Austin School Board Vice President Paul Saldaña says people describe Austin ISD as really two districts, split into east and west by I-35 – a wealthy western district and a poorer one east of it.
“I’m keenly aware of the fact that some folks in this district feel we have two school districts,” he says. “Clearly, we have a lot of work to do.”
The differences between those districts aren’t just economic, though. A principal difference lies in academics, and how students use their time at the district’s high schools to earn college credit and further their education after graduation.
In East Austin schools , dual credit classes under the district’s Early College program are getting more popular, but access to more traditional and widely accepted Advanced Placement courses is still limited in East Austin schools.
Breana Miller started high school on Austin’s west side at Anderson High School in Northwest Hills. But a few months into her first year, her family had to enter a homeless shelter on the east side. Breana says it was clear her home life was very different from her classmates’.
“I was embarrassed because, you know, knowing Anderson is a more affluent neighborhood there would be students there where they had homes and they could say, ‘Let’s have study groups. Let’s do that,’” she says. “And to think I wouldn’t have that is embarrassing.”
The two-hour commute across the city by bus soon became too much. Breana transferred to her neighborhood high school, LBJ. She planned to transfer back to Anderson her sophomore year—until she took her first dual credit course through Austin Community College.
“It helped me more, only because I was able to get out into a college setting and get that extra preparation,” she says.
Breana is entering her senior year with 34 college credits. She says at LBJ, students are encouraged to take dual credit course through ACC, if they qualify. But, she says, she never considered taking Advanced Placement courses for college credit – because no one at LBJ ever asked her if she wanted to.