In last year's state of the schools address, Dr. Terry Grier had only been on the job for a few months. This year, most of his speech centered on initiatives begun under his administration, including the Apollo 20 program to turn around low performing schools.
"I know it's tough. I know that it has its critics. But I can promise you, if we don't address the needs of our most needy students first, we can't get from where we are to where we want to go. And that's not to say that we don't have needy students at every single school in Houston, Texas. But it's the mass numbers in these schools that we have to address."
To that end, Grier says eleven more elementary schools will be added to the Apollo program in the fall. He says they're also offering at least ten Advanced Placement courses at every high school and will make it easier to take the SAT.
"In the spring, we'll give every HISD junior a chance to take the SAT, for free, during class time at their home campus. Only two other school districts in America have done this. We're sorry we weren't the first, but we're proud to be the third. Our kids are going to benefit."
Grier told the audience HISD has more National Blue Ribbon Schools than any other district in Texas and 16 of the district's high schools are on Newsweek's list of the best schools in America. But he says there are also 70,000 students in the district reading below grade-level and less than 20 percent of HISD graduates meet the standard for being college ready.
"We must understand that the challenge ahead of us is monumental. Texas is facing the worst budget crisis in our lifetime and the impact in Houston's schools will be tremendous. We're facing a new normal in education and that will require us to be more innovative and more creative to develop different types of partnerships. And yes, we may have to do more with less. But frankly we can't demand a "no excuses" attitude from our students, if we adults aren't willing to embrace that philosophy as well."
In his speech, Grier announced plans to create a district-wide uniform reading curriculum. He also says the district will change the way it trains teachers, moving away from centralized professional development to on-the-job coaching in the classroom.
For more information, view the HISD State of the School page.