HISD's Apollo Mission

Remember the problems with the Apollo 13 space mission? The Houston Independent School District has its own set of problems with low performing schools, so they're calling the mission to fix those problems Apollo 20. Bill Stamps has more.
It really did take rocket scientists to fix the problems the Apollo 13 crew faced during their mission to the moon. The people at HISD feel the problems at some schools are so difficult, they've labeled the program Apollo 20. The program will start next year with 9 high schools. This is HISD spokesman Norm Uhl.

"Those schools are going to have a longer school day. They're also going to have a longer school year by five additional days over the other schools in the district. We're also looking at staffing in terms of making sure we have an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective principal in every school. Some of the schools that don't already have new principals will get new principals."

The district also plans to put an emphasis on tutoring. Mostly during school hours, but some will have to come on the weekends for extra instruction.

"We're also going to do what we call high dosage tutoring, where we have one tutor per two students. For every two students, there is a tutor. We're going to hire retired teachers, perhaps some graduate students locally, to do this tutoring and we'll pay them to do that. And that high dosage tutoring will be built into that longer school day."

The students that go to tutoring on the weekend will actually be paid thirty-dollars-per-session. The district says many times students have to work on the weekends to help their family financially. They say by giving the students money, they won't have to decide between school and work. And while they can make the students stay in class longer, the district realizes that ultimately it's the teachers who will make the most difference.

"You can't teach everyone the same way. The best teachers are the ones that can, with a class of kids, differentiate their instruction to reach every student and give extra attention to the students that need extra attention. And that's where that longer school day comes in, that's where the tutoring comes in."

Apollo 20 starts with 9 schools in the fall and eleven will be added the following year to get that total of 20.