The Daily News reported that the Department of Education recently named Calder Road Elementary School as Dickinson’s first National Blue Ribbon School (“Dickinson elementary school honored as National Blue Ribbon School,” The Daily News, Sept. 28).

The department selects these schools based on their overall academic results and how well they close achievement gaps for their low-income and minority students. The Calder Road principal said the honor is a point of pride because it is “the Super Bowl of academics.”

Dickinson isn’t going to close Calder Road Elementary.

But Galveston Independent School District is poised to close its only Blue Ribbon school, Austin Middle School, and merge all middle school students in each grade districtwide.

The committee recommending the change cites “equity” as the primary reason for its proposal. If all school boards evaluated their schools this way, every Blue Ribbon school in America would be closed for inequity.

Austin succeeds because all students in its STEM program are required to take an advanced curriculum for their four middle school years, including Algebra I in eighth grade. Mastering Algebra I in middle school is a key predictor of future success in math and science.

Students at Galveston’s other two middle schools also have this opportunity: Almost all the same academic curriculum, including Algebra I, is also offered there. Unfortunately, if the district’s trustees approve this proposal, that advanced curriculum will no longer be required for any student at any school.

Sixty percent of Austin’s students are low-income, and a similar percentage aren’t white. Their parents have attended many school board meetings to advocate for Austin’s future, often in Spanish. Great Schools, a nonprofit that rates American schools, writes this about Austin: “Underserved students at this school are performing far better than other students in the state, and this school is successfully closing the achievement gap.”

Rather than shuttering Austin, the district should make the school available to more academically-ready students and should continue efforts to increase minority applications, especially from Black students, who currently make up only 10 percent of the student body.

Both increased enrollment and more diversity are doable: Austin’s building can accommodate 100 additional students, and, through outreach, its administrators have already dramatically increased minority enrollment.

Hispanic applications rose from 26 in 2018 to 119 in 2019 (the most recent year for which data is available pre-COVID) and Hispanic enrollment in the entering class from 10 percent to 44 percent.

The fundamental issue isn’t that Austin is the only school offering advanced curriculum (it isn’t) or that it’s not diverse (it is); it’s that too many of the district’s elementary school graduates aren’t prepared for an advanced or even a grade level curriculum.

Although closing Austin may camouflage this by merging those students’ test scores with higher achievers’, it will not address the root of this difficult problem.

Voters told me during the campaign that they want to keep Austin and its STEM program. If you agree, you must act fast. All Galvestonians, whether or not you currently have school children, are stakeholders with an important voice. Contact your trustee or speak at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

Elizabeth Beeton is the newly elected trustee for District 1 of the Galveston Independent School District board.


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(17) comments

Jack Cross

I agree completely, America needs a well educated population. Lets not hold back students who are gifted and have the ability to learn faster than others.

The goal for all the schools should be good teachers, good curriculum and discipline

Staffing anything by equity is BS, how many Basketball or football games or anything would you win if you used equity instead of the best.? The goal should be to raise standards not bring everyone down by lowering them. Teachers face difficulty today because so many kids entering school are not ready to learn along with language difficulty and even different dialects among the same language.

Charles Douglas

Well said Mr. Cross! Galveston ISD is acting stupidly by shutting down Austin Middle School and there is nothing right about how it is being done! Political pressure something else!!!!!!

Charlotte O'rourke

If you had two teams with the first coach getting to choose every single player first until the roster was complete before the other coach could choose even a single player, who would most likely win?

I think the curriculum at Austin is exceptional and should be kept, but I would be even more impressed if the second team came in first.

What can the school board do to help not only the first team, but the second team and even the students on no team meet their full potential - whatever that happens to be?

Walter Dannenmaier

Charlotte, can you accept that some of the children of Galveston will be below average at academics? We are not judging their moral worth as human beings here - simply whether they have the capacity to do what is needed to master the topics at hand. NOT ALL OF THEM WILL MASTER ALGEBRA! There is nothing you can do about that. Nothing. Please stop pretending. Let the ones who cannot do algebra find things they CAN DO and succeed at.

Charlotte O'rourke

And so the misinformation continues with digs at the curriculum committee that had 93% consensus and undermining whatever proposal the superintendent and staff brings forth at the next meeting.

Disappointing, but totally expected from the city council member that said “whites need not apply” when a qualified black man was placed on the planning commission.

And so it goes ....with the dogma of separate but equal policies.

Charlotte O'rourke

Exact quote instead of paraphrase

”There should have been a sign posted saying ‘White citizens need not apply’” she said.

