Let’s be honest! The Houston Independent School District (HISD) has been under tremendous and justifiable scrutiny for the way its Board of Trustees and administration have handled the district’s underperforming schools for years.
With the most recent turmoil that the district has faced, including the drama surrounding the majority of Trustees choosing not to support the interim superintendent that had been selected to run the district, it seemed as if nothing good was coming out of HISD and no positive news was on the horizon.
Well, that changed this past Thursday, when the HISD superintendent held a press conference to announce that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released the state accountability ratings for HISD for the 2018-2019 academic year, and according to those ratings, 92 percent of HISD schools (250 out of 271 rated campuses) earned a passing grade.
As a whole, HISD earned an overall high ‘B’ rating by the TEA under the state accountability system for the 2018-2019 academic year, which included positive news that nine campuses had been removed from the state’s “Improvement Required” list.
HISD earned an overall grade of 88.
This was the first time that all HISD schools received a letter grade under the state’s new A-F rating system, which was implemented in 2018. Under the A-F system, campuses must receive a grade of ‘D’ or better in order to meet state accountability standards. As it relates to campus scoring, 57 HISD campuses earned A’s, 78 earned B’s, 86 earned C’s and 29 earned D’s.
“We are extremely proud of all of our teachers, principals, school support officers, and area superintendents for working diligently to help our students succeed,” said HISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan. “Our students demonstrated significant gains, and we are committed to empowering them to thrive academically.”
Another bright spot that was shared during the unveiling of the results, involved Kashmere High School. After being on TEA’s struggling list of schools for eight consecutive years, Kashmere earned a passing grade and was completely removed from IR status. The campus received a ‘C’ rating from TEA for the 2018-2019 school year.
Dr. Lathan went on to express her appreciation for the hard work exhibited by the principals and teachers at each school and took an opportunity to thank her various support systems in the community for helping her navigate and stay focused during the turbulent times at the district. She also praised the leadership at Kashmere for working hard to turn the school around.
“We are rewriting history at Kashmere High, one teacher, one student, one community at a time,” said Dr. Lathan. “We never gave up on our students, and with the right support and strategic plan in place, we have changed the narrative.”
Kashmere Principal Reginald Bush, a 20-year veteran leader who previously led Kashmere Gardens Elementary School out of ‘IR’ status, said the work will continue on his campus to improve academic achievement.
“We are not going to take our foot off the gas just because we have met and surpassed the goal of getting out of ‘IR’,” said Kashmere Principal Reginald Bush. “We will continue onward and upward until we earn an ‘A’. I challenge anyone who believes they can do as good of a job as these teachers who are with me every day at Kashmere, to come on over and join us.”
Trustee Rhonda Skillern Jones stated, “no longer does Kashmere have to be the whooping boy for TEA when it comes to highlighting the failing schools in HISD.”
The additional eight HISD campuses that successfully exited the IR list after earning passing grades from TEA included: Codwell, Highland Heights, Marshall and Sherman elementary schools; Attucks and Henry middle schools; and North Forest and Washington high schools. A total of nine out of the 11 HISD campuses on IR status earned passing grades.
Based on TEA’s accountability system, 21 HISD schools received an ‘F’ rating for the 2018-2019 school year, including: Ashford, Isaacs, C. Martinez, Northline, Osborne, Robinson, Rucker, Seguin, Smith, Whidby and Young elementary schools; Deady, Edison, E-STEM Central, Fleming, High School Ahead Academy, Key, Sugar Grove, Thomas and Williams middle schools; and Wheatley High School.
If not for the provision introduced into TEA’s 2018 Accountability Manual, HISD would have 6 fewer ‘F’ campuses. The provision states that “if a campus receives an ‘F’ in three of the four domain calculations (Student Achievement, Academic Growth, Relative Performance, Closing the Gaps), the highest scaled score a campus can receive for the overall rating is a 59.”
This indicates that the highest that Osborne and Ashford elementary schools; Deady, E-STEM Central, and Edison middle schools; and Wheatley High School could earn is a 59, an ‘F’ rating, which puts them in IR status. Wheatley High School demonstrated tremendous academic progress and earned a passing grade of ‘D’ this year, with a calculated score of 63. But based on the provision, the school could only obtain a maximum score allowed of 59.
Dr. Lathan made it a point to bring up the principal from Wheatley High School and emphasized that although they still had work to do to improve their status, she and her team was standing behind the principal and throwing all of their support behind him.
The district is implementing strategies to ensure Wheatley exits IR in the 2019-2020 school year with a minimum grade of ‘C’. Measures include, but are not limited to, employing rigorous coaching and training exercises for teachers, utilizing robust reading intervention programs for students, implementing a campus-wide writing initiative, creating routine campus-wide speaking and listening opportunities for students who are English Language Learners, and increasing opportunities for students to earn industry certifications in Auto Repair, Information Technology and Culinary Arts.
A handful of HISD campuses were not rated by TEA due to special student populations that do not take STAAR exams or do not take the tests in large enough numbers to be rated.
Some HISD IR campuses, along with other academically struggling campuses, are designated as Achieve 180 schools, and they will continue to receive additional resources and support to make a 180-degree turnaround.
“A small army of people has worked extremely hard to bring our children up to the level where we know they should be,” said Achieve 180 Area Superintendent Felicia Adams. “Having these campuses out of ‘IR’ is wonderful news, and our ultimate goal is to have zero schools with that label.”
Congratulations to Dr. Grenita Lathan and her team for helping spearhead this turnaround in the midst of the political drama and financially-challenging situations they have had to face to help educate the students who attend these schools.