How are local leaders working to improve Houston schools?

What does the research and evidence say about the best school environment and tactics to enable student success?
NBC News Learn Presents: Education Now Houston

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Since 2017, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) has been under the threat of a state takeover, and the release of the 2018-2019 academic accountability ratings have made a takeover increasingly likely. According to a 2015 state law, if a school has been on the “improvement required” list for five or more consecutive years, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has to either close the school or replace the district’s school board. HISD had four schools on the list going into the 2018-19 school year and all but one - Wheatley High School - came off the list. Now all eyes are on the TEA as they determine next steps. What would the potential state takeover mean for HISD, and what’s being done to support the students and teachers in these schools?

When considering the HISD takeover, it’s important to understand that while there are 209,000 students in the HISD system, they represent around 20 percent of the more than 900,000 students in Harris County, where Houston is located. What’s more, one-third of students in Harris County are in schools that received a C, D or F rating, and just 21 percent of students in the area continue their education beyond high school. This is a striking statistic because 65% of the jobs in Harris County require a post-secondary degree.

However, there are a number of efforts underway by the education, nonprofit and business communities to improve these numbers. What does the research and evidence say about the best school environment and tactics to enable student success, and how can we apply that to the reality on the ground, which often involves limited resources and budgets? What factors truly need to be in place in order to improve outcomes for all students and prepare them for the workforce - not just in struggling schools, but all across the area?

Many of the challenges these schools are facing are not unique to Houston, and various school improvement strategies have been tested throughout the country. Are there lessons from other cities facing similar issues that can be applied to Houston schools?

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This panel will address the potential state takeover, and will also examine efforts throughout the area to give all students a quality education. We’ll look at some bright spots where improvement efforts have been successful, as well as what it takes to both help increase the quality of schools and support and engage students along the way.

This conversation with kick off with a one-on-one interview with HISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan, followed by a panel discussion, moderated by NBC News Chief Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis, and joined by panelists:

  • Khalilah Campbell-Rhone - Principal, Worthing High School, Houston Independent School District
  • Alex Hales Elizondo - CEO, Good Reason Houston
  • Bob Harvey – President and CEO, Greater Houston Partnership
  • Ramin Taheri - Director of Policy and Advocacy, Chiefs for Change

This discussion will be featured in the “NBC News Learn Presents: Education Now” live event in Houston, TX on September 24. The full event will be livestreamed here - stay tuned for updates.