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Where we’re headed in 2014, deep into 21st Century Learning

2014 January 9

With our emphasis on “21st Century Learning” at HISD, it’s hard to believe that we’re already 14 years into this century and plunging headlong toward the 22nd. As the Romans said, tempus fugit – time flies, indeed.

The start of the New Year has brought with it a fresh energy that’s palpable among our students and staff – and a whole new crop of challenges and opportunities.

Next week, we’ll start our distribution of thousands of laptop computers to students at the remaining eight high schools in Phase I of our PowerUp initiative, that will eventually put this 21st Century technology in the hands of every HISD high school student. Teachers have been getting ready for PowerUp since last summer, and within weeks we’re expecting to see an exciting transformation in their classrooms and the way their students are learning.

STAAR exams, for students in grades 3-12, play a big part in the second half of the academic year. In its last session, the Texas Legislature reduced the number of end-of-course exams required for graduation from 15 to five, but these are still tough assessments of how effectively our youngsters are learning their critical core subjects. We have a helpful Quick Guide to all levels of STAAR on our website at

You’ll also be hearing a lot more about the Legislature’s House Bill 5 this year. HB 5 is creating graduation pathways for students in high school, and our entering ninth-graders (and their families) will be asked to define their academic and career goals to set a clear focus for their high school careers.

Blending college readiness and career awareness is also the purpose of our Linked Learning initiative, which will be coming to eight HISD high schools starting in 2014.  Our $30 million federal Race to the Top award, announced last month, is helping fund this innovative way of preparing students for life’s demands, beginning in elementary school and deepening in middle school.

Our seniors are in the last stages of their HISD careers. Many already have their college acceptances (including  25 at some of the nation’s most prestigious campuses through our EMERGE program for high-achieving, low-income students), and many more are busy completing applications, scholarship forms, FAFSA forms for financial aid, and sending off transcripts and references. A number of these seniors will benefit from the $550,000 in scholarship funds that came as part of HISD winning the Broad Prize last year.

On Feb. 5, we’ll be holding our annual National Signing Day Ceremony, where our best athletes will sign their letters of commitment to continue their educations and their athletic careers at colleges and universities all over the U.S. Frank Iheanacho, a senior football standout at Westside HS, got to make his announcement with a bit of showmanship. He was selected to play in the prestigious U.S. Army All American Bowl last weekend and announced his intention to attend Texas A&M before a national TV audience.

Not all HISD successes will be so splashy, but there will be thousands of them, large and small, in 2014. And each one means a brighter future for our students — and for all of us.

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