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Education

Timeline: How Austin ISD Decided To Create Two Single-Sex Middle Schools

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Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News
Former Austin ISD School Board Trustee Cheryl Bradley represented District 1. She suggested AISD turn two struggling middle schools in her district into single-sex schools.

This year, two middle schools on Austin’s East Side became single-sex schools. Garcia and Pearce Middle schools are located in one of Austin’s most challenged neighborhoods: University Hills. The schools have struggled academically, and school board members and district and state education officials agreed: Something needed to change. But the decision to make these schools single-sex was controversial — even among members of the school board.

A timeline of single-sex middle schools in Austin

2007-2008: Gus Garcia Middle School opens. After one year, the school is rated academically unacceptable by the state. Twenty-nine percent of sixth graders and seventh graders pass all state tests. Seventeen percent of eighth graders pass all state tests. Pearce Middle School opened in 1958, but it had a history of poor academic performance. Since the 2004-2005 school year, Pearce failed state academic standards every school year. 

2008-2009: Garcia is rated academically unacceptable for a second year in a row, while Pearce continues to struggle academically.  

July 2009: Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott closes Pearce Middle School for the 2009-2010 school year. However, in August, the TEA allows Austin ISD to re-purpose the school under a new academic program and keep it open. The district proposes a "team model" that emphasizes more individual instruction.   

2009-2010: Pearce and Garcia are both rated academically acceptable. Still, former School Board Member Cheryl Bradley says she and former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen began discussing the single-sex model behind closed doors in 2010. 

November 2011: The school district pitches the idea to the full school board for the first time in public. It holds multiple community meetings in the neighborhood in subsequent months. 

2011-2012: This year, schools are not rated by the state because the TEA transitioned to a new accountability system. The school district holds multiple community forums, media briefings, and town halls about the proposed reforms. The school district also conducts parent and community surveys in-person and over the phone. But the results are mixed, which concerns some people who questioned single-sex education. According to phone survey results, 45 percent of respondents support the plan. 

January 28, 2013: The Austin School Board votes 5-3 to turn Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools into two single-sex campuses. 

2013-2014: Under new state accountability standards, Garcia and Pearce Middle Schools continue to struggle and both are rated "Improvement Required." 

2014-2015: Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy and Doctor Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy open up as single-sex middle schools. 

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