Transportation Engagement Opportunities

Raise your voice. Share your opinion. Get engaged. Improving mobility is one of the highest priorities for the Austin Chamber. As part of our advocacy program, we continue to keep the business community informed about opportunities to share feedback. 

Mobility Talks

Mobility Talks is the City’s online public engagement platform designed to solicit citizen input on mobility issues. The feedback gathered by Mobility Talks will inform the development of a potential transportation bond this November. Make your priorities known by taking the survey and/or sending an email to City Council. The final day to respond to the online questionnaire is Sunday, May 8th. Your feedback will be presented to the Austin City Council’s Mobility Committee on June 8, 2016. Learn more about Mobility Talks here.

Proposition 1

On April 28, the Austin Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted to support the passage of Proposition 1 related to the regulation of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). A vote for Prop 1 ensures that Austin continues to be a welcoming environment for innovation while keeping both drivers and users of ride-hailing applications safe. Early voting ends May 3rd and Election Day is Saturday, May 7th. Click here for the full text of the Board’s resolution.

Austin Don’t Rush 

Mayor Adler launched Austin Don’t Rush campaign – a one-day challenge to help ease congestion on our roads. On Wednesday, May 11th, Austinites are being asked to do anything they can to remove single-occupant vehicles from rush hour traffic. When travelling to work or school, the Chamber encourages its members to carpool, telework, take the bus, ride a bike, or drive during non-peak hours. For tools to help you better plan your commute, visit our partner, Movability Austin.

Smart Cities Challenge Workshop

On April 27, dozens of local and out-of-market businesses attended the City of Austin Transportation Department’s Smart Cities Workshop at the AT&T Conference Center at UT-Austin. The focus of the event, sponsored in part by the Chamber, was to engage the private sector in developing Austin’s Smart City Challenge proposal. Austin is one of seven cities around the country vying for a $50 million grant supported by the USDOT and Vulcan Philanthropies. To learn more about this initiative, visit the City’s Smart City Challenge website. Vendors interested in partnering with the City have been asked to submit an RFQ by Friday, May 6th. For details, please contact Andy Cantu or ATXSmartCity@austintexas.gov.

Mobility Solutions Network

The Rocky Mountain Institute, with support from the Austin Chamber and MobilityATX, is working to build a collaborative network of organizations and individuals interested in solving Austin’s mobility challenges. Please join us on Thursday, May 12th for a kick-off event at Google Fiber’s Fiber Space for an interactive evening of presentations and discussions. The first in a series, this forum will showcase existing efforts aimed at creating an improved mobility system in Austin. Rather than focusing on problems, we’ll provide a platform for entrepreneurs, policy makers, researchers, and advocates to pitch their ideas and solutions. Click here to register. Light refreshments will be served.

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2016 FAFSA Contest Final Results Announced

 

logosThe 2016 FAFSA Contest has come to an end. This year we’ve had record FAFSA rates in the region, with 800 more students filing this year compared to last!

The final results are listed below. The FAFSA data was provided by the U.S. Department of Education and reflects FAFSA submissions by April 1, 2016. The student leader from the following ten schools just won a $1,000 scholarship, provided by C3 Presents:

  • Ann Richards, LASA, Manor New Tech, KIPP Austin Collegiate, Hutto, McCallum, Cedar Park, Hendrickson, McNeil and Westwood.

The following three schools won the VIP movie screening from Alamo Drafthouse.

  • Ann Richards, Hutto and Hendrickson.

contest FINAL

A few concluding notes:

  • As a region, the total FAFSA submission rate was 49%, 4 percentage points higher than last year – and the highest ever for Central Texas schools.
  • Ann Richards dominated the field from the beginning. 90% of their senior class filed their FAFSA before March 31. Well done, Eric Heineman and team.
  • Hutto HS made a strong push and ended up winning the medium category quite convincingly. Good job, Erica Blando and team.
  • Hendrickson HS also made a great final push. Hard work from Kara Tappendorf and her student leader helped secure the top spot in the large category.
  • There was impressive work all around, but the largest schools ended up doing the best. The collective average of schools in the large category was much higher than the others.

Although we didn’t meet our regional goal for a 55% filing rate by March 31, we made a lot of progress. We learned a lot along the way and we’re eager to begin next year’s FAFSA push in October 2016. If you didn’t already know, students in the Class of 2017 can begin filing for financial aid on October 1, 2016 and they can use 2015 tax information. We expect this to be a game changer and it will enable more early filings next year. Click here to learn more about the FAFSA changes.

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Nat’l Report: 25% of Texas graduates estimated college and career ready

Washington, DC nonprofit Achieve recently released a report that estimated only 25% of Texas students in the Class of 2015 graduated college/career ready, according to ACT and SAT data. The Austin Chamber uses a different methodology to determine college readiness – aligned with Texas’ lesser criteria which allows for lower ACT or SAT scores to count as college ready. 

