned before December. This success in improved retention results from the high level of support provided to teachers including classroom management training, access to curriculum specialists, and mentoring programs for new teachers.
14. If we keep Webb open and we don't make the grade, is it possible for Webb to become a Blueprint school?
Not at this time, as the Blueprint Program has not continued in the middle schools. However, there has been a proposal for a new program called "BEST" schools that would include Webb.
15. Can we learn from the TEA about other schools that have closed?
At the time of the initial state ratings release (August 1, 2006), there were eight schools in Texas that were rated Year 3 - Academically Unacceptable. Appeals between August and October may have reduced that number to five schools statewide. In Houston ISD, two high schools are considered Year 4 AU schools: Kashmere High School and Houston High School; a third campus, McReynolds Middle School, is Year 3 AU. In August 2006 the Houston school board voted to approve a contingency plan, under which if any of these three schools fails to meet state accountability criteria by June 2007, the schools will be shut down at that time.
In addition, it is known that TEA has shut down entire districts or revoked charters for chronic performance issues, with the former Wilmer-Hutchins ISD being a relatively recent example of this.
16. Is it possible for the TEA to speak with us about the options for Webb?
Through the structure provided in statute, via Campus Intervention Teams, the district has been in communication with TEA since last spring. Because the agency has a regulatory role, it is incumbent upon us to work with the Intervention Team to find the best solutions for our students.
17. Can we work with TEA to come up with a creative solution to help Webb students?
State law provides a structure for the comprehensive review and development of improvement plans for schools that receive ratings of Academically Unacceptable. That structure is the assembly of Campus Intervention Teams, which are led by non-AISD team leaders whose appointment is approved directly by the Commissioner of Education. Team leaders provide reports to the Agency about the status of improvement plan implementation. Webb Middle School has had such a team assembled, and has therefore been in regular communication via the team leader with Agency staff about on-going developments and progress in student learning over the last full year. However, because the Agency has a regulatory role over public schools, it truly is incumbent upon the school and district to develop and implement plans collaboratively with team leaders to ensure that the needs of -our students are being addressed - preserving the Agency's independent role as one of providing regulatory oversight.
18. If Webb students are reassigned to Dobie and Pearce, what provisions will the District make for their transportation?
Transportation considerations for student who are reassigned to another school are the same as with all other students in the district. Students who are located more than 2 miles away from the school will receive bus transportation. However, those students who are located less than 2 miles away from the school will not be eligible to receive bus transportation.
19. If Webb neighborhood children miss the bus to Dobie or Pearce, how will they get to school?
The students who attend Dobie and Pearce Middle Schools will be under the same criteria as all other students in the district. Unless there is some special circumstance it is not possible to have the district continue to send out buses for every student. It is the responsibility of the students and their parents to be responsible for arriving at the bus stop on time everyday. However, if for some reason the bus driver were to come by their stop ten minutes early or didn't go by their stop on a certain day, the district would send another bus to pick up those kids.
20. If Webb closes and students are sent to Dobie and Pearce, what will happen to those schools in a year or two when they are not meeting state accountability standards? Will you close Dobie and Pearce, too?
It is in no way the intention of AISD to distribute students to other locations and not attend to their needs in learning. Both Dobie and Pearce are being supported this year with campus intervention teams, and if decisions about student assignments are made thoughtfully and with lead time, then strong academic programs for all students, including newly reassigned ones, should be ready for the students when they arrive at these two schools. By doing this, the district will have positioned the schools to not need to face the rapidly intensifying sanctions that are set in state law, that the Commissioner must administer, for failure to meet state accountability standards.
21. Why can't Webb students attend an exemplary school? Why are they going to be assigned to other schools that are failing?
We, in Austin ISD, strive for all schools to reach exemplary levels. Currently, we are developing plans to assist schools that need additional resources to meet student needs. Believing in our students, teachers, and staff is a core value we espouse.
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