Fixing Troubled Schools

As the school year winds down for students, HISD is winding up its plans to fix failing schools next year, and in the years to come. That plan includes paying some students for one on one time with a teacher. Melissa Galvez reports.

Quality principals, outstanding teachers, high expectations, parental involvement — these are the hallmarks of school reform everywhere.  HISD plans to bring those features to 4 failing high schools and 5 failing middle schools next year-including replacing the principals at Lee, Kashmere, and Sharpstown High Schools.  Superintendent Terry Grier expects the district's turnaround plan will bring stellar results to those schools:

"We are going to expect in these high schools, after a 3 year period, for us to close the achievement gap, to have no drop outs, to have 100% graduation rate for all of the students in those high schools, for all of those students to be eligible to be admitted to a 4 year college or university."

To help schools achieve this ambitious goal, the plan also calls for "directive tutoring", where failing students will meet with tutors regularly — and even get paid for their time. Grier says that's because many students have to help support their families.  The district is applying for federal and state funds to cover the cost of hiring retired teachers and college students as tutors, but they're also looking for support from businesses and foundations.  Grier hopes that if the program is successful, other districts will look to Houston:

"We want people to know that it's possible. We've talked about this being a mission possible kind of program. We want them to see that with the right strategies and hard work, dedicated adults can make a difference in the lives of children."

The district held meetings in late April to solicit community feedback, and if all goes well next year, they'll expand the turnaround plan to 11 elementary schools.  There's still no name for the program, but the district is considering "Apollo 20: Houston, we have an opportunity."