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…
Over the next month, HISD’s families have the enviable task of school shopping during magnet awareness activities, which start Saturday with the annual School Choice Fair and opening of our online magnet application process.
We have specialty programs from elementary through high school, such as fine arts and STEM. There are Montessori and Vanguard gifted-and-talented programs, all sorts of international schools, college prep, and career-focused academies. Simply put: You can leave HISD with a diploma and a two-year degree, a second language, virtuoso-level skill in the arts, or a jump on a career in law, medicine, energy, retail, culinary arts, or a number of booming technology fields. read more…
The tradition of giving an apple to the teacher goes back to frontier days, research shows. It was a simple, symbolic way of honoring hardworking souls who frequently wrangled more than 50 youngsters of widely varying ages in a one-room schoolhouse.
Today’s teachers face a different set of complexities, and the way we reward their excellence has also changed. In HISD, we’re striving to be competitive in pay and benefits to make sure we have an effective teacher in every classroom, and we offer attractive opportunities for professional development and leadership growth. Our ASPIRE awards have put millions of dollars in bonuses into the hands of teachers whose students show measurable academic progress.
November is officially the big month for school-shopping in HISD, with our School Choice Fair and application period opening on Nov. 1, Magnet Awareness Week Nov. 3-7, and open houses and other activities throughout the month.
Something important happened this week that helps ensure the integrity of those magnet programs. It’s our annual magnet review, which is board policy, and it’s part of the magnet school reform process that we’ve been driving for the past five years.
Robert Crowe is a gifted HISD videographer who is ordinarily a man of few words. His memorable images and skillful editing usually do the talking for him, but he gets fired up when discussing how the major perception with which he walked into district headquarters to start work five years ago has changed drastically.
Teaching is only one part of what HISD does, Robert says far more eloquently than I: Our educators must deal with the problems of our nation and the world. We cope daily with hunger, poverty, adult illiteracy, threats to health and safety, global politics, and so much more. He understands that sometimes a passing grade is an achievement, a semester of perfect attendance is a miracle, a parent attending a teacher conference a milestone.
Which brings me back to Robert’s storytelling. We’ve talked and written much about the success of our EMERGE youngsters — promising, hardworking high school students who frequently face the challenges I’ve mentioned, yet persevere to achieve. Through EMERGE, we’ve been able to take dozens of HISD students who ordinarily might have reached a dead-end and sent them to Ivy League and Tier One colleges, often at no cost to their families.
Recently, we released Robert’s “Story of Edgar,” the tale of Edgar Avina, who with the help of teachers who saw his promise and EMERGE mentors who guided him, has made his way from a barrio mobile home to DeBakey HS to Yale University. It’s a tale that shows what happens when we believe every young person is capable of success, and they have the inner drive to meet those high expectations.
Another wonderful EMERGE feature made its official debut this week, too — the EMERGING Voices blog. In their own words, EMERGE college students and current seniors navigating their way through the college application and admissions processes are telling their stories. They’re talking about things like homesickness, networking and organizing, memorable teachers, and the realization that many are spending their last year with their families before moving onto to higher education and careers.
Even U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took note of the blog, which features Edgar’s tale, tweeting Wednesday: “Great that the @HoustonISD EMERGE program is helping underserved students reach top colleges.”
Any young person or adult has something to learn from the stories of Edgar and other EMERGE fellows, who are willing to work hard and dream big — turning obstacles into stepping stones to a future beyond their most vivid imaginations.
There was quite a fuss over the summer when the story broke about tens of thousands of Central American refugee children being detained by the federal government in border states. Briefly, HISD became part of the story when the government representatives scouted one of our facilities to see if it would be a suitable center for these children.
Of course, we were happy to become involved because we do this every day – take in youngsters fleeing terrible situations all over the world.
The government is agreeing now to grant some children refugee status, but largely, the headlines have faded, the furor has died down, and the government’s relocation move to Houston didn’t happen. Still we’re going about our business of making sure refugee children from El Salvador, Honduras, Syria, Bhutan, Ethiopia and dozens of other troubled areas are educated and nurtured.
Last week, HISD was blessed to have Sonia Nazario spend a day in our district. Ms. Nazario is a Pulitzer Prize-winner for her writings about refugee children. Her book, Enrique’s Journey, tells of the harrowing train trip these brave young people make for a better life in the U.S. She has made the trip herself, evading gangsters who steal, rape, and murder.
Ms. Nazario spoke to administrators, to our Hispanic Advisory Committee, and to a student audience at Chávez HS. I was fortunate to tour our Las Americas Newcomer School with her.
Las Americas is one of HISD’s most magical places—because it shows our heart and because of its power to dispel myths about refugees and immigrants, which is what Ms. Nazario does in her writings.
The 350 or so youngsters there are in grades 4 through 8. They are disciplined, hardworking, resourceful, well-groomed, respectful – and grateful for the gift of a high-quality education. They are blind to borders and nationalities – Principal Marie Moreno tells of how youngsters from warring nations become best friends, realizing their common bonds. read more…
Almost every day, I encounter an example of just how much school has changed in my lifetime — and how HISD is at the forefront of embracing new methods to improve the knowledge and well-being of our students.
Here are three ways we’re implementing what my grandpa might have skeptically called “newfangled notions.”
I’m not sure there’s any scientific evidence to support whether a home field advantage improves the overall performance of a sports team — but we know the concept works with youngsters and their education.
If a child is moved more than three times before the eighth grade, research shows that they are four times more likely to drop out of school.
Creating stability is why we’ve enacted the Home Field Advantage program in HISD this year, at 13 of our elementary schools with the most mobile populations. About a third of these children are moved each school year, most of them for the most understandable of reasons: money. Parents take advantage of tantalizing deals that offer free apartment rent, and they don’t always make sure that their new address is zoned to their current school. read more…