Should AISD Pursue All-Boys School?
The Austin school district is asking for feedback on a proposal to launch an all-boys college prep school, similar to the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, at a meeting this weekend.
The district already received a $4.6 million grant from the Galveston-based Moody Foundation. But that just pays for the initial steps to see if it’s worth it, including a feasibility study. To be clear, this is an entirely separate proposal from the plan to convert Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools into single sex campuses. Austin ISD chief schools officer Paul Cruz says a school for young men, as it’s tentatively called, might actually help improve the gender gap between boys and girls when it comes to grades and graduation rates.
“But then also, it’s another choice for parents and for students,” Cruz said. “Just as we have another single sex school, the Ann Richards School, it may not be for every student in our school system, but it certainly is for the students enrolled in the school and for those families.”
The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders receives glowing reviews in the state’s accountability standards. But its student population is self-selected. Girls have to meet certain academic criteria, and they probably come from families that care about education, because getting in isn’t easy. University of Texas professor Rebecca Bigler studied the Ann Richards School for a scientific paper called “The Efficacy of Single-Sex Education.”
“A big part of learning across puberty is learning how to engage in appropriate cross-sex relations,” Bigler said. “If you don’t learn it then, you have to learn it eventually. It’s a big part of life to learn to respect and interact with people when they don’t come from the same background, gender, race religion as you do.”
The proposal to open an all-boys school is one of several priorities for Austin ISD. The school district has identified eleven major changes it would like to pursue, including expanding and increasing in-district charter schools, having more fine arts instruction and improving athletic facilities in high schools.
The school board held a four-hour work session on Monday. Members were hoping to plow through all eleven proposals, but they wound up getting through two. That’s raised a concern among some board members that there may be too many priorities to digest. School board member Robert Schneider wondered whether they were having enough public meetings on the eleven proposals – which are also called Annual Academic and Facilities Recommendations.
“I’m just saying that I think that if we’re going to be doing these AAFRs, that we need to be, make a real effort to inform the public more about what we’re doing and why,” Schneider said.
Austin ISD will take one small step in that direction Saturday morning. It’s hosting a public forum on the proposed all boys school. The meeting runs from 10 a.m. until noon at the Lanier High School cafeteria in North Austin, 1201 Payton Gin Road.