You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Diversity increases at Austin’s top magnet schools, LASA and Kealing


Highlights

LASA and Kealing magnets will welcome more ethnic minorities to their campuses beginning this fall.

For first time, the schools considered factors such as race, socioeconomic status and students’ neighborhoods.

The percentage of black students admitted to the two schools for next year has doubled.

Austin’s top magnet schools, the nationally-recognized Liberal Arts and Science Academy and Kealing Middle School, will welcome a more diverse group of students to their campuses beginning this fall.

Just months after the two campuses adjusted their admission criteria to increase diversity in their student populations, preliminary data show both schools will have an increase in incoming Latino and black students, two groups that have been underrepresented since the magnets’ inceptions. The percentage of black students in the incoming classes is more than double what it was last year, with a corresponding double-digit increase in the percentage of Latino students, preliminary admissions data show.

“It’s moving both schools in the right direction and it’s heartening,” said district Trustee Ted Gordon, who represents the geographic areas that include both schools and has pushed for the change since being elected to the school board in 2014. “The take away from this is if you make a concerted effort to diversify your programs, they will bear fruit.”

For years, the district has been criticized for the lack of diversity, both economic and racial, in the two schools. Historically, white students have claimed the majority of all spots, followed by Asian students. Black students made up less than 2 percent at both schools, and the percentage of black, Hispanic and low-income students had declined in recent years. While 58 percent of the students in the district are Hispanic, that group counted for less than a quarter of either magnet’s enrollment.

Parents and community members have long argued the district’s top academic schools should be accessible to more students and better reflect the district’s population, the majority of which is Hispanic and poor. But others have cautioned against changes, saying admittance should be based solely on academic and testing performance and that both schools have succeeded because of that strict focus.

IN-DEPTH: Poor, minority students missing out on Austin’s popular magnet schools

After a significant push in the last year from a group of community members, the schools changed their admissions criteria and now, for the first time, are considering factors such as race, socioeconomic status and the neighborhood where a student lives.

“There’d been a lot of talk for a lot of years on how to improve representation at that school but not a lot done,” said Amber Welsh, who lives in the northeast area of the city where LASA is located, and was instrumental in working with district officials and community members on the issue. “I feel it’s a move in the right direction, but as with any policy, the district needs to continue to monitor the implementation of the policy and adjust what they’re doing until they get equitable representation.”

While the shift is modest compared to the overall demographics of the schools, the percentage of incoming black students at Kealing hit 4 percent, twice the percentage of the school’s current 6th grade class; at LASA, black students make up 5 percent of the incoming class, more than double the representation in the current 9th grade population. At LASA, 22 percent of incoming students are Latino, while Kealing reports 27 percent of incoming students are Latino — up 7 percentage points and 12 percentage points, respectively, over this year’s 6th and 9th grade classes.

“We want kids to know we want them here and that they can be successful here. That’s the big picture,” said LASA Principal Stacia Crescenzi.

Beside changes to the admissions criteria, both schools also bolstered their recruiting and began assisting students from underserved groups with the application package. LASA’s Crescenzi she said will examine what worked.

“It looks like we’re headed in the right direction, but we really need to do some good analysis in what worked … and find out what’s been most helpful so we can increase those efforts moving forward, as well as find out what’s been less helpful and see how we can fix that.”

The socioeconomic breakdown of the incoming students has not yet been calculated for either school, something Gordon and others advocating for greater access among low-income students said would shed more light on how the admission process will affect diversity in other ways.

“I’d want to see the socioeconomic status figures because segregation in this city is both racial and economic,” Gordon said.

Such numbers won’t be available until after the students are registered, district officials said, as well as the final percentages of ethnic and racial backgrounds.

But the principals said they are also encouraged by stronger representation from various neighborhoods, including from some areas where students have not typically applied in the past. At LASA, Crescenzi said she was encouraged that students from every feeder middle school applied. “That’s not something we’ve ever had before,” she said.

“The biggest hope we have at this point is ensuring that we’re able to get students who are ready and willing to do the work from all over the city and not just little pockets of the city,” said Kealing Principal Kenisha Coburn. “This process helps us to do that.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Parents, special needs children left floundering after Medicaid cuts
Parents, special needs children left floundering after Medicaid cuts

Stacey English has modest desires for her 7-year-old daughter Addison: Be able to eat without gagging and move both her arms. But since Addison’s occupational therapist went out of business this winter, the child with a rare genetic disorder has regressed in her fight to do even that much. “I don’t know where to go from here,&rdquo...
Looking for a two-bedroom apartment here? You need to make $23 an hour
Looking for a two-bedroom apartment here? You need to make $23 an hour

Renters must earn at least $22.98 an hour — more than three times the minimum wage — to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in the Austin area, a recent report reveals. The report, released this month by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, studied the wages needed to afford rental housing throughout the country and uncovered broad...
Hutto files 2 lawsuits after refusing to release city manager records
Hutto files 2 lawsuits after refusing to release city manager records

The city of Hutto is suing the Texas attorney general over the state’s ruling that the town has to release some documents concerning its city manager, Odis Jones. The records were requested by or related to one of three fired female city employees who made discrimination allegations against Jones in March, said the city’s attorney, Michael...
Same tolls, new operators for southern stretch of Texas 130 tollway
Same tolls, new operators for southern stretch of Texas 130 tollway

After more than a year in bankruptcy, the company operating the southern end of the Texas 130 tollway emerged Wednesday under new ownership and new management, shedding about $1.4 billion in debt in what its leadership said makes the nation’s fastest highway more stable. Toll rates won’t be affected. The 41-mile stretch of Texas 130 from...
STONEWALL RALLY: Over 200 celebrate, stand up for LGBT rights in front of Capitol
STONEWALL RALLY: Over 200 celebrate, stand up for LGBT rights in front of Capitol

10 p.m. update: More than 200 people gathered on the steps of the state Capitol to speak up for LGBT rights during the annual Stonewall Celebration and Rally on Wednesday evening.  The event had a series of guest speakers including Miss Austin Pride Nadine Hughes and event organizer Paul Huddleston, who called on the LGBT community and its...
More Stories