Twentieth-century education is dusty history — no more three Rs, slide rules, and cookie-cutter schools. HISD’s core instruction now includes computer coding and foreign language. Basic equipment means laptops and digital curricula. Our new schools are being customized to each learning community’s needs.
Now well into the 21st century, we’re setting our sights even broader. With the recent creation of an Office of Global Education, HISD has taken our vision worldwide, pulling together a number of world-view programs and initiatives under one umbrella.
My annual first-day-of-school visit last August was to Shearn ES, and what I saw there inspired me to move forward aggressively with an important program — dual language instruction. Kindergarten youngsters — some of whom were experiencing their first day in a classroom — were being engaged completely in Spanish. Next door was another class of kindergartners, speaking all in English. At midday, the classes traded off and switched languages. All over the school were signs and colorful tidbits about cultures in two languages.
January is School Board Recognition Month. This is the perfect opportunity to acknowledge the hard work these dedicated elected officials put in every day to represent our 215,000 students throughout HISD – as well as parents, teachers, and staff. It’s a tough job with no pay, long hours, and plenty of spirited debate on complex topics. As the governing body for the district and the voice of their constituents, they oversee spending, policy, and district initiatives.
Although trustees are most visible at their monthly Board of Education meetings, they are constantly doing work in other ways – with workshops, agenda reviews, hearings, constituent meetings, and at dozens of school events. Their dedication and professionalism are at the core of our success as a district.
After 30 years as superintendent in eight school districts, I can tell you I have the utmost respect for this HISD board. We all are working toward the same end: to bridge gaps, set expectations high, and give our students every opportunity to exceed those expectations so they can flourish in college and careers of their choosing. Please join me in thanking the board members for their service and for representing HISD.
The New Year has just started, and throughout HISD, we are already working hard toward the next school year. Teacher recruitment is a major focus of that push.
We’ve learned that the earlier we recruit new teachers, the better the candidates. We want the finest crop of graduates, as well as veterans, looking to work in an innovative and diverse district in an immensely livable city. Especially, we’re seeking thoroughly bilingual, biliterate teachers who can be part of the expansion of our dual language and other international programs — with the ultimate goal of every HISD student graduating with proficiency in two languages.
One of the most rewarding programs helps us “grow our own” teachers, so to speak. HISD’s Alternative Certification Program, part of the Effective Teacher Fellowship, is bringing a diverse group of committed new aspiring teachers from non-educational backgrounds to the district.
The deadline to apply for next year is Jan. 31, and there’s a meeting Jan. 15 (with pizza!) to learn more. If you know of anyone who might be considering the classroom, encourage them to check it out — see the right-hand column here for an invite — and enjoy a slice on us.
Sometime over the next two weeks, as a New Year approaches, it’s human nature to look back on this year and make resolutions for the next.
For us in HISD, the break between semesters of our academic year is the perfect time to reflect, recharge, and resolve to push even harder on our key initiatives.
We’re making strides with our Literacy By 3 work in the classroom and the growing Read Houston Read volunteer program, with the goal of having all students reading on grade level by the end of third grade. read more…
Last week, I talked about what the ideal 21st century graduate might look like, and this week, I got a chance to see some of them in action.
Thousands of our students are participating in an exercise called the Hour of Code through Dec. 14—and in doing so, they are developing many of the talents they will need to succeed after graduation. Writing computer code as a team teaches them how to work together, think through problems logically, identify solutions, and persist until they reach their goals—all valuable skills in the world and the workplace.
More and more, people are coming to realize just how important coding is in the Digital Age. That’s why I recently made a pledge to President Obama to increase the number of computer classes offered to our students, and announced a partnership with Code.org to ensure that students across all grade levels have access to computer science education.
Kolter Elementary School is already well on its way, after winning $10,000 for having every one of its students sign up for the Hour of Code. You can check out what some of our other schools are doing here. I think you’ll agree, it’s pretty impressive.
Starting soon, you’re going to be hearing about our vision of what qualities a 21st Century HISD Graduate should possess. This vision is a culmination of a great deal of thought and conversation among campus leaders, Central Office staff, and representatives from community, industry, and higher education.
Back when I graduated from high school in the late 1960s, our goals were generally to find life’s work that would offer some dignity and pay enough to raise a family.
We had to master the three Rs, but beyond that, there were essentially only two pathways from which to choose. If we were academically inclined, we moved on to college, which was much less competitive and costly in those days. Most young people, though, moved straight into the job market or into family professions or businesses.
I don’t need to tell you how that has changed in just about 45 years. The education and skills required to succeed — not just in your hometown, but on a global level — have become profoundly more complex.
Our new graduate profile will help connect our vision, our initiatives, and our work in HISD to launch young people who can think critically, lead, communicate, collaborate, and set and attain goals. Although our community is now global and our pathways have diversified, I find it interesting — and comforting — that this model graduate really reflects the same strong personal values and deep character that we’ve always prized in this country.
Before you give thanks next week with your family and friends and slice into your turkey, I hope you pause a few moments and consider with me our blessings in HISD. Here are a few of many that I am counting:
HISD has long been a leader when it comes to offering students innovative options. In 2003, we brought the early college high school concept to Texas, and in 2012, we opened the Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School.
Administrators often talk about how education is a joint effort—it takes everyone in a particular community to make it work. Public school districts can’t do it alone, so parents, community volunteers, business partners, and other concerned individuals must also occasionally lend a hand.
This week, caring citizens across Houston—some of whom also happen to be our employees—began demonstrating their commitment to Houston’s children by helping HISD first-graders develop a love of reading. They are volunteering through the district’s Read Houston Read initiative, which is part of the Literacy By 3 movement. read more…