With its 2012 roll out of the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), Texas took an important step in addressing the issue of college- and career-readiness in our public schools.

Students for the first time took a more rigorous standardized test meant to truly measure whether they are graduating with the knowledge and skills needed to be competitive in our 21st century global economy.

But it was only the first step.

In this first year of the STAAR phase-in, 67 percent of students in the Austin Independent School District passed the End-of-Course writing exam, 80 percent passed reading, 87 percent passed Biology and 86 percent passed Algebra I.

In three short years, however, the state’s standards for college-and career-readiness will go up dramatically.

There was one test, biology, where only 40 percent of AISD students met the 2016 standard.

Now is the time that schools, businesses and community leaders need to focus on that future. We must bridge the gap between where we are today, and where we need to be in order to ensure our students’ success.

The district’s attention also needs to remain on increasing both its college-and career-readiness rates as well as its direct-to-college enrollment rates. In Austin, college-and career readiness remained steady at 53 percent and direct-to-college enrollment rates increased slightly from 58 to 60 percent in 2011, the current year for which such data is available. The four-year graduation rate increased slightly as well from 79 to 80 percent.

Another challenge for Austin will be in aligning student intentions post-graduation with where the best job opportunities are in Central Texas. On the bright side, graduation rates are continuing to move in the right direction, and we are pleased that the district is protecting its investments in this area even in tough budget years. Those gains will need to be accelerated, however, if the district is going to accomplish the goals identified in its 2015 strategic plan.

The district took home many of the Austin Chamber’s Education Awards in 2012. In the category of ApplyTexas submission rates, Crockett High School won first place and Bowie High School took third place. Bowie also had the highest Senior Exit Survey completion. rate in the region. LBJ high school showed the greatest improvement in Direct to College Enrollment rates by high school. The Liberal Arts & Sciences Academy had the overall highest FAFSA submission rates and Austin High School had the highest Financial Aid Saturdays attendance.

Though no board members will be on the ballot in May, the district will hold a $892 million bond election. The bond package will include four propositions and the chamber has pledged its support on the condition that the district addresses several issues in facilities utilization.

for more information on this and other Central Texas K-12 Progress Reports, visit: http://www.austinchamber.com/education-talent/community-education/community-education-progress-reports.php

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