San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez is known as a changemaker – in his first year on the job, he set ambitious goals for the district and its students to achieve by 2020. While there has been significant progress, it’s unlikely all of Martinez’s goals will be met at the end of the years.

That’s why the superintendent is announcing new goals for 2025. On Wednesday morning, Martinez addressed a sold-out crowd at the Pearl Stable for SAISD’s annual state of the district gathering. He touted the progress made since his 2015 hiring and asked for community support on 2020 bond that would fund $1.25 billion in renovation and construction projects.

Since 2016, the number of AP scholars – students recognized for their performance on multiple AP exams – has tripled, about 700 more students are enrolled in gifted and talented programs, and the number of seniors graduating with industry certifications has increased 16-fold. Still, this progress isn’t enough, Martinez said.

“We are now taking our goals to 2025,” Martinez said. “Our goal is to be an A district by 2025. … We see the possibility.”

The Texas Education Agency gave SAISD a B letter grade for 2018-19. This shows vast improvement from prior years’ performance, Martinez said. But to get to an A rating by 2025, the district will have to work hard to improve performance at all levels, Martinez said.

In 2019, a little more than a quarter of SAISD schools were graded an A or B. By 2025, Martinez wants 70 percent of campuses to achieve that rating. This would require 43 more campuses to earn an A or B.

Some of Martinez’s 2025 goals lay out more incremental steps for better academic outcomes.

One goal pushes the district to increase the on-time four-year graduation rate. The class of 2018’s four-year graduation rate was 83.7 percent.

SAISD 5-Year Goals Credit: Courtesy / SAISD

Martinez believes improving performance among the youngest students will help achieve this. One goal pushes SAISD to increase the percent of third-grade students testing on grade level in state math and reading exams. In 2018-19, 31 percent of the district’s third graders were on grade level in reading and 33 percent were on grade level in math.

Another goal states SAISD should boost the overall percentage of students performing on grade level. In 2018-19, 32 percent of all SAISD students tested at grade level, compared to 50 percent statewide.

Other goals rely more on state averages as benchmarks for student performance. Martinez wants the district to increase the percentage of students considered college-ready to meet or exceed the state average. There was an 11 percent difference between SAISD and the State performance average for the class of 2018.

Even with ambitious goals, Martinez expressed confidence in the progress his district is making academically. That’s why he asked for the community’s help in another area.

“The academics are getting stronger … but [our buildings,] they show their age,” he said. “They show their need.”

SAISD is in the midst of forming a bond committee to evaluate which projects to include on a bond slated for the November ballot. The district already identified about $2.5 billion in needed improvements, and the committee will be responsible for cutting the list in half. The district anticipates the committee will recommend a final list of projects sometime this summer.

If voters approve the bond, there would be no tax increase, Martinez said. That’s because the tremendous development occurring within SAISD boundaries is projected to provide additional property tax revenue.

The district has said that the 2020 bond and a potential second bond to tackle the rest of the $2.5 billion list would allow all classrooms to get updated technology and security features and schools to replace outdated chillers for their air-conditioning systems.

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.