More U.S. Researchers to Study Houston Schools, Students

Ruth López Turley, director of the Houston Education Research Consortium
The Houston Independent School District is studied a lot by academic researchers. It faces a lot of the challenges that go along with being one of the largest, urban school districts in the country. Now, even more people are going to study HISD schools.

Thanks to money from the Arnold Foundation here in Houston, researchers at Rice University teamed up with HISD. So far they've studied if bonuses for teachers improved teacher attendance and student scores. Now the Arnold Foundation is giving even more money–almost $2 million dollars—to expand that partnership. Certain researchers from around the country will have access to data to study key issues in HISD.

"Early learning, the topic of English learners, school choice and the fourth topic is overage or retained students."

That's Ruth López Turley. She's the director of the Houston Education Research Consortium. It's the partnership between Rice and HISD.

"It's a two-way communication. They inform our research agendas and our research informs their decision making."

The first part of the partnership was spent building a database of student grades, special needs and other information. It now contains more than 300,000 students who've attended HISD. Researchers can't identify individual students. But they can track their progress over time.

Turley says they hope to answer some pretty important questions. For example what are the early warning signs a student might drop out.

"If you can identify these students early enough to intervene, you can actually alter their trajectories, you can actually do something about it."

She says that's ultimate goal of the growing research, to improve education for students.

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...