Texas’ public school accountability system will have a big test in the next couple of weeks. Austin ISD’s Johnston High School has been rated “Academically Unacceptable” for the last four years, and state law requires the education commissioner to close it or dramatically change the management if the school does not make significant progress this year.

Some residents are justifiably concerned about major changes to their neighborhood high school and how it will affect their community. Other residents see a need for widespread change. Gavino Fernandez Jr., a 1972 Johnston graduate, believes Johnston is not doing a good job educating their kids. “If you were to take your car to a mechanic and it doesn’t work right,” he asked, “and you take it back and it still doesn’t work, would you take it again?”

We agree. How many parents truly want their child attending a school that has received an “Academically Unacceptable” rating four years in a row? Rather than continue to spend more money on the same educational model, we believe it is in the student’s best interest for the state to step in and make extensive changes to the school structure, environment, and leadership.

We recommend the commissioner make fundamental changes to Johnston – e.g., convert it to a charter high school – rather than change a few leaders at the top. A charter school model would free the school to try innovative approaches and not be tied down by unnecessary state regulations and mandates.

Many of Johnston’s students are not mastering the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Wholesale reform is needed before another year passes and the students are left further behind.

– Brooke Terry