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HISD Has New Option To Consider On Risk Of State Takeover

That option, however, wouldn’t apply to schools that have failed state standards for five or more years.

Kashmere High School has missed state standards for going on seven years. If HISD doesn't improve it and all its other chronically failing schools, it could face a state board of managers.
Kashmere High School has missed state standards for going on seven years. If HISD doesn’t improve it and all its other chronically failing schools, it could face a state board of managers.

The Houston Independent School District has new options to consider for struggling schools, which could give them a two-year waiver on the state’s accountability system and looming sanctions.

In a closed-doors meeting Thursday afternoon, the HISD board of trustees discussed plans to improve chronically low-performing schools — and avoid a state takeover or massive school closures next year.

One new option on the table: convert schools that have missed state standards for four or fewer years to in-district charters, or contract their management to outside charter management groups. That would give the board a two-year reprieve. It would also give them an extra $1,000 per student at those campuses.

“I’m hopeful now because if you give me a thousand dollars extra per student, do you know what that would do for a campus?” said HISD Board President Wanda Adams after the meeting. “You can look at re-organizing magnet programs, re-organizing career and technology programs, reorganizing to see where we start.  So, it’s like a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

Adams said that the board hasn’t made any decision on that option, but plans to meet early next week to continue the discussion.

That option, however, wouldn’t apply to schools that have failed state standards for five or more years, such as Kashmere High School in Northeast Houston.

“I feel more informed, but I’m in the same spot as far as the sense of urgency,” said HISD Trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who represents Kashmere. “The situation that we’re in, it’s not any different yesterday than today, but what we do know is that we’re very clear on what the options are, what the rules are under the option. And I appreciate that they (the Texas Education Agency) was willing to have the conversation and give us some guidance.”

In some ways, the meeting replayed what the state’s Deputy Education Commissioner told some Houston trustees a year ago — that chronically struggling must improve, or the district will face tough sanctions, like state appointed managers, under a new state law known as House Bill 1842.

The same administrator, A.J. Crabill, returned to HISD as the elected board faces even more pressure, with more than a dozen schools currently on that list, and only one year to fix all of them. Even one school that has missed standards for five or more years can trigger those sanctions in August 2018.

“My decision process is let’s do everything we can, so that a year from now we’re having a conversation about how we improved student outcomes — not a conversation about how we implement this particular aspect of state law,” Crabill said. “What I know is that we absolutely can ensure that these students are successful at the highest levels.”

Crabill told News 88.7 that his focus was to give the board information about the law and to support those schools’ improvement.

“Our role is really to be an adviser and to identify what are the things that are working, where people are facing some similar circumstances, where students are struggling and where they’re really getting it done, where they’re seeing significant improvements in student outcomes,” Crabill said.

He said that early projections show that HISD will have fewer chronically failing schools when new state ratings are released next week, but the Texas Education Agency is still concerned about the 14,000 students in HISD that attend a low-performing school or who themselves are performing below grade-level.

“For those students, we need a better solution. We need something that will help them be successful and help them catch up. Because these children have all of the energy and the intellect and the enthusiasm and the curiosity — all the things they need to succeed at high levels. All that’s necessary is for us collectively — all the adults involved in the public education system — to lend whatever support we can,” Crabill said.

 

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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