School Choice or Best Systems: What Improves Education?

By Margaret C. Wang; Herbert J. Walberg | Go to book overview

8
Strategies for Reforming Houston Schools
Rod Paige
Susan Scalafani
Houston Independent School District

As the largest district in Texas and sixth largest in the nation, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) confronts many of the same challenges as other urban school systems. Covering 312 square miles with a population of more than 210,000 students in 280 schools, HISD includes students from 90 countries, of which 52% are Hispanic American, 35% African American, 11% White, and 2% Asian American. In 1996–1997, HISD identified 57,076 limited English proficient students and approximately 73 home languages. As reflected by free- and reduced-lunch statistics, the number of economically disadvantaged students, currently at 73%, increases annually. The district mobility rate is 38.2%. HISD is fiscally independent of municipal or county government, with state-level oversight and governance provided by the Texas Education Agency.

HISD has seen its commitment to improving student achievement begin to produce success. Student performance increased significantly on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). Since 1993, reading scores are up 42%, mathematics up 53%, and writing up 20%. The average SAT scores have improved 95 points since 1985, with more students taking the test than ever before.

Since 1990, the annual dropout rate has fallen from 10.4% to 2.8% as a result of dropout prevention initiatives at the school and district

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