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AISD Receives $3.5 Million Grant From Department of Education

(Credit: Austin Independent School District)

Austin ISD was named one of nine national recipients of a more than $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The Education Innovation and Research Early-Phase grant program funds projects that develop and implement innovations to improve student achievement for high-needs students and evaluate those innovations.

Building upon the district's Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, the grant will provide training, tools and additional staff to improve school climate and implement alternative approaches to suspension and expulsion through a community-building model known as restorative practices.

A group of students transitioning from elementary to middle schools using restorative practices will be evaluated over a five-year period by an external evaluator, listed in the proposal as the American Institutes for Research.The evaluation will assess the effect of a consistent, restorative approach to school climate within four middle schools - Burnet, Dobie and Mendez and Garcia YMLA - and six of their feeder elementary schools. The grant will affect approximately 6,500 students, more than 580 teachers, 30 administrators, service providers and parents at the 10 participating schools.

"With the restorative process, we're aiming to build a positive classroom and school environment that helps students cultivate a high level of belonging and trust to engage with peers and adults in the school," said Angela Ward, Administrative Supervisor of Race & Equity. "The grant aims to lessen the use of suspensions and expulsions and their disproportionate impact on students with disabilities and students of color. Restorative practices build upon the district's ongoing efforts to address equitable outcomes for our diverse student body," said Michelle Wallis, Executive Director of Innovation and Development.

Campuses were chosen for the process according to a variety of criteria, including disproportionality in disciplinary referrals and removals, poverty levels and percentages of students of color.

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