The Decision Is In: HISD Embraces CEP Once Again

The Houston Independent School District Administration is recommending to the board that the district sign an almost $19.3 million contract with Community Education Partners, the private company that operates two alternative schools here.

Despite years of criticism of the operations at the Ferndale and Beechnut campuses, a special HISD advisory committee looked over the CEP program and said yes, it is good. Well, actually the committee and the administration says it made numerous suggestions for a revised contract, and the contract appears to call for all teachers to be certified - which would be an improvement.

In any event, students who violate the district's behavior policies to the extent that the schools no longer want them, will continue to be shuffled over to CEP where there is no homework because kids aren't allowed to take books home, where students get on the honor roll because they behave (rather than for grades) and where students go to school each day by going through a screening device.

Apparently the constant reports of fighting and poor (some say non-existent) teaching at the school didn't bother the committee. Nor did the fact that nearly all of the students who are sent there are black or brown.

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Here's some of the other highlights that the board will vote on Thursday:

-- CEP will be expected to provide the opportunity to gain at least six credits per year for those students assigned to long-term placements. In addition, the contract will include expectations for expected student growth for students assigned in excess of 120 and 175 days, and, should those growth expectations not be reached, CEP will continue to educate the student at no cost to the district.

-- CEP will periodically provide principals the attendance and academic status of their students and will work with the district to develop more-stringent procedures for transition to and from CEP.

-- CEP will provide special programming services for students identified as needing limited-English-proficiency services or Special Education services.

-- An evaluation of programs and services will be completed on an annual basis by a mutually agreed-upon external evaluator. The following are some of the quality indicators that will be reviewed with consideration given to the length of student placement: 1) student performance on state assessment instruments; 2) student performance on pre- and post-assessment instruments; 3) promotion and retention rates; 4) high-school credit completion rates; and 5) disciplinary-action rates. Failure to meet these quality indicators may result in termination or
nonrenewal of the Agreement.

-- The CEP program located at 7055 Beechnut (Southwest Campus) and 8805 Ferndale (Southeast Campus) will provide services for 1,600 students. Any students served beyond this number are paid on a per day rate.

-- CEP will provide a program designed to meet the requirements imposed on HISD under the TEC, Chapter 37, and other applicable current or future statutory requirements and standards established by the State Commissioner of Education for the operation of school-district disciplinary alternative-education programs (DAEP).

-- CEP will at all times provide sufficiently trained, professional staff to provide for and maintain supervision of students in the CEP program. Only qualified teachers who meet all certification requirements established under TEC Subchapter B, Chapter 21, shall be assigned to teach in the DAEP, including certification requirements for Special Education instruction and English as a second language endorsement. In addition, CEP program staff will participate in training programs on education, behavior management, and safety procedures that focus on positive and proactive behavior-management strategies.

-- The CEP program will provide a broad range of social and academic programs, including the following: 1) behavior management program; (2) instructional program; and, (3) review/transitional program.

-- The total cost of this contract is not to exceed $19,290,221.

- Margaret Downing

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