HISD awarded more than $60 million in federal grants

U.S. Department of Education funding to target teacher recruitment, STEM programs

The Houston Independent School District has been awarded three grants, including one that is believed to be the largest grant the district has ever received.

Each of the three grants is from the U.S. Department of Education. The largest totals $47 million and will go to recruiting and retaining the best teachers and administrators at the district’s most struggling schools.

The district also received a nearly $15 million grant for STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — education at six HISD schools, and a $1.3 million grant that will go toward professional development for music and arts teachers in high-poverty schools.

“Our goal is to provide families with a variety of rigorous academic options that will help their students prepare for the future,” Superintendent Richard Carranza said. “We are grateful for these grants, and we believe they will only further our effort to produce true Global Graduates ready to make their mark on the world.”

The Teacher and School Leader grant, which will provide the district with more than $47 million over five years, will further HISD’s efforts to attract and retain highly effective teachers and administrators in schools with the highest poverty rates. It will fund extra compensation for educators at these schools, which include most of the Achieve180 campuses.

Launched this year, Achieve180 aims to support, strengthen, and empower 44 of the district’s underserved and underperforming schools in an effort to increase student achievement. Best practices from other successful school turnaround initiatives are incorporated into the plan’s six guiding pillars: leadership excellence, teaching excellence, instructional excellence, school design, social and emotional learning support, and family and community empowerment.

The Teacher and School Leader grant also will fund wraparound services for students at these schools as a way to further increase student achievement. Schools will be able to use the funds to hire an additional counselor, social worker, or other service provider trained to assist students who need crisis intervention, behavioral support, and counseling services.

“This grant, in many ways, can serve as an equalizer,” Leadership Development Officer Dawn DuBose-Randle said. “We’re going to be able to make a difference in the lives of our students. It will help us to be sure we have the best teachers in some of the schools that may need extra attention. It will help us to not only meet their academic needs, but also their social and emotional needs.”

HISD also has been awarded a nearly $15 million grant through the Magnet School Assistance Program, more commonly referred to as MSAP. The money from the grant will establish or expand STEM programs at six schools: Milby and Washington high schools, Deady Middle School, Baylor College of Medicine Biotech Academy at Rusk, and Wesley and Davila elementary schools. All six schools will offer a STEM-based curriculum to every student.

The MSAP grant also will offer these six schools partnerships with NASA, Baylor College of Medicine, and the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

The final grant focuses on music teachers at nearly 60 high-poverty schools throughout HISD and will provide the district with more than $1.3 million over four years. Project MUSIIKK — Mastering Universal Strategies for the Innovative/Instruction of Kodály for Kids — offers music teachers training in using music education to increase literacy, language arts, and math skills. The grant will be offered at schools in which 50 percent or more of the students are from low-income families.

The HISD Board of Education must approve the grants before the district can formally accept them. The grants are set to go before trustees at their regular monthly meeting in November.