What’s Happening with HISD?

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The Houston Independent School District (HISD) has come under fire recently, as the Texas Education Agency (TEA) threatens to take over HISD’s elected board of officials. Parents and educators are concerned for the future of Houston’s public schools. Is HISD losing its accreditation? Will they close campuses? What does this mean for students who reside in one of America’s largest metropolitan cities?

At Staying Ahead of the Game LLC, we teach students to get ahead and stay ahead. We encourage parents to do the same. For our parents with children in the public-school system (or those considering making a move to the public-school system), we urge you to stay informed and stay involved about the impact of this developing situation on the education of your sons and daughters. In the paragraphs below, we explain the details of HISD’s current situation in an effort to keep parents informed and aware.

In a nutshell, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) plans to temporarily replace HISD’s Board and Superintendent due to a number of schools underperforming on standardized tests. In 2017, the state overhauled its academic accountability program. One key feature of this overhaul was a new system that assigns a letter grade (A-F) to Texas public schools. Schools must meet certain standards to avoid triggering one of two TEA sanctions: closing campuses or losing its board of elected officials in favor of a state-appointed governance team in compliance with a state law passed in 2015.

Although this new accountability system has received mixed reviews, the TEA, led by Education Commissioner Mike Morath, is within its rights to enact sanctions against HISD, which is Texas’ largest public-school district. Proponents of this new grading system believe that it creates clear, standardized objectives for its school district, while critics say the score is too heavily focused on academic readiness assessments such as the STAAR test. Critics also claim this scoring system does not take into account the number of disadvantaged students in the school, which could skew the test scores. The state’s accountability system takes into account a number of different metrics including student achievement on standardized tests and student progress relative to the percentage of economically disadvantaged students. However, critics question the overall effectiveness of these controls. These ratings also are said to account for a district’s efforts in closing achievement gaps, improving standardized test scores (e.g., SAT and ACT scores), and achieving competitive graduation rates.

In early November, Mike Morath officially announced his decision to remove HISD’s elected board. He will appoint a state governance team, potentially in the spring of 2020. However, Morath and his team have offered few answers about the timeline and process for appointing this governing board. For now, the TEA has announced that state-appointed governance team will remain in power for at least two years, with the possibility of remaining for up to five years. Also, many believe the governance team will take over as early as March of 2020.

Morath’s announcement and subsequent community meetings have sparked conflict throughout Houston, as supporters and critics on both sides make their opinions heard. Officials have said they will listen to the concerns of Houston residents before choosing the individual members of this new board. Last week, concerned parents and educators met at Pershing Middle School to discuss the potential ramifications of Morath’s decision.

The future of HISD appears unclear. The HISD trustees are planning to sue the state, arguing against the TEA’s authority to remove an elected board. Furthermore, HISD’s largest teachers union could potentially join the legal battle. Supporters, on the other hand, argue this is the right step for HISD, claiming that Houston deserves better and this state takeover signifies a fresh start for our city. Only time will tell.

Here at Staying Ahead of the Game LLC, we do not have an official opinion on these recent developments in HISD. However, we believe knowledge is important and information is power. We encourage all parents who have children in the public-school system or who are considering transitioning their children to the public-school system follow this developing story. Informed decisions are the best decisions!

For more information on this developing story, please refer to these sources:

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/TEA-faces-questions-from-public-on-potential-HISD-14833483.php

https://abc13.com/education/hisds-takeover-by-texas-education-brass-official/5676921/

https://www.khou.com/article/news/education/state-announces-plans-to-take-over-hisd-after-investigation-reveals-serious-or-persistent-deficiencies/285-592bdc4a-d25e-407a-97d8-d629dff96b84

Chris Chambers

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