Sandra Tetley

It's wonderful to see a School Board member who is more interested in the education of all students than just a few and who sees the student shell game for what it is - an easy way to improve TEA ratings without really educating students. In who's mind is it a good idea to end a Blue Ribbon School? How many reconfigurations have their been since 2007 when they took the 5th graders out of elementary schools to get their ratings up? Why won't GISD ever just take the time and effort to put in place curriculum that will educate all students at all their levels? Thank God Elizabeth is on this Board to bring it some sense!! I hope the other Board Members who haven't actually educated children will listen to her!

Charlotte O'rourke

I'm glad to see that the push for party politics on school board is over with the endorsement of the liberal candidate. Lol.

I'm sure everyone is wanting the best for children. So how do we get there? I'm awaiting the plan with details and I hope the other boards members and community are as well.

Jose' Boix

It is great to read the involvement of community in the education of our children. As an interested outsider, I was confused when names of GISD Campuses were intermixed with Grade Levels. I recently learned that current academic requirements along with developmental standards seem to support a K-4, 5-6, 7-8 and 9-12 groupings. Apparently a reason is that starting with 5th Grade, such campuses need specific science and STEM fitted facilities. Just my thoughts.

Charlotte O'rourke

Walter, yes, I understand that all children have different gifts and skill levels, strengths and weaknesses. Some of the children are disabled and have special needs. Some have discipline problems. Some have poor family lives.

Can you accept that Austin’s success with students isn’t based on location or the students being at a specific building as long as it has the required resources? That some students that are just as gifted can’t get into Austin because it’s at capacity. Could the curriculum, qualifications and prerequisites, teachers, and resources as well as the academically gifted students be located at a different school with a larger capacity for accepting students? Within a larger complex?

Jose’, yes, Islanders are passionate about every topic. Lol. And I learned the same thing about grade levels and resources of fitted facilities as you did. I think there is also a monetary component. Since 2007 parents have been voicing a complaint about being unable to enroll children in the Austin school ..... especially if they didn’t get accepted in 5th grade.

Can this issue be resolved before another decade has passed?

Jack Cross

Charlotte, Walter is correct, Read this paragraph from Ms. Beaton's letter.

The committee recommending the change cites “EQUITY” as the primary reason for its proposal. IIf all school boards evaluated their schools this way, EVERY BLUE RIBBON Blue Ribbon school in America WOULD BE CLOSED FOR INEQUITY"

Charlotte, this is going on all over America, Equity lowers the bar so that more slower learners can participate. That defeats the purpose of Austin school/ .

Charlotte O'rourke

Jack, I listened to the school’s committee meeting, and it wasn’t anywhere near Elizabeth’s editorial versions. I’ve read articles and editorials about having no performance standards. I agree that is Sheer Craziness. But I DID NOT hear that - lowering of standards or expectations - in the committee meeting on recommendations.

Magnet schools were originally created to help with desegregation and to give equal opportunity for better educational opportunities.

It’s a shame that the issue of limited capacity at certain schools, and best grade level groupings for academic performance and maturity levels were framed with push button words and sound bites for an election …. instead of the committee’s, superintendent’s or board’s voice explaining the issue and what they are trying to accomplish in a professional manner.

Just my opinion … but listen to the meetings yourself as everyone can see or read something and have different interpretations. Thanks for commenting.

Jack Cross

Charlotte, Ok, I was commenting om what Ms Beeton statement about Equity, if that is true? Equality and Equity have much different meanings and equity demands is happening in schools across America today. It is being pushed by the White House, in fact Joe Biden is using this standard in his appointment picks.


Jack Cross

Should have been "equity staffing" not equal

Charlotte O'rourke

Jack, yes, I agree that the words - equity and equality - are sometimes used interchangeably, but can be different. To me, equity means having access (equal opportunity) to every resource a student may need as every student is at a different educational level. It is about fairness. It does NOT mean everyone gets the exact same resources regardless of skill level and performance.

I heard the committee express availability of better resources by grouping levels, best grouping of children based on development level, but I didn’t hear anyone say everyone would get the exact same thing (resource, class, etc.) nor that standards would be lowered which is how the editorial appeared to express “equity”.

But listen to the meeting …. It’s online.

Lisa Blair

This is called “spin” and it’s what politicians do. Continuing to use the words “closing” and “ending” when Beeton knows full well that’s not the case. Rather the district’s recommendation is expanding the program to include all who desire it, not just the limited capacity of the physical building. We should all respect the work of the committee who devoted a great deal to this effort. Administrators, teachers, and parents are the real stakeholders, not those of us who are taxpayers but who’s children are living this day to day. Beeton has used fear and spin to try to persuade parents that they are losing a program and she’s disrespecting the work of the committee because she thinks she knows better. Hopefully the other six trustees can see through the spin and stand strong for the right thing.

Lisa Blair

But who’s children AREN’T living this day to day

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