State of HISD

Houston schools are improving, according to HISD officials. District Superintendent Abe Saavedra gave his annual state of the schools address. He says overall the distric is doing well in its accountability ratings and student achievement. But he says there are still challenges facing the district. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

"HISD reached record passing rates on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills with more students reaching the state's commended level of achievement. More HISD students also met the college readiness standard on the Math TAKS. Improvement on this measure was not only greater than the state's overall improvement, but our students outperform their state counterparts in every single student sub-group that they were measured against."

Saavedra says they also decreased the number of academically unacceptable schools from 25 down to seven. They also added more police officers, opened new schools and approved an $805 million bond package. But Saavedra says he knows the district needs to do more.

"HISD maintains its academically acceptable state rating. But the truth is that our gains, while impressive, are not consistent among all schools. Too many students are still leaving school without graduating. In short, high achievement is still not a reality for every single child in our school district."

The district launched a program last year called ASPIRE. It's designed to monitor student progress and provide teacher incentives. Saavedra says he's expanding the scope of ASPIRE this year.

"We expect high performance from our teachers and now we will focus on central administration so that high performance is the standard operating procedure throughout HISD. If we expect more of our teachers, then we must expect more of our central office departments to support them. We have to do everything we can to make our college-bound culture a reality for every single child in HISD."

The superintendent says they'll develop metrics to measure results. The district will also establish reporting procedures and communicate performance expectations in every department.

Saavedra also announced a new program to recruit highly qualified principals and school administrators. And he's formed a community engagement committee to help the district better communicate with the public.

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...