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Austin school board to approve district targets, elect officers

The Austin school board on Monday night will vote on the targets Superintendent Paul Cruz must hit in 2017-18.

The targets indicate what percentage each of the 52 previously approved measures Cruz must hit to reach proficiency. For example, the target for next year’s four-year graduation rate is 90 percent and the attendance rate is set for 95.5 percent.

The board in October approved which measures would be added to the scorecard it will use to evaluate Cruz next year.

A pilot plan for the socioeconomic desegregation of schools, starting in District 1 schools in East and Northeast Austin, does not have a percentage target Cruz must hit in 2017-18. Board documents show that because the pilot measure is a “new, investigational performance indicator,” its system of measurement is subject to change. The target instead requires he develop a plan, with the next board discussion on it in March.

As they did last month, parents and other advocates Monday night will likely ask trustees to reconsider tying scorecard targets to a so-called postsecondary readiness benchmark, a more rigorous standard on the STAAR reading and math exams. Critics said the high-stakes exams are unreliable and are not a good measure of students’ success. Last month, those who spoke during public comments, including members of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, said schools already put too much emphasis on preparing for the exams and the more rigorous benchmark will result in punitive actions against students and campuses not meeting it. Trustees ultimately approved adding the postsecondary readiness benchmark to the scorecard, and are expected to tie four of the category’s measures to a specific percentage, despite calls to move away from standardized test scores and to use a more “holistic” measure of student achievement.

“We urge you to move away from data points and towards true meaningful measures of learning,” Theresa Treviño, president of the advocacy group, wrote to the school board earlier Monday.

Also on Monday night, newly elected board member Cindy Anderson will be sworn in to the District 8 at-large seat being vacated by Gina Hinojosa, who was elected to represent Texas House District 49.

Trustees also will vote on new board officers. While squabbles over who gets a leadership position are common during executive session, the board in recent years largely has kept the disagreements over who gets the positions from bleeding onto the dais. On Monday night, the board will discuss the positions behind closed doors, as is routine, before emerging from executive session and choosing its officers.

The appointments may be more public this time, as some Latino community members plan to advocate for Paul Saldaña for board president, the position held by Kendall Pace. On Tuesday, in a mass email to Latino community leaders and others, Angela Valenzuela, a professor of educational administration at the University of Texas, encouraged the group to attend Monday night’s meeting and address the board in support of Saldaña’s bid for the position. In the email, Valenzuela said Saldaña had been “consistently supportive of dual language/bilingual education” in the district, while questioning Pace’s support.

On Wednesday, Pace took to her trustee Facebook page “to clear up any misunderstanding and false statements” she said were made in the email. Pace said she wants to monitor the efficacy of the district’s programs, including dual language, to replicate what is working and change what isn’t, adding that she advocated for dual language at her sons’ school.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the board room of the administration building, 1111 W. Sixth St.

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