Austwell-Tivoli's small district could be key to success

In 14 years, Austwell-Tivoli Superintendent Antonio Aguirre Jr. has seen many versions of standardized testing.

Every time the bar is raised, his schools leap right over the benchmark.

The district met the Texas Education Agency's accountability standards in ratings released Thursday.

It's been said before, but Aguirre will continue to say it again and again - having a small student population for one-on-one learning is key to the district's success.

"I take pride (in the results)," he said. "We've always done rather well, and I'm really happy with the staff."

While an individual learning atmosphere can prove helpful, it can also harm a smaller school, he said.

If one student does not do well, that one score can significantly reduce the school's overall performance.

But this year, the ratings focused less on the students' State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exams and more on how the school performed on several indices: student achievement, student progress, closing the performance gaps and post-secondary readiness.

The elementary and junior high/high school campus met those standards. The elementary school received academic achievement in mathematics, measuring in the top quarter of its comparison group.

The high school also received a distinction for being in the top quarter of its comparison group in reading and language arts.

Accountability ratings this year focused on clustering schools into comparison groups, or schools with similar student populations and demographics - a way to level the playing field.

Next school year, the district will continue pushing hard to rise above the benchmark.

"As the test changes and the bar gets raised, we'll just adjust to what's needed," he said.