While Superintendent Richard Carranza spoke to the urgency of the Houston ISD turning around the ten chronically underperforming schools targeted by the Texas Education Agency for closure or takeover, the expected fireworks never really materialized at Thursday night’s school board meeting.
Following a day that saw an emergency press conference called by Board President Wanda Adams and trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones, the discussion of what to do about any possible TEA action seemed to revert more to a wait-and-see-mode.
Although it’s hard to see what’s wait-and-see. HISD administrators and some of its board members already are privy to the results that will be reported Tuesday, August 15, when the names of schools that are either on or off the dreaded Improvement Required list will be released. In fact, it was stated outright that when that list comes out, there won’t be all ten names on it.
Maybe they were just buying time to sort through their game plan. Carranza said there was “a ramped-up sense of urgency.” Trustee Diana Davila said the change was required in 11 months (nine of the school year and then the two-month delay for the assessment) while the district's new Achieve 180 Plan to help the district's low-performing schools is set up (as is not unusual) on a three-year time frame.
A proposal to allow C.O.R.E. Academy Charter School to become part of HISD was narrowly voted down (4-3). C.O.R.E. had been on IR repeatedly, most recently in 2016, and was counting on designation as an alternative campus to help it get a waiver of some standards. Many of its teachers are not certified. Clearly, four trustees did not want to risk taking on any more risky ventures.
The schools that are on the threatened list because they have repeatedly failed to meet standards after being assessed in areas including attendance, test scores and graduation rates are: Kashmere High School, Wheatley High School, Worthing High School, Blackshear Elementary, Dogan Elementary, Highland Heights Elementary, Kashmere Gardens Elementary, Victory Prep North, Victory Prep South and Woodson School (K-8).
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The Houston Chronicle is reporting this morning that a third option may be available to HISD from TEA, which is to remake the schools as charters. The schools that do that would receive a year's grace period in the bargain. According to the Chron, though, this option isn't open to Kashmere or Worthing.
“There will be an additional, ramped-up, robust intervention for those schools,” Carranza said, explaining that he had met with principals from those schools Thursday morning. “I think the message that is critically important is that for us as a school system, we are addressing this not from a programmatic approach, not from a vendor approach. This is from a roll-up-your sleeves, blue-collar, good-instruction, high-quality instruction approach.”
Well, blue-collar is what Houston’s built on.