Austin HS partners with Raise Your Hand Texas to transform student learning experiences

Three years ago, Austin High School Principal Steve Guerrero and his team attended what they thought would be a typical professional development training with Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation. While attending, they were inspired to apply for a $500,000 grant that would be of great benefit to the campus. 

In applying for the grant, the team was able to create a plan to rethink the typical high school student experience and re-conceptualize how the school used its resources to increase personalization for students.   

Though the team would later find out they would not be selected as one of the grant winners, they would also learn that they were selected as one of 15 pilot sites (the only one in HISD) in the state to be awarded support from the foundation to help with the implementation of their plan. 

“Initially, we were disappointed we didn’t get the grant, but the pilot site support proved to be invaluable as we worked to define strategic design pillars that would support all students, including students that are SPED, ELL, and Pre-AP,” Guerrero said.  

The initiative, known as Raising Blended Learners, through the foundation supports programs through a competency-based education (CBE), which allows educators to provide a personalized classroom experience unique to each student and create lessons that empower students throughout their learning experience.  

“What I love most about our journey is that we are always grappling with how we can create this level of experience at scale with the resources that are available,” Guerrero said. “Every year, we have the opportunity to iterate and innovate our plan to create a supportive and collaborative environment where students can meet their potential academically and build essential life skills to be successful in their post-secondary opportunities.”  

Since the start of the program in 2015, the number of students has almost tripled, there’s an increase in teacher support and the program’s expansion to a ninth-grade academy and all ELA classrooms. To date, ninth-graders experience varying levels of personalized instruction and an increased number of students are receiving mentorship through restorative justice circles.  

“I encourage my peers to research how engaging in a process of school redesign can create a guiding coalition that will take on old challenges with a new lens to change the way we are preparing our students for their future beyond graduation,” Guerrero said. “Now is the time to innovative and iterate our methods to ensure teachers and leaders are supported to help students realize their full potential. 

Due to the positive outcomes from the program, the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation has made Austin High School a case study to help other campuses and districts.  Click here if you’re interested in learning more about Raising Blended Learners initiative and CBE program.