Magazine article District Administration

HISD's Major Turnaround Effort with Apollo 20 Project

Magazine article District Administration

HISD's Major Turnaround Effort with Apollo 20 Project

Article excerpt

BEFORE EMBARKING ON AN effort to turn around 20 low-performing schools, Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grief said, "Houston, we have an opportunity." The turnaround effort--dubbed Apollo 20--is unique in that it's adopting many principles seen in successful charter schools and applying them to this urban district of over 200,000 students. Partnering with Harvard University economics professor Roland Fryer, HISD embraced many tenets proven to increase student achievement, such as more time in class, data-driven instruction, additional tutoring, and creating a culture of high expectations. HISD is tackling nine middle and high schools in the 2010 academic year and will transform 11 elementary schools marked as low-performing in 2011.

"We needed to do some creative things to broach these issues," says Greg Meyers, HISD school board president, referring to the district's achievement gaps.

The Apollo 20 effort, which became finalized in spring 2010, will tack on an hour to each school day as will as five additional days at the end of the year. Students in grades 6 and 9 will have tutors to prepare them for high-level math courses, while the remaining middle and high school students will take a double dose of either reading or math. According to Fryer, these are proven methods used in successful charter and urban districts. Fryer is the CEO of the Educational Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University.

HISD replaced all principals and then evaluated all teachers with a value-added measure at the initial nine schools undergoing reform. …

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