Eight Houston ISD high schools with low graduation rates could see drastic staffing changes, new management or closure under a grant HISD trustees are considering applying for.
The grant would fund Title I schools in HISD that are among the lowest-achieving 5 percent of Title I schools in Texas or have graduation rates below 60 percent, according to a presentation given at the Thursday morning board workshop meeting.
Six high schools and two contract charter schools in HISD fit into these categories: Jones, Kashmere, Lee, Sharpstown, HP Center, Contemporary Learning Center, CEP SW and New Aspirations. These latter two are charters, and New Aspirations is a credit-recovery program for high schoolers run by CEP.
HISD could receive between $50,000 to $2 million per year for each school under the Title I Priority Schools Improvement Grant program.
The funding per school would be broken down according to enrollment and the severity of the changes implemented by the district. HISD has four different models of restructuring to choose from, ranging from closing the school to removing up to half the school's current staff.
The grant defines the models: turnaround, transformational, restart, and closure.
The restart option was a hot topic among HISD trustees. If HISD chooses to "restart" any of the campuses, that school would be converted or closed and re-opened under private management.
Trustee Manuel Rodriguez criticized the privatization option, saying such a plan was equivalent to "abdicating our responsibility."
Trustee Harvin Moore said there were pros and cons: "When we privatize a school, we are not abdicating our responsibility." ... The solution "ultimately lies somewhere in the middle. It lies somewhere in between (an approach that) the district should just be a management organization ... to we should do everything ourselves, and if we cannot do everything ourselves, then we are not doing our job."
Trustees Anna Eastman and Diana Davila continually pointed out to Superintendent Terry Grier and their fellow board members that there are campuses in HISD that have been successfully transformed into top-achieving schools.
"We have people in our district that are already doing this in our schools, and they may not have been part of dramatic transformations, and data on graduation rates may be delayed a year, but we have people who are doing this," Eastman said. "I want to see us start highlighting that and pointing those schools out that are doing it already here and talk about how we're modeling on some of those practices that already exist."
Grier agreed, saying district officials are talking with successful principals to discuss the changes they have made to their campuses.
Davila echoed Eastman's point and added that the schools were able to do it without "having money thrown at them." In the clip below, Davila cautioned HISD trustees and the superintendent against giving large amounts of money to schools, without follow-up, and expecting results.
School districts across Texas may begin submitting their applications for the grant Friday. HISD has outlined a timeline of how the district will proceed in the application process, to include community and campus meetings.
During the board workshop meeting Thursday, HISD administrators also listed three high schools and six middle schools that have been listed as unacceptable by TEA based on the 2008-09 school year, after failing to keep standardized test scores up and dropout rates low.
The high schools, Sterling, Westbury and Worthing, and the middle schools, Attucks, Dowling, Fondren, Ryan, E.O. Smith and WALIPP, are not eligible for this particular grant because they are not Title I priority schools.
Houston ISD says they want to offer extended class time, provide tutoring or take other steps to improve achievement at those schools, Deputy Chief Academic Officer Chuck Morris said.