Houston District Appeals School’s Failing Grade, Likely Delaying State Decision On Potential Takeover

Despite concerns from administrators that there was nothing to “hang our hat on,” HISD filed an appeal for Wheatley High School’s failing grade Friday, the state’s deadline, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Education Commissioner Mike Morath visited Stephens Elementary School in Aldine ISD in August. He’s scheduled to speak in Houston on Monday.

The Houston Independent School District may stave off a potential state takeover for several months, after it filed an appeal of one school’s failing grade Friday afternoon.

The failing grade — the seventh in a row for Wheatley High School in Fifth Ward — would have triggered steep sanctions under state law: either the removal of the entire elected school board or shuttering the historically black school where the likes of U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan studied.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath put HISD leaders on notice earlier this month that he would have to follow through on one of those sanctions if Wheatley’s grade stands and no appeal was filed. He said in the letter that appeals would likely be resolved in December.

HISD trustees ordered the administration to appeal the failing grade at a meeting last week.

“I would really like to see us make the case for Wheatley (High),” Trustee Anne Sung said at the board’s September agenda review. “And I know that means our excellent accountability team is combing through the data, looking at every kid and trying to see if there is anything wrong with these calculations. But I also think we need to make the broader argument and I would like to see us do that in this appeal.”

However, administrators said it would be a long shot to find an argument that would be considered under state rules

We’ve tried really, really hard to find anything we could hang our hat on for an appeal for Wheatley (High) and we cannot find anything that would be an allowable appeal that would get granted,” Assistant Superintendent Carla Stevens told the board last week.

Despite those concerns, HISD filed an appeal Friday, the state’s deadline, according to the Texas Education Agency. It’s not immediately clear what argument or grounds the appeal lays out.

Meanwhile, on Monday Education Commissioner Morath is scheduled to address the Greater Houston Partnership, which has advocated for the state to intervene and oust the elected school board.

In an editorial in the Houston Chronicle last month, the president of the partnership, Bob Harvey, said that the district’s problems are systemic, that too many schools have gotten failing grades from the state and that board members put their own personal and political interests over the needs of some 200,000 students.


Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required