However, by either Achieve’s or Texas’ definition, Texas has a problem: we no longer have reliable information for each junior and senior on whether they are college ready or not.  What we are finding is that, despite requirements in Texas law (passed in 2013), the vast majority of school districts around the state simply don’t know which juniors and seniors are college ready today. School districts need this information so they can counsel students who are not college ready to become so. 

This wasn’t always the case. In 2006, Texas organized the public school system to expose students to a well-rounded course of study needed to graduate college/career ready. Content and assessments from elementary to high school became vertically linked to that outcome.  But, in 2013, Texas abandoned ship. House Bill 5 significantly lowered course expectations and dropped Algebra II, Geometry, English III (11th Grade), Chemistry and Physics from state assessment.  Thus, for the first time in a decade, Texas no longer systematically tests student college/career readiness. And as we all know, what gets measured gets done. With the absence of state tests – and the fact that only 66% of Texas students take the SAT/ACT – many students go through high school without knowledge of whether they are college/career ready…which is in clear violation of HB 5.

During the Interim, we urge the Legislature to reexamine Sen. Kel Seliger’s unsuccessful bill (SB 452) from 2015 which would have funded and required schools to administer a college readiness test for all Texas 10th grade students. This way, we will all know for sure whether or not a student is college ready and will be able to help students that are not.

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AISD taking purposeful steps to improve facilities management, revenue, enrollment

Earlier this week, the Austin ISD School Board directed district personnel to test the waters of the red-hot local real estate market to determine whether they could maximize revenue through lease or sale. This builds upon their decision in late February 2016, where the board approved a $1 million contract with a facility master planning firm. These encouraging steps make it more likely that the board will be able to adopt a Facility Master Plan in early 2017. See KXAN’s coverage here.

The AISD Board adopted a policy on April 1, 2013 — prior to their last bond election — that they would complete a Facility Master Plan by May 2014 which would substantially reduce the number of under- and over-enrolled campuses. While they adopted a framework for facilities decisions to be considered at a future date, the Board has not fulfilled their commitment to adopt a plan with clear milestones. 

Heavy lifting is still ahead, but under Board Chair Kendall Pace and a strong set of trustees, we applaud AISD for taking purposeful steps.

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HB 5 Changed Graduation Requirements – Recommendations on How to Assess its Impact and Improve Student Outcomes

During the 2013 Legislative Session, a collection of civil rights, academic and business organizations fought to maintain well-rounded academics and college readiness as the expectation for all high school students. Now that House Bill 5 is law, a recent meeting took place to determine whether HB 5 has improved student outcomes.

Bottom line: no one knows for sure. However, with a few research projects, we can begin to see the impact of HB 5 before the next Legislature convenes.

For context, the Class of 2014 was the last to graduate under the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) system. TAKS had four subject tests which a student needed to pass to earn a high school diploma. Math TAKS included content from algebra & geometry; Science TAKS included content from biology, chemistry and physics; English TAKS included content from English 10 & 11. Things changed for last year’s graduates, the Class of 2015; they only tested students in algebra 1, biology, English 9 & 10 and US history…and students only had to pass three of five to earn a diploma.

The Chamber recommends to those researchers and civil rights organizations to look at the following to determine if student academic preparation has improved, stayed the same or declined:

  • Number of graduation credits earned. For years, the number of academic credits a student earned by graduation had been increasing. Now that fewer credits are required by HB 5’s default graduation plan, has the number of actual graduation credits earned by students changed?
  • Number/% of graduates completing physics, Algebra II or a math beyond Algebra II. Research is very clear that completion of three basic lab sciences and a math beyond Algebra II are critical for Texas students to graduate college/career ready. Only one of the new HB 5 endorsements (STEM) requires physics and a math beyond Algebra II. The percent of graduates completing these courses had skyrocketed since 2001…well beyond population growth. But, with the new changes, has the percent of Class of 2014 and Class of 2015 graduates completing these advanced courses changed?  
  • College readiness test. For the first time in a decade, Texas no longer tests whether students have learned college/career readiness content. This means schools cannot systematically identify who is not ready for college, nor target assistance to help students become ready. As such, we urge all to support to State Sen. Seliger’s bill (SB 452) to require the administration of the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) test – which assesses college readiness – to all 10th grade students. Anecdotally, we hear that college/career readiness rates have dropped precipitously this year.
  • Additional college readiness indicators. College readiness should be made the organizing principle for Texas’ new system of testing and accountability. In support of this, we urge the IDRA to conduct appropriate research to determine the relationship between TSI performance and important student outcomes, like direct-to-college enrollment and future earnings.
  • Direct to college enrollment & College retention rates. To accomplish this, we will need to accelerate the timeline for reporting high school graduation outcomes….which currently takes eight to ten months.
  • Counselor-to-student ratios. In April 2016, the Austin Chamber will publish an “effective” counselor-to-student ratio for 40 high schools in Central Texas. Our methodology captures all college counseling support on a campus into one ratio. This ratio will be compared to student outcomes – like college readiness, graduation rates, and direct-to-college enrollment – to determine correlation. With this information, schools can establish the appropriate ratio they need to affect these outcomes.

If you have further questions, please contact the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

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